The Perils of Forced Fun

By Shari Storm

I was talking to two friends who both work at a trendy company in Seattle. After listening to them complain about their jobs for a bit I stopped them and asked, “Isn’t your company voted ‘best place to work’ in every employer list ever published?”

They both rolled their eyes and proceeded to tell me how the judges of these awards go ga-ga over ‘Beer Fridays’ and the foosball tables in the lounge. The truth, they confided, is that the employees hate beer Fridays because it means they have to come out of their office and pretend to like people who they don’t like when really all they want to do is wrap up their work for the week and get the heck out of the salt mine.

“If they would just do things like acknowledge me when I send them my sales numbers, I would like the executive team a lot more.” My friend lamented to me.

How often have we been in that situation where we hate our jobs but we grudgingly attend the company picnic? It’s the worst.

You can’t force fun on people and when you try, you achieve the opposite of what you set out to do. Your employees don’t feel better about the company, they feel worse.

We all want engaged employees. Employees who are happy with their jobs tend to show up more, produce more and stay longer.

Kerry Liberman, president of People Perspectives LLC, wrote an excellent article in the April 2012 edition of Credit Union Management. Her main point of the article is to learn if your employees are engaged, and if they are not, start taking steps to ensure that you and your management staff do the things necessary to make employees committed to your company.

Gallup came up with a questionnaire to help you determine how engaged your employees are at work. You can read more about it here:

Their 12 questions are:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  5. My supervisors, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
  10. I have a best friend at work
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

It’s tempting to think that providing your employees with fun things (a Wii in the break room, jeans-day Friday, bring your dog to work days) will help you win awards and have shiny happy employees, but unless they are already happy with the way they are being treated, your attempts will backfire and make you seem silly.

So instead, dig in deep and find out what is bugging your employees and then pull together a team and start fixing some of the fundamentals. It’s not as fun, and it’s not as easy, but in the long run, you’ll have better employees.

When it comes to this predicament, credit unions have an advantage over many industries. Many employees are drawn to working at a credit union because we are not-for-profit co-ops dedicated to enriching the lives of our members. If you have star employees, consider sending them to DE training or CUNA Management School or a CUES conference or anything that introduces them to the most passionate people in our industry. Their passion is contagious and can rev up almost anyone.

And when your employees are more engaged, satisfied and happy at work, the fun activities will present themselves naturally and your group will have a blast doing them together. 

Shari Storm is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Credit Union and is the author of the book “Motherhood is the New MBA”, available here:


4 thoughts on “The Perils of Forced Fun

  1. Shari,

    Great points about engagement, especially the Gallup survey questions. At my former credit union we actually conducted an anonymous employee survey asking those very questions. We then tracked the results from year-to-year and held management accountable. So use those questions!


  2. 100% agree Shari. Jeans on Fridays are nice but if you feel your life’s work isn’t appreciated or recognized, it doesn’t amount to much. More meaningful fundamentals, such as professional development, are in order to not only benefit the employee but also the organization. It’s incumbent upon leaders to recognize and implement ‘treat others as they wish to be treated’ rather than what you think might be neat.

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