Life is Too Short to be Grouchy

Have you ever been so frustrated with a supervisor that you want to quit your job? A friend of mine, let’s call her Janet, is in one of those situations. Her story aligns with the saying, “People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their boss.”

Dan-BobinskiI’ve known Janet for many years, and people like working for her because of her energy and enthusiasm. She’s a dynamic person who readily engages others and keeps things moving. Unfortunately, Janet’s boss is known as a killjoy. Her boss believes that if you’re having fun, you’re not working hard enough.

Janet told me, “Working for someone who is inflexible and doesn’t allow people to have fun is stifling. It doesn’t allow for creativity. The attitude my boss displays diminishes workplace morale and it makes the job a grind for everyone.”

After joining her company a year ago, Janet immediately earned the respect of her staff. Most of them had been there six years or more, and they said the work environment became much more enjoyable after Janet came on as a manager. They were amazed when Janet got them together her first month on the job and asked them for ideas on how to improve the workplace. “No one has ever asked us that,” they said.

I believe that Janet’s “engagement” approach to supervising others is a profitable strategy, because research shows that discouraging fun in a workplace limits both productivity and creativity. Don’t misunderstand: Too much fun can diminish productivity to the point that people don’t get much done. But to squelch people’s ability to have fun in any capacity? That produces a tremendously negative ripple effect. Sadly, many grouchy people are oblivious to this fact. They can’t see the damage caused by their wet blankets, such as the negative impact they’re having on employee morale and even the bottom line.

As an example of this, Janet recently received her department’s annual financial reports. Her labor costs are down, her supply costs are down and profits are up for the first time in several years. Did her boss congratulate her? Amazingly, no. Her boss said the figures didn’t matter because Janet doesn’t take things seriously enough and doesn’t have a sense of urgency.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Translated, Janet is not liked by her boss because Janet is a happy person.

The Janet I know is a businessperson through and through. She stays positive and gets results, and she refuses to run around like a chicken with its head cut off when things aren’t going right. Janet says, “If I stress out, my employees stress out and the domino effect is bad for morale. I handle stress with humor and everyone on my staff likes that. That creates hope instead of despair, and solutions come a whole lot faster.”

Sadly, grouches like Janet’s boss exist everywhere. My guess is that everyone reading this can think of at least one supervisor with whom they’ve worked in the past – and maybe still do – who was (or is) an absolute killjoy. It’s also my guess that these sourpuss supervisors impacted the workplace in negative ways.

If you’re interested in finding ways to change a pessimistic atmosphere, breathing fresh energy into the workplace is the subject of the book, “Permission: A guide to generating more ideas and being more of yourself and having more fun at work,” by Pamela Meyer and Brandy Agerbeck. These two believe that work doesn’t have to be bland and boring, and that having fun at work makes the workplace more productive.

Meyer and Agerbeck believe that permission to have fun is a strategic weapon for increasing productivity and employee satisfaction. Specifically, “When people have permission to innovate, learn and engage, significant business results follow.” They also say that, “The permission-giver is one of the most important roles anyone can play to encourage innovative thinking, significant learning and engagement at work.”

In addition to the above-mentioned book, you might also check out the YouTube video “Fish Philosophy,” about the Pike Place Fish Company in Seattle. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Guys who throw fish around. The fish philosophy promotes fun as a way to increase both customer and employee loyalty. The video demonstrates the kind of performance that is unleashed when each member of an organization is empowered to be creative.

Obviously, not every company can have fun by throwing things around, but finding ways to make work a fun place to be has a positive effect on productivity. This is especially true for millennials. A recent study by the company BrightHR and psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper found that young employees who have fun in the workplace take less sick leave, work harder and are more productive. Considering that within 10 years, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the workforce, creating an atmosphere in which people have permission to have fun seems like a vital component of any organization’s operational norms.

When it all boils down, some grouchy people will always be grouchy, and there’s not much others can do about it. After all, when Janet’s boss saw that Janet’s department was more productive and more profitable, it didn’t matter. In the boss’s eyes, Janet wasn’t serious enough. It’s sad, really. My perspective is that such grouches are addicted to their anger and bitterness and it takes a miracle to change them.

But I know Janet, and I’m confident she will stick to having fun in spite of her grouchy boss, even if she ends up quitting. I also hope that those reading this would follow her lead to stay positive no matter what. Life is just too short to not enjoy it – even at work.

Dan Bobinski is president of Workplace-Excellence.com and Everything-Training.com As a consultant, speaker, and trainer, he helps organizations of all shapes and sizes on issues of team building to create excellent workplaces. He is also the author of several books, including the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams.” Reach him at dan@workplace-excellence.com.