Remember the 90’s and early 2000’s when we were so worried about retaining our staff that most organizations tried to create cool, fun places to work? There were ping-pong tables, pac-man machines, free food, and bring your dog to work days. Oops, the financial crash of 2007-08 hit, and many of these perks went away or if they stayed, many people did not feel comfortable playing ping-pong when people had been laid off the month before.

Why am I writing about this? I have been noticing that most of the organizations I work with are doing well, working hard, having solid success but I see very little fun in the workplace. The engagement scores continue to decline in American workplaces and now almost 70% of managers feel disengaged! Yowsa, this means the staff below them are probably even more disengaged!!!

I can see some of you rolling your eyes already and saying we are so busy these days, who has time for fun in the workplace? Yep, you are probably right but if you do not take the time to create some time and space for fun, then you will continue to have a disengaged workforce. Guess what, your best talent will leave for greener pastures and the hope of a better workplace. Your medium to low performers will stay due to lack of options and a belief that it may not be great here but I also do not have to put out a maximum effort.

Ping-pong tables, free food and video games are not the answer either. I would encourage you to have a meeting with some of your key employees and ask them what would help them become a more engaged workplace. Ideas could range from: training to mentoring to potlucks. The important thing is that you listen and try a few ideas. After you try a few things, ask for more ideas and start to see if the ideas get more innovative and creative. Let the group try a few more things.  Next thing you know there should be some more smiles, laughter and maybe even some fun in the workplace. I would encourage you to try a few things and see what happens.

Here are a few of my favorite activities that I have participated in:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Habitat for Humanity Work Days
  • Theme Days with Trivia—Ex. 1980’s theme, dress and trivia
  • Dinner for employees and their families; Senior management served in black tie or formal wear
  • Bowling
  • Jeopardy with the answers being facts about our customers
  • Ice Skating where only about 2 people knew how to skate!

Let me know about some fun ideas you have for you and your team! Remember to plan some fun at home too!!!



Recently, I was driving to a healthcare client site through the mountains of Virginia.  It was a sunny day that illuminated beautiful fall scenery.  Going downhill, a sign that read “Trucks Use Lower Gear” grabbed my attention.  A short distance later, I saw a runaway truck ramp and thought, ”Yep, definitely better to use a lower gear”.

The same is true when navigating relationships at work and at home. We all have a Relational Gear-Box that allows us to shift into the right gear to navigate the conversational landscape.  In their excellent book, 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram point out how to shift into the right gear for the circumstances we face (including Reverse Gear for when we need to back up from mistakes).

The Relational Gear-Box from Kubicek and Cockram looks like this:

  • First gear— you fully rest and recharge without any outside interference from work or technology.  You are completely off-line:  no smart phones, no computers, aka al natural.

  • Second gear—you connect with family or friends without the involvement of work.  You have arrived home from work and set boundaries to guard specific time for family.

  • Third gear—you are socializing.  You are at work or home and able to shift up or down as needed.  This is pivotal as it connects social to business (not just all business, all the time).

  • Fourth gear—you are working and multi-tasking, running and gunning.  Most of us spend about 80% of our working time in 4th gear.  Some of us wake up in and stay in 4th gear all day.

  • Fifth gear—you are fully focused and in the zone, working without interruption.  This is deep thinking strategic or creative time.

  • Reverse gear – you are stuck in a ditch.  You made a mistake and have to back up and take responsibility to get out of the ditch.  For example, “I am so sorry I missed the appointment, may we reschedule?”

Using these gears consistently allows us to bring a new level of relational intelligence to our lives which offer a competitive advantage in our task-driven world. 

So, on a given day I would ask these three questions:

 1.      What is your Gear order?

2.      What are your Stress Gears?

3.      What are the Gear Tendencies of the people around you?

All too often people go through life without truly connecting and, as a result, miss out on experiences and relationships that could have the power to bring them great joy and fulfillment.  When we recognize what gear we are in and then understand what gear we ought to be in for the particular time or place and shift accordingly, we can improve our ability to connect with the world around us.

So avoid the runaway ramp by down shifting when necessary and never forget that we always have reverse gear as an option to navigate our relational landscape.