Is work fun?

What do you think? Is work fun?

It’s really the question that keeps getting asked when we talk about the future of work, and employee experience, and employee engagement, etc. Do you believe that your work is “fun”?

Fun?

That’s the first problem, we really have to define what fun is. I mean if we are doing this all official HR-like, right!?! Let’s over-process and over-think this! What is fun? Is a scale for all of us. Is doing an employee file audit fun? Maybe not for you, but you know some of us like to get freaky, so no judgement on what you call fun!

Tyler Cowen has a new book coming out titled “Big Business” and in one section he asks this question: Is work fun? Here’s part of that section from the book:

To oversimplify by only a bit, they have to pay you to do it. And that suggests work is not in every way fun. Furthermore, for most people work is the main way that they interact with business on a daily basis, which means that business is associated with the activities that take some of the fun out of our lives. Bits of fun are drained on a very regular basis, often five days a week, but the paychecks arrive less frequently in most cases and often by the less visible means of direct deposit. So the stresses and tedium of the work are for many people more vivid than the wages they earn. And that in sum is one reason business is not entirely popular with the American public—or, indeed, with the public elsewhere in the world. Business is like the parent who tells you that you can’t have everything you want all the time.

Some recent studies and surveys illustrate the potential burden of work. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and economist Alan Krueger measure our “daily affective experiences” by having people wear beepers that go off at irregular intervals, at which time the people record what they are doing and their feelings. You can think of this as a technique for measuring moods. But the researchers ask about more than just the subjects’ feelings at a given point in time; they also ask how happy people are with various aspects of their lives. The study thus considers both momentary pleasure and the overall feeling of satisfaction from a life well spent, because happiness isn’t just a single thing with a unidimensional scale. For this study, the researchers recruited 909 employed women with an average age of thirty-eight and an average household income of $54,700.

And what did the researchers find? The highest-rated activities, from most favored to less favored, were intimate relations, socializing, relaxing, and prayer/worship/meditation. In the middle of the list were watching TV, preparing food, and talking on the phone, among other mundane activities. The bottom five were childcare, computer/email/ internet, housework, working, and—dead last—commuting.

So working is next to last in terms of producing a positive mood, and that is sad news. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like work; it only means we like other things better. And in fact, when you drill down, the ratio of people who have positive feelings about work to those who have negative feelings is just over 3.5 to 1. (That’s not as good as the 5.10 to 0.36 positive-to-negative ratio for intimate relations, but sex always was going to beat out work anyway.)

I love the concept of because we get ‘paid’ to work, that in of itself tells you that work isn’t fun, because in almost all cases people don’t get paid to do things that are ‘fun’. No one is getting paid to take vacations to Disney World. No one is getting paid to sit on the beach and sip frozen cocktails with zero responsibilities.

Now, I know a lot of people who get paid to do some fun stuff as part of their job, but that’s a small portion of their job, not their complete job.

I think for most of us, there are some aspects of our jobs that are fun. It’s a balance between some truly fun stuff and some stuff we are just getting paid to do, which if given a choice we would not choose to do if we weren’t being paid.

Does this then lead us down a path as leaders and HR pros to how do we add little bits of fun into work?

I think it’s something to test in our workplaces. Not forced fun. That’s the opposite of fun. But true, in the moments bits of fun. That’s the hard part, right? How do we free our leaders, or teach them, to have fun with their teams in the moment? If we figure that out, that probably unlocks a ton of positive outcomes for our employees and our organizations!

Are you ‘Manager Shaming’? #WorkHuman

Do you know what’s wrong with companies and organizations?

I know the answer because I go to a lot of conferences and listen to a lot of speakers. All of them will tell you exactly what’s wrong with your organization and every other organization. Turns out we all have the exact same thing wrong! Which is comforting in a way.

Our Managers Suck!!! 

Yay!! We figured it out!! We all agree!! Good for us!!

Can I tell you something? I hate Manager Shaming!! HATE IT!

