The Benefits of Having Fun at Work

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 By Jeff Wolf

Time to read: 1 minute

If people aren’t excited and energized about going to work, things must change. After all, you spend one-third of your time at work. Fun must be part of an organization’s strategy. Look at the list of companies that make fun part of their strategy and culture: Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Disney, Nordstrom, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and Land’s End. What else do these organizations have in common? They are all very profitable!

I can think of four specific benefits for businesses that encourage fun:

  1. Fun is a healer. When people are having fun, the brain releases chemicals called endorphins, which help heal the body. It reduces absenteeism and helps keep people healthy and happy each day.
  2. Fun breeds creativity and new ideas. As people enjoy their jobs and have fun, they become more creative and imaginative. They begin to think outside the box and don’t fear failure.
  3. Fun helps maintain workplace relations. America has the most diverse workforce in its history. People come to work every day with different cultural backgrounds. We also have a multigenerational workforce: people in their 20s to those in their 60s. And when they’re having fun at work, it breaks down barriers. They enjoy being with each other, can discuss their differences openly, and share new ideas.
  4. When you have fun at work, it makes training and teaching easier. In fact, fun is an excellent teaching tool. Whenever our company holds workshops or conducts training, we make sure to include strategically placed activities that focus on fun. The feedback we always receive is positive. Participants say they learned a lot and had fun doing it!

Having fun at work also impacts the bottom-line: Fun prompts energy levels to rise. Energy is contagious, and productivity soars. As the company enjoys increased productivity, there’s greater innovation. New ideas and concepts take flight, and the bottom line improves considerably.

The first time I flew Southwest Airlines I was amazed by every employees’ high energy and enthusiasm, without exception. All of them were having fun and enjoying their work, from the baggage handlers, reservations agents, and gate attendants, all the way up to and including the pilot. As I waited for my flight, I observed how the employees’ positive attitudes and infectious enthusiasm spread to the passengers. Everyone was smiling, upbeat and having a good time. No wonder Southwest is so profitable.

Jeff Wolf is the author of the international best-seller Seven Disciplines of a Leader. 

A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders for his accomplishments in leadership development and managerial effectiveness. 

He may be reached at 858-638-8260 or


Fear of Failure Is Dangerous to Your Job Health

Photo of Crossroads: Success or Failure

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Fear of making a mistake can cripple even the most talented leader‘s efforts to succeed. It stifles creativity and discourages risk-taking, while upping the stress ante and creating a tense work environment for everyone within a department or team.

Imagine how many inventions and technological innovations would never have become realities if the people who came up with them had been afraid to fail!

Anyone who ever did anything truly great failed first. Failure is part of trying. It will happen. What matters is how you deal with it. Famous failures include Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Michael Jordan. They prove that failure can be a powerful teacher that leads to success.

Similarly, corporate trainer Ramesh Menon reminds us: “Worry can kill—no wonder the word comes from the Anglo Saxon word weirgan, which means to strangle, to choke until there is no life left.”

Worrying about making mistakes is counterproductive, zaps your energy, and leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may irrationally fear that you’ll never been good enough, and that you’ll face the disapproval of others or other negative feelings if you‘re less than perfect. This can cripple you, especially as you move up the career ladder and take on new responsibilities that are outside your comfort zone.

Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large for Psychology Today and author of A Nation of Wimps, describes perfectionism as “a steady source of negative emotions.” She explores how our performance should not be a measure of our self-worth. “Rather than reaching toward something positive, those in perfectionism’s grip are focused on the very thing they most want to avoid—negative evaluation,” she writes. “Perfectionism, then, is an endless report card; it keeps people completely self-absorbed, engaged in perpetual self-evaluation, reaping relentless frustration and doomed to anxiety and depression.”

I encourage managers and leaders to write down their fears. This forces them to acknowledge these anxieties and dissect the faulty logic that may paralyze them. Consider keeping a journal that tracks what’s bothering you and how you react to missteps. Does one type of error bother you more than another? Are you better able to recover from a mistake when you‘re having a good day? What, exactly, are you feeling? Humiliation? Embarrassment? Depression? A sense of even greater fear? How can you use reality checks to weaken the hold these feelings have on you?

You need to practice being unafraid. Perform at 100 percent of your capacity, and recognize that mistakes will still occur in rare circumstances, despite your best efforts to prevent them. Needless to say, if you make huge errors regularly, you may be in way over your head.

If you‘re a leader or manager who is plagued with chronic anxiety and unrealistic perfectionism, you must learn to defuse the fear time bomb so you can succeed at the work you love. You’ll need to fire your inner critic, says productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern, as well as discover whose critical voice is really living inside your head.

Avoid looking at errors as black-and-white, or all-or-nothing-at-all scenarios, she advises. A recovering perfectionist, she confessed her own fears and doubts in O, The Oprah Magazine. “When I first started speaking professionally, I knew when I had given a bull’s-eye performance. I felt that I was ‘hanging ten,’ riding the waves of the audience’s emotions. When I didn’t hit that mark, I was disappointed and mad at myself.”

Audience feedback was never as harsh as Morgenstern’s personal assessment of her performance; in fact, her scores were always high, but she thought attendees were just being nice (See how we torture ourselves?).

Jacket image, Seven Disciplines of a Leader by Jeff WolfWhen Morgenstern sought counsel from a highly experienced speaker, he told her that hitting at least a 7 out of 10 with audiences would suffice, and that no one hits the mark every time. If you continue to struggle with severe anxiety, consider seeing a psychotherapist or setting up sessions with a qualified and objective executive coach.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Seven Disciplines of A Leader by Jeff Wolf. Copyright (c) 2015 by Jeff Wolf. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

The Best Advice Career Experts Ever Received | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

We asked five successful career coaches what was the best career advice they ever received. Here, the words of wisdom that’s stuck with them through the years.

Surround Yourself With Great People

Roughly 15 years ago, Jeff Wolf, author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader, and founder and president, Wolf Management Consultants in Chicago, had just come out of corporate America. During a conversation about business and leadership, his father-in-law, a consultant, told him, “Make sure you surround yourself with great people.” Wolf was in the process of building his team, which now totals 55, and thought about how much better has CEO life had been when he was surrounded by top talent.

Be sure to read the whole article over at Fast Company!

The Best Advice Career Experts Ever Received | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.