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‘Fungineering’ at work may not have the desired effect

Posted Dec 13, 2013 6:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Some companies try to boost employee morale by hiring happiness consultants and finding ways to inject fun into the workplace.

But the so-called “fungineering” may backfire, according to a New York Times column by Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking.

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Burkeman points to a study by management experts at Penn State and other universities that found fun activities imposed by bosses can damage productivity, though they help reduce turnover. Another study of Australian call center workers found that a management effort to stress “focus, fun and fulfillment” was a burden to many of the workers.

Burkeman suggests there’s a better way: Create a work environment where workers have as much autonomy as possible, and make sure the workplace is fair. He cites yet another study that the feeling of unfair treatment—rather than a heavy workload—is a strong predictor of depression.

“Instead of striving to make work fun,” he writes, “managers should concentrate on creating the conditions in which a variety of personality types, from the excitable to the naturally downbeat, can flourish.”

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