Fun is not a Four-Letter Word

14 July 2017

There’s an old saying, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. As with many such quotes, there is wisdom behind these words. In contemporary Western society, it can seem like (or actually be) that we are driven and measured by our output and efficiency. Such a perspective can lead to attitudes that frown upon anything which ‘distracts’ us from the task at hand.

When considering teamwork, this negative thinking about ‘fun’ can be unwise. Why? Because the most effective teams and leaders are those who also have fun. Jokes in the workplace, for example, have been found to stimulate creativity and to develop trust in teams. Similar research has found that successful leaders use humour more frequently than others. Similarly, when a team engages in social events, such as parties or sporting activities outside of work, it promotes goodwill, improves overall team relationships, and increases team cohesion.

Not all jokes are fun, however; some humour can have an unpleasant edge. This may cause hurt, and result in negative impacts on team cohesion and effectiveness. Sometimes this may be unintentional. Sometimes, hurt is caused by the joker who is unaware of cultural differences, or issues in a person’s past, which may result in a negative response to a well-intentioned jibe. In the to and fro of human interaction, mistakes happen. What we need to avoid is the person or team culture that endorses damaging humour, even if by their silence.

So, rather than a waste of time, having fun as a team will not only provide social and emotional benefits to the team’s members, but it results in measurable improvements in team effectiveness.

This post was written by Dr Nigel Pegram, lecturer of Harvest Bible College.

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