Leadership

Does work have to be fun?

Is going to work with an expectation of a sense of purpose a pipe dream anymore? Should one just be satisfied to just have a job or should you want more?

I was bemoaning the fact the other day that the current extreme tightening of funds was essentially sucking the fun out of my current position when I was given this piece of advice - "The way to survive in our business is just to hunker down and ride it out - these dips are cyclical and all you have to do is ride out a few dips - then you can retire!" In the meantime, don't make too many waves and you'll be fine. What wasn't said was "what's fun got to do with it anyway?"

Perhaps this is sage advice, particularly given the industry I am in. However I have a few problems with it that make it difficult for me to swallow. The first is that these "dips" are occurring more frequently than before and the highs never seem as high as they were while the bottoms seem to get deeper. Thus riding them out becomes increasingly harder because you have barely recovered from the last dip when you get whacked again - if you have recovered at all.

Secondly, riding things out and not making any waves is not my style. Not that I'm a troublemaker, nor one who can't ride out a tough period. However, if my career is going to be characterized by mediocrity and just keeping the wheels on the operation - well, I'd rather not. I come to work to make a difference in the organization. The differences don't have to be momentous nor do they have to occur every day, but I have to be able to see the opportunity to create some positive change. If I can't see it as a possibility, I get down. And the last thing a group of employees need is a leader who is down all the time.

Third, what does fun have to do with it? EVERYTHING! I'm sorry, but I spend far too much time at work to not enjoy what I am doing. IT management? - Love it with a passion. It's what I do, and I want to do it well and have the opportunity to do it well. If I feel like a fighter with both hands tied behind my back and then the blindfold gets put on - what good am I anyway? Bill Parcells used to describe quarterbacks as "bus drivers" in that he didn't need a superstar on his team, just someone that wouldn't lose the game for him - someone dependable like a bus driver.

I can be the bus driver, because I know I'm dependable, but I don't want to be just the "bus driver" of CIOs. Although there's nothing wrong with it--and there are "bus driver" quarterbacks who are wearing SuperBowl rings--I don't want to be one for long. Not that I am categorizing myself as a superstar - far from it - but I have the desire to do more than just drive the bus.

Some may see this as foolishness. Perhaps it is. But I know deep in my heart that I can't drive the bus too long without losing my mojo. Besides, if an organization wants to ask nothing more of me than to sit quietly and behave, then what kind of organization am I working for? I want the people that hire to me to want and expect the best I can give them. I do the same for my employees and to not do so would be a disservice to them. At least that's my opinion.

What do you think? Is going to work with an expectation of a sense of purpose a pipe dream anymore? Should one just be satisfied to just have a job or should you want more? Perhaps I have it all wrong and leadership is nothing more than just telling people what to do? (And if you think I believe that - you haven't been reading me for very long). Or perhaps I should just be satisfied to be a manager, and forget about leading? You can do that - I have seen it done - but it doesn't leave me as an inspired employee - what about you?

16 comments
hanxue
hanxue

Agree with the general opinion. However, one needs to be careful and stay focused. I know of a department which has gone the other way, i.e. make sure everyone feels good, even to the extent of under-performing. Partly this is due to the company culture/focus on diversity and repect, work-life balance. Don't get me wrong; these are important, but without sound leadership, good ideas may be poorly implemented. There are two sides in leadership, soft (culture, motivation, people needs) and hard (profit, metrics, scorecards). So it is always a challenge to balance both.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Sales and business in general are down.The money is as real as the truth.The story comes from El-Bosso and nobody else."What do you need"?says El-Bosso.

nusyaputera
nusyaputera

Fun will bring so many interests, and interests will strength your spirits, spirits will always bring your new ideas, ideas are everything.

mikeb
mikeb

I never really categorized work and fun in the same phrase. I am selling my labour to the company, and expect financial compensation as a result. They get my 40 hours each week, and in return they give me an agreed amount of $$$. From that compensation, I get to raise my family, have a nice house, a car, health care and be able to send my kids to decent schools. If I am very lucky I may even have a pension after a bunch of years. I do appreciate the camaraderie of peers, and respect and sense of accomplishment that goes along with doing a job well. I also enjoy learning new technology, expanding my resume, and being involved in many different aspects of the organization. My official job is software engineer. In reality I get to do sustaining work, tech support, product validation, product design, product development, and project management. There are times (as in right now) where it is definitely 'not fun'. When I am given unrealistic schedules, and inflexible management to deliver a new product. In these times, I definitely have to 'suck it up', put in long hours, and not react when am told 'you are not doing good enough'. The reward is I have more selection in future projects, and I get to keep my job.