Almost every speaker, at every conference, who speaks about the employee experience or employee engagement, or just about anything to deal with people blame managers. It’s lazy analysis for the most part. Let’s find someone or something everyone loves to hate and then we’ll blame them for everything, and then I’ll give them some great plan that you can’t possibly pull off, filled with funny little stories about my kids.

Look, I get that we have managers that are struggling, but the reality is we put them in a position to fail and now we just want to shame them and blame them for every single ill we have in an organization.

We have to be better than this. We were the idiots who put these folks in charge, didn’t teach them to properly lead people, or hold them accountable to properly lead people, or actually select them based on who had the right DNA to lead people, and not who is the best individual contributor but truly has no ability to lead people. It’s so stupid.

I want us all to start calling out Manager Shaming at conferences.

Cool tell me all my problems are my terrible managers, but you better be super quick to help figure out how to solve this or we get to throat punch you right on stage! If I hear about one more ‘study’ on how they found out managers suck and this is the ‘real’ problem with helping our organizations be successful I’m going to vomit.

So, how do we stop “Manager Shaming”:

1. Understand we are all part of this problem. It’s not ‘managers’, it’s all of us. We all suck because we all allowed this to happen. Also, most of us are managers.

2. Stop picking people to be managers based on they were the best at something, that has nothing to do with actually managing or leading people!

3. Build a leadership program that not only teaches and mentors employees on how to be effective leaders, but then hold them accountable to be that person.

4. Stop blaming and start fixing. It’s not a ‘manager’ issue. If it’s broke. If you are not successful. That’s an organizational issue. We all own that.

5. Move people out of management roles who are unable to lead people. You know who they are, just make the move.

6. Celebrate, publicly your great managers, and be very specific about the behaviors you are celebrating.

Select, educate, measure, reward, repeat. We aren’t trying to launch the space shuttle. We are trying to do something way, way harder. We are trying to lead people!

Stop Manager Shaming!

IN 2025, APPLICATIONS WILL BE accepted for the job of a lifetime—literally!

Swedish artistic duo Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby recently announced their next project which they are calling “Eternal Employment”. The project is fully funded and they have even started to write a job description for this ‘artistic’ endeavor.

What is “Eternal Employment“?

“A fair starting salary, with annual wage increases that match those for Swedish government workers, vacation time, even a pension, and the job is yours for as long as you do it. So what’s the job? Anything you want.

Each morning, the chosen employee will punch a clock in Korsvägen train station, currently under construction in Gothenburg, Sweden, which will turn on a bank of bright fluorescent lights. Other than that, “the position holds no duties or responsibilities besides the fact that the work should be carried out at Korsvägen. Whatever the employee chooses to do constitutes the work,” reads the job description. The employee can also choose how publicly visible or anonymous they would like to be while on the clock.”

So, how is this art?

“As Gothenburg’s working class finds itself marginalized, Goldin and Senneby see a job that gives total control to the worker as an act of economic imagination.”

It’s an interesting concept, even more so as we move into the world of A.I. knowing so many tactical jobs we do now will go away and many economists are already talking about these concepts of people being given a living wage to basically just live, but not work.

This is truly art potentially mimicking life. We can already foresee a time when we don’t need most of the workers we have today, yet we still have to provide for the population and understand a new kind of productivity when ‘work’ isn’t apart of the equation.

So, what would you do in this job?

It’s a great question to think about. If you didn’t have to worry, every, for the rest of your life, about finances, and you couldn’t be fired. What would you do in this train station each day on your shift?

I want to hope that I would find ways to brighten the day of others. To welcome them to the day, to wish them the best on their way home, and everything in between, but it’s such a far-out concept it’s really hard to even imagine.  It kind of reminds me of the movie with Tom Hanks, The Terminal. While he had to stay in the airport and couldn’t leave, he basically had to figure out how to spend his time in this pass-through public space.

I have a feeling this ‘job of a lifetime’ would probably get super boring for most people. Most of us would start out with the best intentions, but eventually, fall into the trap of not really doing anything productive. Maybe that’s part of the “art” to select someone who actually would take full advantage of this opportunity. I would love to be on the selection committee!

What would you do if you were given this job? Hit me in the comments.

