Walk in on Your Employees Goofing Off? Thank Goodness!


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You’re walking through the door, you can see a highly energized, captivated group on the edge of their seats anxiously awaiting a punch line. It looks to be a pretty lively, fun moment for your team.

What response are you hoping to get as you enter?

They see it’s you, quickly look down or away, and scamper off. Hoping if they don’t make eye contact, they won’t be considered an offender. Or, they complete the joke with laughs all around as they say their good mornings to you and the day carries on.

You may think the first response of them hurrying back to work is the preferred reaction when a boss enters the scene. I mean, you are in charge, it’s the old “time to lean time to clean” fear driven response many bosses pride themselves on.

But what is that response truly telling you?

So often leaders wonder how to increase employee morale, how to build connections with their team or amongst the group, that sometimes we end up looking a gift horse in the mouth. We are so focused on getting stuff done or being the boss that we fail to recognize morale being built when we see it.

Anytime your team is bonding it’s a damn good thing. People go the extra mile for people they like, who they laugh with…that isn’t always the case with people ‘you work with’. When those spontaneous moments happen, connections are being built without any effort.

And don’t be misled here…I’m not talking about pockets of constant chatter all throughout the day.

But those light-hearted moments is where relief is found, joy, fun. Camaraderie leads to trust, which leads to less judgement and more collaboration. Fun goes a very, very long way.

We spend a lot (a lot!) of time with our co-workers. If all we stand for is the constant grind, it soon feels like a chain gang. With chain gangs being prisoners and all, probably not the environment we want to emulate.

Connection is the Vehicle to Loyalty

When I graduated from college, I drove out west to explore (I grew up in Rhode Island and had never been west of Philadelphia, so now was the time). I was waiting tables as part of the opening team of the new Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Breckenridge, CO. We were labeled as the first ‘corporate’ entity in the hipster ski town (this judgement always confused me since we were surrounded by lodges and ski resorts).

Nevertheless, the townspeople protested by not patronizing Bubba Gump. That meant in the off-season we were completely dead. D-E-A-D.
But employee retention was never a problem. Each of us would offer to go home instead of the person who did the last shift. Or we’d share tables, pool tips. We got really creative to help one another out.

Creative…not competitive.

When people help one another on the inside, it doesn’t matter what the outside world throws at them.

We had that much fun together, and we knew the off-season would pass. That, and we were all in our 20’s, had free ski passes, and only needed money to pay rent and buy ramen.

But it taught me how much influence fun, camaraderie, and love has on the stability of a business and a team. When people help one another on the inside, it doesn’t matter what the outside world throws at them.

You find solutions, take care of one another, and keep going.

For those of you concerned that the completion of the joke telling is a lack of respect for you or your position, for the moment, let’s suspend that belief, rather…let’s look at it a new way and take you out of the equation.

Perhaps it’s a customer walking through the door instead. Funny, but we want the scamper and work response to happen don’t we? And I bet that’s what their response would be.

The difference is that your team knows the difference. Who walks through the door determines their response: Inner circle or out of circle. You are still part of the inner circle. That’s a very good thing. You want to be part of the us vs. them.

They aren’t taking advantage of you and I encourage you to resist flexing your muscles. When they can relax, perform, be in flow with one another and still keep their eye on the ball, you have created a team that is competent and confident in their abilities. Well done, very well done.

We don’t want to only rely on the holiday party or the summer BBQ to build camaraderie, nurture it in the small moments. You’ll be surprised at how much more your team will want to work for you. We often hear how people leave managers not jobs. The reverse is also true. They will not only stay, they will stay when times are tough.

Karyn Chylewski
I spent 20 years working in a diverse range of leadership roles before starting my leadership coaching practice. From working as a backcountry hut master to restaurant management, to leading a team in the intense pet care industry, I learned that the key to leadership success is all in relationships. I now help leaders build better connections with their team, navigate their relationships, and understand the human side of leadership so they can become better leaders, improve team morale, and achieve higher performance. I love spending time outdoors, with my family, great wine & conversations.


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