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Job or Joy, You Choose

I have the best career in the world.    It is my mission to help individuals and companies find Joy in their workplace.  You heard me JOY at work.    I spend my days talking to teams and their leaders about how they can inject more genuine satisfaction and happiness into this thing called a job.  I hate the word job because I think it has a negative connotation.  I prefer words like work, endeavor or mission.      Listen, we’ve all had “jobs” and they were less than fun.    Washing dishes at Jake Copley’s Restaurant when I was 15 years old, that was a job and a crappy one at that.    Standing over a hot dishwashing machine, rinsing nacho cheese dip out of bowls in a 95-degree kitchen while being yelled at by an angry line cook and sexually harassed by waiters who were twice my age is a job.  A craptastic job with no joy whatsoever.    Jobs suck, plain and simple.

Work, on the other hand can be a joyous thing if this endeavor has several key things:

1.        A clear mission that you can feel good about pursuing

2.       Trust in your leader and the team that you are all working together toward a common goal

3.       Space to make mistakes and learn and the feeling that you will be given honest, candid feedback on how to improve

4.       Strong, clear communication throughout the organization

5.       FUN and some laughter along the way

Let’s be honest, work is not sunshine and roses.  Whether you are a street sweeper, a bank teller, an accountant or a CEO, work is supposed to be hard.     That’s why they pay you to do it.   You are exchanging your time and talent and doing the hard thing and you receive a paycheck and hopefully some other benefits for doing it.    Pay is great, but that’s not what makes you do your best in position and is sure as heck isn’t the thing that keeps you from quitting and moving onto a new job.    What keeps you there is the five things above and maybe a few more.   

For me, #5 is critical.    If there is no FUN at work, I’m out!    If there aren’t opportunities to laugh and joke and blow off a little steam, I am simply not interested.   Folks, there really is science behind this.  Don’t take Jilly’s word for it, the big boys at Harvard, Wharton and Stamford have done studies on this stuff.    According to Harvard Business Review, “Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”  Even the Mayo Clinic will tell you there are therapeutic benefits to laughing itself.    “A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.”

So how can we laugh more at work?   First, surround yourself with funny people or at the very least, people who like to laugh.     No, I am not kidding.    An interview question I have asked on numerous occasions is, “Tell me the funniest thing that ever happened at your last job.”     I have heard some awesome stories and it has given me a real feel for the individual’s ability to laugh at the mundane, the difficult or the downright outlandish stuff that can happen in the workplace.   Remember, this isn’t the only interview question and you are not making hiring decisions based on sense of humor but it’s important piece of the puzzle, particularly if yours is a workplace that likes to joke around.    And I really hope it is.

This past week, I had the opportunity to spend time with a group of clinicians and administrators who work with autistic children and their parents.     The folks work hard, and their mission can be ridiculously stressful.   Our objective for the team building session was simple.  Let’s have fun.    This group of 40 individuals went ALL IN on the fun.   Their approach to every activity was joyous and somewhat carefree.    There was more laughter, cheering and smiling in that 2 hours than I have ever seen from a team.     When we were all done and we were wrapping up, I spent a few minutes talking about how they all felt.    Light, happy, joyous.  Which is easy to do when you’re away from the grind of the office, at a beautiful retreat on a glorious day in New England.   I implored them to find ways to bring that joy back to the day to day.    Remember the silliness of the “Minute to Win It” games and try something like that in miniature on a Friday afternoon when nerves are frayed.  Have a 15-minute dance party on a Tuesday morning when everyone is stressed. Maybe start the next team meeting with a 15-minute ice breaker that will have people laughing at themselves.   

My advice to leaders is to assess the level of Joy in your workplace.     Use your internal “joy meter” to figure out if maybe it’s time to literally and figuratively shake it out.    I knew a leader once who when they felt that things were getting a bit tense, they would announce a “Seventh Inning Stretch” and they would crank up Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and the whole team would soon be swaying and singing along.    That worked for her team.  What might work for yours?    Think about it and if you have ideas, drop me a DM or an email, I would love to hear about them.  In the meantime, work hard, have fun and laugh as much as you breathe.   

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This week’s addition to the inspireal playlist is no brainer. Be happy, find joy, rinse and repeat.

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Jill Parker