 

Welcome to the Real-World Tesla Employees!

You probably saw this last week but it came out that Tesla employees fear for their jobs more than any other technology company, of over 8000 tech workers surveyed:

A survey by workplace chat app Blind shows that out of all the major tech companies, Tesla’s employees most fear being laid off.

Blind surveyed 8,230 tech workers over a week at the beginning of this month. Overall, 35.9% of users surveyed said they were worried about layoffs at their current company, while 64.1% have job security.

Tesla had the highest percentage of fearful employees, with 77.2% saying they are concerned about job cuts. It was followed closely by eBay and Snapchat, with 71.9% and 71.3% respectively.

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but Tesla isn’t a ‘tech’ company. Tesla is a manufacturing company. They make cars and other stuff that has to be built in factories.

For the millions of other employees who work for manufacturing companies, the fear of being laid-off is super real!

Why?

  • Sometimes we design and market stuff that doesn’t sell.
  • Sometimes the Chinese steal our designs and tech and make our stuff cheaper and sell it back to us.
  • Sometimes economic conditions make it so people don’t have enough money to buy our stuff.

Layoffs happen.

The big joke here is that the company who did the survey actually thinks Tesla and Google are the same type of company. They aren’t. They are both super hot ‘brands’, but they are both not technology companies.

Sure the Tesla is loaded with technology, but so it every other vehicle on the planet right now, and it’s increasing in every model from every manufacturer.

Also, fear of layoff is real in every company, in every market, in every industry. Sure many technology companies are hot right now and need workers desperately and it looks like that will be the case for a long time, but that’s isn’t a guarantee. Blackberry was on top of the world for a hot minute, then they weren’t. (Oh, I loved my first Blackberry!)

Turns out, if you make crap no one wants to buy, or can’t afford to buy, jobs will be lost! I think people who buy Tesla’s love Teslas! I hear nothing but great things. Also, for many, a full electric car just isn’t practical, yet. And, they are super expensive. And quite frankly, Tesla isn’t very good at being a manufacturing company. Tesla is not Toyota.

After the Great Recession we have an entire Generation coming into the workforce that will place job security much higher than the generations before them. None of us wants our employees to be fearful for their jobs, when it’s not performance related. It’s an awful feeling and a culture killer.

It’s also part of business. Capitalism isn’t perfect, but I prefer it to the alternatives.

No pay! Do you come to work?

I’ve seen some messages on social media by folks being negative about the TSA workers they’ve run into during the government shutdown. I’m always perplexed by this because here are people who are forced to come to work, and not getting paid.

I would bet that these folks who have negative comments would almost all not even show up to their job if their boss told them, “Hey, yeah, well guess what? I need you to come to work tomorrow, but I can’t pay you.” Yeah, thanks, but no thanks, buddy!

I think there are some folks who would for a while. Healthcare workers I could see many of those folks working for free for a bit and understanding the importance. Most first responders would do this based on their oaths. But, that’s probably about it.

I traveled this past week and I went out of my way to thank every TSA employee I ran into. It completely sucks to be forced to work and not get paid, and while I can’t pay them, I can let them know that I appreciate what they are doing to help keep my life safe.

By the way, I also saw many, many people who were complete jerks to the TSA agents because the wait was too long, or they had to take their hat off, or all kinds of stupid stuff. Turns out, some people are just jerks. Look, jerks, these people are working for free, have some compassion!

Our government, all of them, fail these people in such a colossal way it makes me sick to my stomach. Employees, government, public, private, etc. are not pawns in a game. These are real people and our elected officials could care less.

What I think is most people wouldn’t come to work if they weren’t getting paid. Many of these federal government employees have been told you come to work or you get fired and you won’t be hired back. These are good jobs, hard to come by jobs, so most come to work without pay.

The question is for how long? Like, yeah, I want this job because it has good pay and benefits, but once that stops happening, I no longer want this job!

So, what do you think? How long would you come to work knowing you will not be paid?

Co-Managing with an A–hole!

