Is Requiring Its Employees to Have Fun a Bad Thing for Zappos?

workplace fun.jpg
Zappos wants its employees to have fun. Actually, scratch that. Zappos demands that its employees have fun: "create fun and a little weirdness" is the third of 10 explicitly stated "core values" on the Amazon-owned shoe-seller's web site. Who could find fault with that? Oh right, The Economist.

In an entertaining piece entitled "Down with fun: the depressing vogue for having fun at work," the weekly traces this misguided faith in the "cult of fun" at companies like Google, Twitter and Zappos to "three of the most popular management fads of the moment: empowerment, engagement and creativity."

Managers hope that "fun" will magically make workers more engaged and creative. But the problem is that as soon as fun becomes part of a corporate strategy it ceases to be fun and becomes its opposite--at best an empty shell and at worst a tiresome imposition.
Exhibit A: what happens at Zappos if you actually do a good job.
The company engages in regular "random acts of kindness": workers form a noisy conga line and single out one of their colleagues for praise. The praisee then has to wear a silly hat for a week.
As a misanthropic jackass who doesn't look good in ballcaps, that sounds to me like reason enough to slack off at work. A "noisy conga line"? That's the workplace equivalent of having happy birthday sung to you by four fresh-faced Applebee's waitresses while the entire restaurant watches you squirm. In other words, hell.

But that's just me. Presumably, most people aren't misanthropic jackasses and wouldn't mind a little office revelry, even if it is mandatory. Plus, Zappos pays 100% of its worker's premiums. Which makes just about any humiliation it can dream up almost tolerable. (Yes, including the silly hat.)

comments powered by Disqus