Dancing on Our Own | A Lesson in the Value of Joy & Togetherness
This weekend the city of Philadelphia had two tough loses. First, the heartbreaking loss of the Philadelphia Union in a shoot-out to LAFC, immediately followed by the loss of the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series to the Astros. While you would think losses like this at the highest level would bring sorrow to the city, that could not be further from the truth. The collective excitement felt in this city over these teams’ journey has brought shared enthusiasm and joy to everyone regardless of whether you watched a single game in the regular season. Philadelphia is the first city to lose two championships in the same day. But we don’t care, instead this epic failure is being described by those in the city as “the most Philly thing ever.”
So, what is the lesson for corporate America? No, I’m not advocating for your leadership teams to try to wrap joy into the collective hardships that your organizations are facing. We are in a tough place economically right now and the number of layoffs, hiring freezes, and corporate pull back over the last few weeks have been felt by almost every organization. Couple this with tough organization cultural changes we have been forced to make as we continue to bounce back from the pandemic, and you would probably assume that there is no place for joy or playfulness in organizations right now. But again, that could not be further from the truth.
The lesson for corporate leaders is that regardless of the tough situations we are facing, our employees are hungry for some fun, some joy, some play at work. What the Phillies and Union did for us here in Philadelphia was they allowed us to remember how great it felt to be together, to celebrate, to not take ourselves too seriously and to play. We were singing “I’ll keep dancing on my own” in our cubicles and in the streets throughout the World Series. And a loss didn’t take away from the fun we all had together.
Regardless of the tough situations we are facing, our employees are hungry for some fun, some joy, some play at work.
Catherine Price, a science journalist, speaker, and author spoke about the three factors that create fun in her recent TED talk on Why having fun is the secret to a healthier life. Those factors are playfulness, connection, and flow.
Playfulness isn’t necessarily about playing games but rather the lighthearted attitude of doing things not for the outcome but just for the sake of doing them. The fact that the Phillies lost the World Series didn’t change the fun we had together watching the games. We put on our Phanatic hats and didn’t care about rain. We just wanted to experience the energy of the city together.
And that togetherness is the connection factor. It was a shared experience. When is the last time we had a shared positive experience within our organizations? If we aren’t finding ways for people to connect, we will further erode our social capital and organizational cultures. We must build memories that connect us and make us want to continue to work together.
That connection helps us get to flow, or as Price describes, “the state where we are so engaged and focused on what we are doing we lose track of time.” I certainly lost track of time several nights watching these Phils. Even in a no-hitter against the Phillies, I still found myself hanging on every pitch and forgetting just how late it was. This flow was fun, it didn’t even matter we lost. We were in it. I’ve had this kind of flow at work, and it is the most meaningful value-add experience both for me personally and in the work that I accomplish for my organization. We need more of this play, more of this connection, and more of this flow in our work life. I want more fun!
Now, I’m not advocating for a wild-n-out holiday party or the typical potluck meeting to create joy. These contrived, team building tactics tend to have the opposite effect. You will have to find your own “dancing in the corner” theme song to bring people together. Whatever you do, make it genuine, make it something that everyone can participate in, and make sure that the moments of joy aren’t tied to quarterly earnings or sales goals. Create fun that reminds people the value of being a part of your organization and why they should push through these tough times.
Bethany Adams, MA, SHRM-SCP, is the Associate Director of Marketing Strategy for the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development at Villanova. Connect with her on LinkedIn!
Phillies fan or not, check out this video to see the impact that a great team anthem can have - it will give you chills!