In the modern work world, we are often tasked as leaders to co-lead, co-manage a team, a function, a location, etc. The challenges to this are many, but none is more difficult when you have to do that and the other person is a complete a-hole!

What I find is that most a-holes have no idea they’re an a-hole, or they know they’re an a-hole but some broke in their brain to make them believe their actually a better person/leader as an a-hole versus a normal person.

What are the jerk, a-hole leader behaviors? Being condescending to the employees they lead. Talking behind the back of those they lead to others on the team that are a peer of that person. Not supporting their co-leader on things that were previously agreed to, etc. You know what I’m talking about!

I’m lucky that I haven’t had this issue for a while but I see it happen all the time in organizations I support, and it’s one of the most talked about issues I hear from friends and peers that work in corporate gigs. Here’s some of my advice for co-managing with an a-hole:

– A–holes hate being put in a box. Put them in a box. Get agreements on things, then get written confirmation of those agreements. I find a-hole leaders will work not to confirm via email or written communication, especially if they don’t really agree with the direction and plan to screw you later!

– Always stay above the line in front of those who report to you and your peers. “Above the line” means you never allow yourself to do or have the same bad behaviors as your co-manager. You take the high road, always. Trust me, in the end, you’ll benefit greatly from this!

– Be brutally honest in your assessment of your a-hole co-manager. I find most a-hole leaders are never told by a peer that they’re being an a-hole with real specific examples. Most if told, will actually try to change those behaviors. Some are truly just a-holes and they won’t change, but it will make you feel better to address it. Also, don’t stop addressing it! Every time it happens, call them out. That is actually an “above the line” behavior by you calling them out!

As a leader dealing with this situation will probably be the most challenging you’ll have in your career, but ignoring it, complaining to your boss, to matching their behavior are all losing propositions that take your career nowhere.

I love killing a-holes with kindness! It doesn’t happen often to them, they are used to getting the opposite reaction from their behavior, so extreme kindness to them really throws them off guard and unsettles them which can be quite funny!

Are Work Friends, Really Friends?

So, I get pimped on the daily by PR firms to share their stuff with you guys and I rarely do! But, every once in a while a PR firm gets that I only read the headlines and sends me a good one! Like the one above!

So, this is the juice from the study

“Only 15% of people believe they have a ‘real’ friend at work.” 

Okay, the full breakdown was actually this:

  • 41% are just Coworkers. We work together. We get along. But we never hang.
  • 22% are Strangers. They work in the same place I do, but I have no idea who they are.
  • 20% are Only At Work Friends. We sit at lunch together, we talk about our families, but after work, we have separate lives.
  • 15% are Real Friends. These are my people. We work together, but we also vacation together, go for drinks, play on the same softball team, etc.
  • 2% are Enemies. I spend most of my waking hours searching or ways to ruin their lives.

The Gallup friend research from two decades ago showed us that one critical component of having an engaging work-life is if you have a “Best Friend” at work. In hindsight, I’m guessing Gallup was probably talking about this ‘real friend’ category. Someone you actually have a relationship with outside of work, someone you look forward to seeing when you go to work, etc.

For me, this really brings up the entire concept of Friendship. I’m a middle-aged dude. I’ve got a wife and kids and a dog. Middle-aged dudes and friendships are weird. I’ve got people I would consider super close friends that I’ll go weeks without communicating to. Some of my closest friends I only see a few times a year in person. So, when you ask me if I have a ‘real friend’ at work I need some defining traits about what that really looks like.

For me a ‘real friend’ probably has one or more of these characteristics:

– I’m willing to share personal stuff with them and know they won’t break my confidence.

– They’ll come and help me move to a new house/apartment/etc. Let’s face it that’s a real friend!

– We spend time together outside of work on stuff not associated with work because we enjoy being around each other.

– The friendship is two-way, meaning, we both think about and do stuff that is important to each other.

– The friendship would not go away if you stop working with each other.

That last one is the real defining characteristic of a real friend vs. a friend at work, right? We have so many people that we actually enjoy working with and we would introduce them as ‘friends’ but if we stopped working with them each day, we would probably just become Facebook friends and maybe never see them again!

