Sure, if all that is done is people hanging out in each other’s desks chatting up and exchanging the latest jokes, fantasy sports picks and recaps of the weekend well your problem is not your staff, but you. But, that is handled much better by smarter people than I, like –
Stephen Covey – too many books to mention
Tom Rath – Strength Based Leadership
Patrick Lecioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Marty Wolff – a plug for my favorite emotional intelligence/change management guy
My point is that during my 20 plus years in small to large organizations I have seen various reactions from management when they see/hear a group of employee’s gathered and laughing together.
The ‘what the hell’ reaction – manager either looks over disapprovingly like a hawkish librarian or walks over and directly “Let’s break this up” or indirectly “Excuse me everyone, I need to talk to one of you”.
The ‘this is a place of business’ reaction – manager explains that we are serious here and all are working hard and there is no cause for this banter and frivolity. Okay, that is a bit of Oliver Twist style management.
The ‘can I join in’ reaction – manager scampers over to the group to be part of the team.
There are others. Each of the above are wrong reactions. The response versus a knee jerk reaction should be a simple smile at the group and perhaps nodding up and down to show you approve.
THESE PEOPLE ARE GETTING ALONG AND THE WORK TOGETHER. DO YOU GET THAT!
Okay, breath – woooosh. I am okay now. Most of the time organizations place groups of people at odds with each other as one tries to feed the other information, forms, and so on. Pushing down or up the line requests or orders. They need to work well together and that starts with them having a relationship that will help them communicate and understand each other when problems arise. And problems will arise, damn shooting they will.
Therefore, you want to smooth out the problems.
Get the focus on the solutions and not on who caused what to happen.
Well, let them laugh and show them it is okay.
This is a touchy subject for me on two counts.
- That I as the employee were talked to about spending too much time having fun and not being ‘serious’ about his work.
- Trust me I was never involved with any busy that you should be that serious about – not curing cancer, defending the country or ensuring that playcall was correct upon review.
- As a manager in several roles including executive, I had to respond to it being brought to my attention that members of my team were seen gathering and laughing and that I should be aware that the ‘perception’ that activity projects.
Build a culture of fun, hard work, and no fear of failure. It will breed success.