HR Insights, Talent Management

Can You Have Fun on the Job? Yes, If the Employer Can Get Out of the Way

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I’ve had a lot of unpleasant cab rides, but this one took the cake.

Standing in the taxi queue at the airport in San Antonio, my business partner and I realized we had no cash between us and needed a cab that accepted credit cards. When it was our turn, before getting into the cab I asked the disheveled (and rather pungent) driver, “Sir, do you accept credit cards?”

Without making eye contact he grunted, “Unfortunately…

“What’s wrong with that guy?

We got into his filthy cab and took the 30-minute ride north to the J.W. Marriott with nary a word from our driver. No “Are you here for business or pleasure?” No “Where are you fellows in from?” Not a peep.

When we pulled to the entrance at the Marriott, the bellman came out to greet us and reached to open the rear cab door. The driver immediately hit the door lock button and then broke his silence.

“No one gets out until I get paid.”

“Seriously?” I questioned, thinking he must be joking.

We finished the credit card transaction, he unlocked the door and remained seated as the bellman grabbed our bags and remarked, “What’s wrong with that guy?”

 Same ride, different trip

As our meeting concluded the following day, we called for a cab to head back to the airport.

This taxi ride, however, could not have been more different from our previous one.

Our driver was happy and jovial and, although his cab was the same make and model as the previous taxi, it was spotless inside and out. As he jumped out of his door to greet us and open the back for our luggage, I asked, “Do you take credit cards?”

“Only if you give me a high five!” he grinned as he held his hand up waiting for me to high five him.

So I did. We both laughed.

At first glance, the inside of his cab seemed normal. But above his visor, we noticed the words “Disco Cab” in black stick-on letters.

“What makes this a disco cab?” I asked.

In a Brazilian accent our driver “Rush” said, “Do you gentleman like music?

“Sure.”

The positive impact of fun on the job

Then let’s have some fun.” He passed back two pair of cardboard glasses not unlike those you get at a 3D movie. He hit a few switches and turned a knob or two and whammo! We were suddenly at Studio 54.

Crazy cool laser lights lit up the ceiling and the dash as ABBA’s Dancing Queen came over the surround sound speakers. My traveling companion and I each looked at each other with huge grins as we started to feign dance moves in the back seat.

In the span of a few miles, we were singing, laughing, and having the time of our lives. Rush was enjoying our delight as much as we were enjoying his music.

Naturally, I had to ask him all about why he decided to outfit his cab so differently than any we’d ever seen, and why he had such a jubilant attitude about driving a cab.

I LOVE my job,” he said. “…and I LOVE America!”

He had his smart phone positioned on his dash enabling him to keep both hands on the wheel while video recorded his passenger’s joyful reactions to his music and lights. He asked and received our permission to video record us having a blast in his cab and post the video to his YouTube page with thousands of fans and hits. How could we refuse?

When we arrived at the airport, he took my camera and recorded some video of Josh and I getting out of his cab. We gave him a very nice tip and laughed about it all the way through the TSA checkpoints. (And those can wipe the smile off your face in a New York second.)

The one thing employers need to remember

Although work is not always fun, we all want to have fun while we are at work.

Most employers use the word ‘fun’ in a job posting or when describing our culture to a potential recruit. That puts the onus on them to organize games, interactive activities, or put a ping-pong table in the break room.

But the reality is, sometimes the best way an employer can assure that its people are completely engaged and enjoying their job is to simply get out of their way and invite them to bring the fun.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the emerging workforce and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 3 leadership books including Reviving Work Ethic . His new book, On Fire at Work: How Legendary Leaders Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out, will be released later this year. Learn more about Eric at EricChester.com.
  • Alex

    A little fun can really change the whole dynamic of the day, but if you go into work everyday looking for fun, then there might be an issue