So, I’ll ask you to think about all those people you work with right now and determine do you have a real friend at work? The study says 85% of us don’t! What do you say?

 

Is employee experience really all about your manager? #Maslow #Drink!

So, I’m sharing a post I wrote over at EXJournal.org (EX = Employee Experience). It’s site started by some brilliant people from all over the world and they invited me to write to bring down the overall quality of the site! I wrote this post and immediately thought, “Hey, I just leveled-up from my normal poorly written stuff!”.

I thought this because it’s an idea I’m passionate about and truly believe. I think we get lied to a bunch by HR vendors who are just trying to sell their shit. We’ve been lied to for a long time on the concept – “People leave managers, not companies” – that’s actually not true…enjoy the post and check out the new EXJournal site!


“Employees don’t leave companies. Employees leave managers.” 

How often have you heard this over the past decade? A hundred times? A thousand times?

We love saying this in the HR, management consulting, leadership training world. We use it for employee engagement and employee experience, to almost anything where we want to blame bad managers and take the focus off all the other crap we get wrong in our companies.

The fact is, the quote above is mostly bullshit.

Employees actually care about other things more

The truth is, employees actually leave organizations more often over money than anything else. We don’t want to believe it because that means as leaders we have to dig into our budgets, make less profit, and pay our employees true market value if we want them to stay.

Managers might be the issue if you’re getting everything else right. So, if you pay your employees at the market rate. Ifyou offer market-level benefits. If you give them a normal work environment, then yes, maybe employees don’t leave your company, they leave their managers.

But you forgot all that other stuff? Maybe the ‘real’ reason an employee left your company wasn’t the fact their manager wasn’t a rock star. Maybe it was the fact you paid them below market, gave them a crappy benefits package, and made them work in the basement?!

The dirty little truth about Employee Experience is that managers are just one component of the overall experience, and we give them way too much weight when looking at EX in totality. We do this because we feel we don’t have control over all of the other stuff, but it’s easy to push managers around and ‘train’ them up to be better than they actually are.

Rethinking Maslow for EX

There is a new Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Employee Needs when it comes to Employee Experience and it goes like this:

Hierarchy of needsLevel I – Money – cash!

Level II – Benefits – health, fringes, etc.

Level III – Flexibility of Schedule – work/life balance

Level IV – Work Environment – short commute, great design, supportive co-workers

Level V – The Actual Job/Position – am I doing something that utilizes my best skills?

Level VI – Your Manager – do I have a manager who supports my career & life goals?

We all immediately jump to Level VI when it comes to EX because that’s what we’ve been told is the real reason people leave organizations. Which actually might be the case if all of the other five levels above are being met. What I find is that rarely are the first five levels met, and then it becomes really easy to blame managers for why their people leave.

Managers aren’t the difference maker

When I take a look at organizations with super low turnover, what I find are that they do a great job at the first five levels, and they do what everyone else does at level six. The managers at low turnover organizations are virtually the same as all other organizations. There is no ‘real’ difference in skill sets and attitudes; those managers are just managing employees who are pretty satisfied because most of their basic needs are met pretty well.

I think the new quote should be this:

“Good employees leave companies that give them average pay, benefits, and work environment, that don’t utilize the employee’s skill set, and that make them work for a crappy boss.” 


(Tim note – Why the #Drink? It’s a game that my fellow HR/TA speakers and I play. We hate when someone uses the Maslow pyramid in a slide, so we make fun of it by claiming every time a speaker mentions “Maslow” or shows the pyramid the entire audience should have to take a drink – like a drinking game for bad speakers! The more you know…) 

DisruptHR Detroit Speaker Applications Now Being Accepted!!! But, you probably can’t handle it! #8Mile

Look, I just like being honest. This isn’t DisruptHR Brentwood or DisruptHR Nantucket! This is Detroit! We do real HR in the D!

Come on, just be real with yourself for a moment, you can’t handle Detroit. It’s okay, you’ll do fine at DisruptHR Sun City. Just slow down and do some tour stops before you come to Detroit!

