Play, Work and Hell.

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Les Landes

If you believe the essence of good marketing is "relationship building" - both inside and outside the organization - here's something to think about. All activity in the workplace can be classified into one of three categories - play, work or hell.

Play is the stuff that people love to do - the things they enjoy so much they'd do it without pay if they didn't need the money. Work is basically the stuff people sign on to do when they take a job. It doesn’t thrill them, but it's acceptable enough that people will do it if they get something in exchange that they want – mainly a paycheck. That's why we call it "compensation." Hell is the stuff that no one wants to do, and you can't pay them enough to do it.

So how do you optimize performance?

When we begin working with a client, we help them take an objective look at their workforce through a variety of assessment and planning tools. When it comes to the concept of play, work, and hell, here’s what we advise them.

First, whenever possible put people where they can have "fun" - not frivolous or silly things, but the kind of work that people find genuinely enjoyable. That means finding out what gets people tuned in and turned on – individually and collectively –and then designing work in a way that lets people do what fits best for them. You can almost always count on people to do their best on the things they enjoy most.

Second, when it comes to run-of-the-mill work, it's pretty basic. Compensate people fairly, treat them with respect, and the vast majority will give you a fair day's effort in return.

So how do you handle the stuff that makes work feel like hell? Start by asking yourself if it really needs to be done. A lot of crappy work exists only because it's been hanging around forever, and no one ever asks why. If the answer is no, stop doing it. If the work does need to be done, ask yourself – and your team – if it can be done another way. If it can, change it. If it can't be changed, and it still needs to be done, and you can't pay people enough to do it, you play "Let's make a deal." Ask employees what they would need in return if they'd be willing to do it. Then negotiate until you get to a place that works for both of you. If you can't come to a mutual agreement, you better give it up.

You may want to consider engaging an outside resource to help you figure out what falls into the play, work and hell categories by talking to your employees. That outside perspective may help you avoid the sometimes hellish experience of sorting out what really matters and what to do about it.

There's always one more option.

You could resort to the traditional management method of just forcing people, telling them they have to do it or there will be - of course - hell to pay. In fact, the question "How can I motivate my people?" is often a cover-up for the question, "How can I tell employees to go through hell, and make them like it?" If you do decide to take that approach, be sure to prepare yourself for the resulting decline in employee engagement and the quality of customer relationships.