Mandatory fun

I used a lot of words in yesterday’s post (893, to be exact) describing a rotten incident in my career. Even so, the decision to leave didn’t come easy. My time at that company was also punctuated by some pretty great moments, which were made possible by some pretty great people. My first boss, for example, checked all the boxes from the “Bosses We Remember” list (read A few good men for a refresher), and a mentor I think of as “the best boss I never had” did the same. But the really great moments came with my team.

We called the days Mandatory Fun and they always came randomly. Except for holidays, they didn’t occur at predetermined intervals; they were scheduled on a whim. Whenever someone thought we were too bogged down, or we needed a creative boost, or we had something to celebrate, or we just felt like it, Mandatory Fun would make an appearance.

We dragged a gas grill down the street to have a lunchtime cookout in the park.

We each brought our own interpretation of pigs-in-a-blanket to share on Pigs-in-a-Blanket Day–eleven different versions, from the traditional preparation to a pork loin Wellington.

We always celebrated Pi Day with pies.

We picked funny names and team captains drafted coworkers onto teams for a bowling tournament. On the day of the event, each one showed up decked out in their own secretly-made t-shirts and a healthy dose of swagger. It didn’t matter that most of us couldn’t break 100.

We challenged other departments to afternoon softball games.

We hosted secret Santa exchanges at our Christmas parties that featured taxidermy and planters that might be mistaken for something less wholesome–and where all the gifts were sometimes left in my yard on the way out.

We conducted a scavenger hunt at the local street fair that may or may not have ended with someone swallowing a goldfish.

We used foil, shrink wrap, and Easter grass to decorate offices for major life events.

We hung stockings at Christmas and found them randomly filled with candy and trinkets.

We used the Nerf guns that appeared in the stockings to mount an everyone-for-herself offensive.

We transformed from a group of coworkers to a team.

And we got a lot of work done. Good work. Award-winning work. We busted our butts to meet unrealistic deadlines, learn technical terminology, and produce material that made everyone proud. When one of our internal customers told us he wanted a piece of collateral “like [competitor’s name] has,” we told him theirs was no good and gave him something to make them catch up with us.

Still, people around us didn’t take us seriously. They saw our mandatory fun and thought all we did was screw around. And you know what? I don’t care. Those little interludes didn’t happen every day, and generally not even every month. They happened just when we needed them and I considered them vital to our productivity.

We did more work, and better work, when we meshed. And when we were happy.

So I’ll add one more thing to the list of things that make us remember people. The people I remember most fondly are the ones who did all the good stuff–and also made it fun.

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