HR Strange But True!
September 13, 2007

Not likely, if you read "Are We Having Fun Yet? The Infantilization of Corporate America" by Matt Labash, who rues the fact that fun as a core corporate value did not evaporate when the tech bubble burst.

"If you thought the fun stopped there, you're sadly mistaken," Labash writes. "Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces."

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Labash takes good-natured swipes at organizations that seem to have gone over the top in their belief that a fun workplace is a productive workplace.

Take, for instance, workplace rubber chickens, Frisbee tosses, mustache-growing contests, pet psychics, and interoffice memos alligator-clipped to toy cars. Or perks that include on-campus indoor soccer fields, air hockey, ping pong, billiards, company pools and hot tubs. And those are all at just one company -- Aquascape, a pond-builder supply company in St. Charles, Illinois.

Fun as an organizational ethos has spawned a body of literature that includes Fun is Good and 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work (rivaled only, perhaps, by 301 More Ways to have Fun at Work). Among the suggestions contained in the latter two books are "joy lists," office-chair relay races, marshmallow fights, funny caption contests, job interviews conducted in Groucho glasses or pajamas, voicemails in cartoon-character voices, and rap songs to convey what's learned at leadership institutes.

The desire for workplace fun has also launched an entire industry populated by "funsultants" and "funcilitators." As part of his exhaustive research, Labash visited the Fun Department in Wilmington, Delaware, to watch the firm in action.

"The partners 'take the work out of your fun' with a 'turnkey fun infusion for your business,'" Labash writes. "Services include everything from quick toy drops ('fun on the run') to staging Solid Gold danceoffs, paper airplane contests, silly-string wars, human roulette, and a couple dozen other funtivities."

The Fun Department delivers its services via "Funsters," who Labash describes as "mostly college students who are fit and vital and look like Abercrombie models, and who wear zany tie-dyed shock-yellow-and-orange T-shirts with 'Team Fun' inscribed on the back."

The Funsters have to attend Fun Boot Camp to learn what is and is not permissible, particularly the "no touching" rule.

"We're crazy people," Fun Department Marketing Maven Jayla Boire (her actual title) told Labash. "[But] we're completely irreverent respectfully, within the constraints of all the HR rules, because there are HR rules. No touching. Anything you think might be offensive."

Source: The Weekly Standard

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