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5 common workplace enjoyment errors leaders make

As most of you reading this article will know, being a small business owner is pretty amazing! I’m sure you would also agree that it takes a lot of hard work. There are the long nights and weekends attached to your BlackBerry, computer or simply just lying awake at night…thinking. But, ultimately we do it because we are passionate. We love and enjoy what we do.

But what about your employees? Are they passionate and happy? Do they enjoy working for your business? The fourth Australian Work and Life Index revealed last month that the number of full-time workers who are dissatisfied with their work situation has increased in the past three years. More than one-fifth of Australians spend 48 hours or more at work each week, and 60 percent do not take regular holidays. Three-quarters of people working long hours say they would rather work fewer hours despite the drop in pay.

So what is the issue here? No flexible working conditions? Lack of work culture? No work/life balance? Yes, yes and yes! But I believe there is one key issue overriding all of this – a lack of enjoyment in the workplace.

Firstly let me clarify the meaning of enjoyment. We are referring to that sense of really being into what you’re doing, like when you jump out of bed with enthusiasm, when you get great pleasure and satisfaction from the work you do and the results achieved. We are not talking simply about regular Friday night drinks or monthly team lunches or even about enjoying your workmates’ regular jokes. Enjoyment for us is clearly differentiated from the concepts of engagement and happiness. People will work hard when they are engaged in what they are doing, and be content when they are happy in their workplace, but is that what we are looking for as business owners? 

Let’s ask a simple question. How much better would your company perform if everyone in it truly enjoyed what they were doing? The simple answer is better.

The Hungarian psychology professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi detailed this exact thought as a process called the ‘state of flow’. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channelled, but positive, energised, and aligned with the task at hand.

Too many people simply don’t enjoy the work they do and this holds back performance in so many ways. If we could just focus on this concept and create work environments where every effort is made to make work more enjoyable, think what we could achieve.

Gretchen Spreitze and Christine Porath captured these points succinctly in their article Creating Sustainable Performance. They state that happiness is not about contentment, which is a common misunderstanding by industry overall. Having fun at work every day may make us happy but we will get bored eventually, there will be a lack of challenges, a lack of drive and ultimately employees will not be enjoying the work they do. They go on to say that an engaged employee can be better described as ‘thriving’: “…research from neuroscience, psychology and economics makes the link between a thriving workforce and better business performance absolutely clear.”

Employees that enjoy their job work harder; the business gets the best out of the employee and they help the organisation to succeed. So it’s common sense that businesses try to create a workplace where employees enjoy their work and excel in what they do. 

Many businesses focus on this concept and try to create the best workplace environment, one where they believe the employees and the business thrive. Whilst this has its benefits there are too many organisations where employees don’t enjoy the physical work they do and it’s holding back their performance.

After years of fostering workplace enjoyment for companies big and small, I have seen firsthand the most common mistakes businesses make when trying to create enjoyment, but yet they still fail. Why?

1. Being leaders but not leading:  It doesn’t matter what philosophy we’re talking about; if it’s not being role modeled by the boss, no one believes it. If the boss isn’t enjoying their work it will be impossible to create a culture where the rest of the company can enjoy their work. So step back a second and think about what you are portraying to the rest of your employees. Do you show enjoyment at work? 

2. Talking not acting:  Having meetings about enjoyment but not making any real changes in the way the business is conducted, isn’t going to make a difference. Enjoyment is not simply a state of mind (attitude) but tangible aspects of work. These have to change as well. Often business owners and management are great at talking about the initiative or even launching it, but then there is no follow through. All initiatives in business need a consistent focus, based on the premise that what you’re trying to achieve is not a fad but something that will make the business succeed in the long-term.

3. Creating fun:  Enjoyment isn’t all about having fun, it is about being passionate about the work you are doing. Fun actually trivialises the concept and if you make it all about fun, it ends up being a superficial exercise that actually detracts from business success. Step back and separate fun from enjoyment. Fun can create a better workplace culture and happier employees but it will not increase productivity or ensure your employees enjoy their job.

4. Measuring once a year:  People and culture are crucial to business success and you’d think most companies would treat them as a key indicator of business health. But no. Most companies only measure staff engagement and culture once a year. Many businesses hardly ever. How do you know how well you’re doing if you don’t measure and track how people are feeling? Measuring enjoyment can be done in many ways, through workplace surveys, management one on one’s or talking to independent outside agencies who can create an enjoyment tracker of your business. Without measurement you will not have a true indication of where your business is heading. 

5. Not recognising or rewarding effort: Why make something a focus and then not acknowledge people when they do the right thing? High achievements, hitting KPIs, speeding up productivity; if you are going to ask to improve these things you must be ready to act upon reward. This doesn’t have to cost lots of money, most people will respond better to a reward which is not financial. People love to be recognised sincerely through a thank you gift card, a dinner out or even a box of chocolates to simply show that you care.

So step back and think, how enjoyable is your workplace?

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Richard Wentworth-Ping

Richard Wentworth-Ping

Since setting up Wentworth Training in 1989, Richard has worked with companies large and small in almost every industry sector and in most regions of the world. He loves to help create high performance service cultures, outstanding management teams and to improve internal communication.

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