I remember exactly where I was standing when our team of eight formed a circle in our boss’s office. We all looked around, asking one another if anyone knew why we were meeting. No one did, but before too much speculation could begin, Doug—our boss—stepped into his office and closed the door. “We don’t have much time, but I need you to do two things. First, cancel any meeting you have scheduled for this afternoon. Second, I want you to think of something you are thankful for about this team.”
Doug went on to share that he was hijacking our afternoon so that we could go see the newly released film, “_______” (I no longer remember the name of the film, but it was one we were all eager to see), and then take us to lunch. But before we left, he wanted us to go around the circle and share why we were thankful for our team.
Sadly, I no longer work at that company, but those three years were some of the healthiest I have experienced as an employee. That is one of many examples where I experienced joy and fulfillment in my work and on a team.
But that has not always been the case. What do you do when you seek (crave) joy and unity as a team at work, yet you don’t have Doug as your boss? Or worse, you don’t have a boss (or bosses) who value team unity at all?
You may not be able to change the culture at your work, but you can help warm it up with three letters: DIY.
2018 is predicted to be the most lucrative year in the “Do It Yourself” industry, anticipating a projected 43.7 billion dollars in revenue. Big box stores and online merchants have convinced consumers that they no longer need to rely on the professional. Instead, they can accomplish the same goal at a much more affordable price. The same is true at work. Don’t complain about the lack of team spirit or unhealthy work climate. Do something about it.
- Visit nationaltoday.com and pick a handful of days during the month (start with 2 or 3), and have fun with a celebration. As I’m writing this, today is National Potato Chip Day. And if you prefer healthier fare, Artichoke Day is coming soon.
- Ask team members to take turns planning a lunch, dinner, or after-work activity for your team or group.
- Send a group email or post a sign in a team room that asks teammates to list home projects they want to complete but can’t get started (for example: paint a room, weed a garden, clean out a garage). Find out who wants to participate and, on a given day, put the projects in a hat and identify one that everyone will rally behind.
- Find out what each person’s favorite snack is and have an abundance available during the week of his or her birthday.
The above is a short list of examples, and before you roll your eyes and think, “That would never work at my job,” remember these things:
- Start with low expectations. Don’t expect everything to change overnight. Focus on improving team spirit and celebrate victories—big or small. On a scale of one to ten, if team spirit moves from a three to a four, it’s still low. But it’s also improving.
- Include your boss(es). You may not want to include them, but make a concerted effort to do so. Even if they never attend or participate, you want them to know they are always welcome. Plus, it may be hard to imagine, but they like to have fun, too.
- Give it time. Don’t give up after a few failed attempts. Finding workplace joy is a marathon, not a sprint. Just as it’s difficult beginning physical exercise after months of inactivity, it will take concerted effort to discipline yourself to invest in others. And sometimes it will be just as painful.
We spend too much time at work (and even think about it after-hours) to not strive to make the experience more fun and fulfilling. Don’t wish you worked somewhere else without first taking the initiative to warm things up and do it yourself.