They’re not paying you more — that would be wrong — but managers will guilt you (“You never call. You never come in. After all I’ve done for you.”) They will even go Mafia on you (“Your job is sleeping with the fishes”).
These attempts to lure you back are doomed to failure.
There was a song popular after World War I, “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” Well, after fighting the covid-19 wars, the new version might be, “How ya gonna keep ’em down in the office after they’ve seen how cool it is to work from home in your pajamas and never have to commute again?”
Despite their desperation to woo you back, one area of pre-covid-19 office life to which companies are finding resistance are traditional “fun events,” including the ultimate workplace cliche, the office party. If you’ve lost the thrill of eating stale cupcakes and exchanging gag gifts, you’re not alone. Consider Kate Morgan, who recently piped up on BBC.Com to declare “The Death of ‘Mandatory Fun’ in the Office.”
According to Morgan, not only is the office party on the outs, but workers are also putting the kibosh on traditional big-fun activities, like Hawaiian shirt days and ugly sweater days, as well as team-building outings to obstacle courses, laser tag theme parks and miniature golf courses.
No more trust exercises, either, like falling backward off a rock to be caught by your co-workers. (And good riddance — why should you trust your bodily health to a bunch of people you know are plotting to steal your lunch from the office refrigerator?)
Instead of these bogus fun events, companies are initiating “events that people actually want to attend.” It’s a worthy idea, but can you count on your management to come up with such radical ideas?
Let’s help them out, shall we?
No. 1: MiseryFest
One “major American corporation” that has got it right, almost, has instituted “whine and wine” parties on Zoom. “It’s an hour,” explains employee-engagement expert Adrian Gostick. “Everybody talks about their terrible clients and aggravating bosses.”
This is an excellent idea and certain to get employee buy-in. The problem is that an hour a week is simply not enough time to grumble about everything that’s wrong with your job. A better approach would be to set aside a week every month for MiseryFest. You could think of it as the Coachella of complaining, featuring the most disgruntled celebrity malcontents from every department, performing their hit raps about company missteps from morning to night.
It would be your chance to get your ya-yas out before returning to work with a positive mental attitude, refreshed and ready to work on your complaints for next month’s MiseryFest.
No. 2: Private performances
If your company is not able to offer employees private concerts by top recording artists, it might have to look inside to find performers with real star power. For example, Google invited its employees to a concert by Lizzo. You can’t tell me that there isn’t at least one flute player in your human resources department. And how about an afternoon of musical merriment with a barbershop quartet from IT?
The entertainment doesn’t have to be limited to music. Considering the strategic plans they’ve come up with, there simply must be comedians in your management team. Who wouldn’t enjoy a laugh-full evening with C-suite headliners explaining what in the world they thought they were thinking and why nothing they do ever works out — and yet they are still paid their ginormous salaries? Hilarious!
No. 3: Back to the sandbox
Beanbag chairs, ping-pong tables, arcade games — it’s all what Vancouver consultant Paul Lopushinsky calls “the kindergarten office.” The problem, of course, is that the kindergartenation of the workplace does not go far enough.
Since your managers treat you like a child, why not add a big sandbox, where co-workers can build fairytale sandcastles to celebrate the sales projections that come out of marketing. Those incredibly un-useful whiteboards could be replaced with tiny easels and finger paints. Naturally, there will be snack time with healthy treats, like Jagermeister shooters and Jell-O shots, and don’t forget naptime, where you will surely get an A-plus.
The most important aspect of this fun activity is that participation will not be mandatory. In fact, employees who are so bitter and hostile that they throw sand and refuse to play with others won’t be held back. They’ll be promoted.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at