You see, we actually make stuff that sells for money in Detroit. We have employees who get their hands dirty. We have to live in snow and cold for six months out of the year, which tends to leave us a little less likely to be willing to consume your weak B.S. When you come to DisruptHR Detroit, you better bring it!

Alright, I hear you feeling yourself. You just might be ready to hit 8 Mile and the rap battle that is HR in Detroit. DisruptHR Detroit will take place on September 20th onsite at Quicken Loans awesome event space in the heart of downtown Detroit.

Want to speak at DisruptHR Detroit? (what you need to know) 

– It’s 5 Minutes, 20 slides, the slides automatically move every 15 seconds (this is not something you can change!)

– If you’re a vendor you try selling your product in the 5 minutes, we’ll Gong Show your ass right off the stage!

– DisruptHR is about emotion – make us laugh, make us cry, make us angry, make us motivated. Just make us feel something!

– There will be over 250 HR and Talent Pros in the audience cheering you on. (FYI – many in the audience will be drinking!)

– You will get a video recorded, professionally produced copy of your presentation!

Apply to Speak at DisruptHR Detroit! 

Career Confession of Gen Z: Flexible Work Hours Are Key to Recruiting Gen Z

You may notice that I mention my Mom in a lot of my posts because I have the best Mom in the world. It’s just a fact. She has an agreement with my Dad that he’s not allowed to talk about her in his posts without permission, but I don’t have that agreement so, sorry Mom!

One thing that my Mom has always been super big on is sleep. Ever since my brothers and I were little, she made sure we got more than the recommended amount and now I can’t survive without 7-8 hours of sleep a night!

One thing that I have noticed during my time abroad here in Spain and during my time in Japan (I was in an exchange program in middle school) is that sleep is not as important here.  My 6-year-old host sister gets about 8 hours of sleep every night where I would get 11-12 when I was her age. My host parents maybe get 4 or 5. There is just a different culture around sleep in other countries.

Another thing that has stuck out to me is the late start times in Spain. The streets are usually dead before 9 a.m. and most shops don’t open until 10 or 11. People go out to bars and clubs at 1 or 2 and stay out until 4 or 5 and then, get up for work the next day!

Something that I enjoy about college is that you get to make your schedule around what times fit best for your own personal preferences. For me, I learn best in the mid-morning to mid-afternoon, but many of my friends learn best at night.

This is another thing where I don’t know which system is better. I don’t know if America’s “early bird gets the worm” is necessarily better than Spain’s later start times, but I do know that every person is different. Something that is really important to me is sleep and I know that in my 20s, I don’t want to have to go to bed at 9 or 10 pm in order to get the amount of sleep I need because my job starts super early in the morning.

This brings up something that I know I will look for in a job when I get out along with many of my fellow Gen-Z’ers: flexible start and end times.

I think it’s important to allow your employees to work at the times that are best for them. I have seen flex time discussed as a benefit for people with families but it also benefits those people that don’t work best in a traditional “9-5” setting. Maybe 11-7 works best for those night owls. I know that there is no part of me that will ever want to work a 7-3 like some people do. (Editor Dad note: Don’t you love how Cam believes ‘working’ 8 hours is 9-5, and now 8-5 with an hour lunch!)

Right before I wrote this post, I called my Mom to talk about how many hours of sleep we got as kids. When I told her what I was writing about, the first thing she said is “well Dad has his meetings first thing in the morning, so he can’t always let people do that”. I get it. I get that it doesn’t work for every company and every situation, but I think that flexibility is important to implement in as many ways as possible.

Let your employees get enough sleep and do their best work by allowing them some flexibility to sleep and work at the times that are best for them. So, if you want your Gen-Z employees to be competent the day after the Super Bowl or the Game of Thrones finale, it’s a good idea to let them sleep in a little bit. 


 

This post was written by Cameron Sackett (not Tim) – you can probably tell because it lacks grammatical errors!

HR and TA Pros – have a question you would like to ask directly to a Gen Z? Ask us in the comments and I’ll respond in an upcoming blog post right here on the project. Have some feedback for me? Again, please share in the comments and/or connect with me on LinkedIn.