Playing is Part of the Job

I’m a work hard, play hard kinda girl.  I’ve been very fortunate to work for companies that shared this philosophy.  And because I like to have fun, I always ended up with responsibility for games at work.

There might be some HR pros out there who are either anti-games or anti-HR-overseeing-games.  The thinking being, if HR takes responsibility for games, it diminishes their professionalism.  And there could be the perception that HR already has some challenges in that department.

Being in charge of games doesn’t diminish your professionalism.  It’s what you’re doing the rest of the time that matters.  Example: The hotel executive chef isn’t denied a seat at the table because he helps plan the menu for the employee holiday party.  So neither is the director of human resources.

Lifehacker published a post about workplace competitions increasing work performance and collaboration.  It’s a good read.  Be sure to check it out.  It reminded me of a few workplace games or competitions I’ve organized and what I learned from them:

One of the first events I was responsible for was a hospitality Olympics.  Different hotels competed against each other in hotel-related relay races like a bed-making relay, bar server relay and the always favorite toilet paper shoot.  The event was to raise money for a scholarship program.  And, for the General Managers, there was the extra incentive of bragging rights.  I was always interested to see who wanted to participate and how competitive each person was.  The really cool part was the number of employees who came on the day of the competition (with their families) to cheer the teams on.  The pride in the hotel was awesome.  It wasn’t about command performances.  It was about spirit and support.

Another event that the community benefitted from was a mini-grand prix.  The city would close off certain streets in the downtown area and companies purchased cars to race in the streets.  This was pretty hard core – team members had to learn how to change tires and serve as a pit crew in addition to driving the car.  At least with the hotel challenge, you were doing a variation of your regular job.  With this one, you were learning something new.  But team members all supported each other.  And the company supported the team.

Lastly, I went to work at a company that had a long-standing tradition of taking managers on an annual road rally.  They were divided into teams, given a camera and list of things to find and sent off on a pseudo scavenger hunt.  Because I inherited this one, I really had to figure out how to put a new and different stamp on the event.  I got the rest of the executives involved in helping me theme the road rally (which they loved).  I discovered they wanted to be a part of the fun too but didn’t know how to get involved.  They thought it was “an HR thing”.

Creating or participating in workplace competitions can be fun and rewarding for everyone.  It really comes down to getting people involved and using it as an opportunity to build teamwork.  If done properly, this perfectly aligns with our roles as managers and leaders – and team builders – in our organizations.