egarnerit
egarnerit

Mike, I both agree and disagree with you. I do not work because it is fun, but I do enjoy what I do. I find that the view "if it is not fun, it is not worth doing" it is becoming more and more common. If I did only want was fun, I would be a very poor man. With that said, I believe you should strive to enjoy what you do and find joy in a since of accomplishment. I have had many situations that I did not enjoy doing the task at hand, however, I was elated when I finished. Yes, because I was done, but more so for the since of victory, the since of fullfilling a need/want of those I serve. As the original post said for the since of purpose. No it was not FUN, but it brought great joy. Sometimes the joy is not in the journey, but in the arrival. How can we teach and expect the next generation to do what needs to be done, when we complain that we have to do what is not fun. When we preach, work should be fun? It is this mindset that has sent jobs to other countries, that have drawn illegals to the U.S. to do those jobs that are not "fun" while millions of people are unemployed; Some, not all, simply because they are not willing to do what is not fun. Sometimes, no a lot of times, we have to do things because it is our responsibility, our duty.

tjohnston
tjohnston

I agree with Edg@. There is something to be said for providing for a family and contributing to society. Anybody ever watch Dirty Jobs on Discovery? Mike Rowe goes around the country to learn to do some of the dirtiest jobs imaginable. Mike has had quite a diverse career in acting, including a stent in a Broadway show (you can tell when he sings on the show). If you read on paper that he went from broadway to the sewer lines on a TV show you'd assume he got a crappy deal, and would be bitter. The guy really laughs and enjoys his time with the dirty folks he meets. The point is you can "have fun" doing things that aren't fun. Sometimes you have to use the bottom line to motivate you through the hard times. I work to support my family. If I don't work, they don't eat. Even if its not fun, it must be done. If you keep the right mindset you can have fun doing anything.

Jessie
Jessie

I've had plenty of jobs that were nothing but drudgery and tedium day after day... but I made the CHOICE to enjoy myself and have a bit of FUN. Your choice of attitude determines whether or not you have fun... if you choose to only look at the bad side, then you'll be horribly disatisfied with your life AND your work.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Actually Unrealistic Time frames to do anything is a Failure of Management. I've been there and fought to prevent my staff being subject to things like this because some Idiot Bean Counter thinks that well here is a Prototype all we need to do is make it bigger and it will work. I'll allow 3 hours till this is finished and working better than the Prototype. I've been known to suggest on more than one occasion "if it's so simple do it yourself" My staff do have fun at work and when needed by circumstances out of our control they work the required hours to get the job done. Even then I go out of my way to make sure that they are at the very least enjoying the work the moment that this stops they become less productive and take longer to get the same thing done. Col

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

and regularly enjoyable. At best, yes work should be fun. In truth however, none of the three of these will be the case 24/7/365 in our work - and our lives. But they should exist in equal proportion to the mundane and unpleasant. If they do not, it is quite likely that changes need to be made before one winds up old and bitter.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Not every job is fun, but some of the most important jobs are guaranteed to not be fun. [ cleaning / maintaining sewer lines for example ] but, if you can't enjoy your work, then you ned to look for something else to do to have fun. The stress releif of having fun is to important in our fast paced society today for fun to be ignored.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

sometimes it is not, but strive for the fun. If you are not having fun are you really in the right place?

Ramon Padilla Jr.
Ramon Padilla Jr.

Am I looking at the world with rose colored glasses or should I just wake up, smell the coffee and be satisfied with grinding it out day to day?

ssampier
ssampier

I think at the end of the day, work is work. You don't need to be smiling at work. Sometimes, it can help. Attitude is a powerful thing. And it is infectious. However, this isn't a "cowboy up" and do it platitude. More of a 'if this is what you want in life, find a way to do it.' I really enjoy my job. But I want to see positive changes to my environment. That is what gives me pleasure and excitement. If work was the same everyday I'd quickly go mad. For the organization lack of money is a powerful constraint. My young, naive self says do good stuff anyway. Find a way to get more funds or do more with less, as those Pointy Haired Bosses are always saying. There is no limit to the imagination. If you think creatively and have support of your employees you will get important stuff done. If you are railroaded at every turn and no one seems to listen, maybe it's time to pack up the saddle bag and head out. If nothing else you can start your own company and have people lined up. You sound like a great boss.

chaos_disorder
chaos_disorder

Sure there will be some times where you hate your job and some of the people you work with, but if you don't enjoy doing what you do more than 50% of the time, you're in the wrong place. We spend far too much time at work these days to not enjoy it. Why willingly give up 40+ hours of your life every week to a place that makes you unhappy more times than not?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

If you are happy to do the hours and not be productive that's great stay put in a place that doesn't want to improve or even stay with the field but they are more than likely to go broke/be subject to a Hostile Takeover or any number of other things, so you may not have a job there for long. If you want some Satisfaction out of Life walk away from any place that just expects more of the Same Old Same Old they are the death of any Industrious Person. Col

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