Hahaha, our team is great!

(image by Jitendr)

I’ve always been a big fan of humour.   From subtle to absurd, I can appreciate it all.  Laughter makes life more enjoyable.  This is something I come to realize more often as I grow older.

Off course my mind starts to wander.  How come our professional life is so serious?  Can’t we drop the charades and make it less formal?

When I reflect on my professional career, what were the times I enjoyed most?

No, it’s wasn’t the time when I got promoted.  Neither when we successfully released a new product.  Not even when I got the project I always wanted.

It were the times when my team had fun. When we enjoyed our work and there was an open atmosphere.  People were energized and talking freely about the work AND their personal life.  These were the times when friendships were made.  You could feel it in the air.  The sound of laughter welcomed you in the morning and waved you goodbye in the evening.

Some might say “All good and well, Herr Oostvögels, but don’t forget we have a business to run!”

Sure, non work related chit-chat should be minimized, otherwise performance drops and costs increase, right?

I beg to differ. Let me show you the reasons why I think chit-chat is important for teams:

  • Only when people get to a point were it feels comfortable to talk about anything, you call them a team.  A team can only reach its best results if all members can depend on each other.  This requires knowing each other on a deeper level that pure professionally.
  • Chit chat helps people to connect and find common grounds.  This makes working closely together more comfortable, which improves the capabilities of the team.
  • Better connections among team members improves communication.  We’re more hesitant to ask a question to someone we barely know.
  • Chit chat and fooling around drastically improves the energy at the workplace, again leading to happier people who care about the organization and deliver better results.

A friend once shared this story with me:

“At the time we had a team of 5 developers who were building a new application from scratch.  The pressure was high, but we had this one guy ‘Fritz’ who always fooled around.  Making jokes, sharing stories, doing impersonations, … You could call him the team clown. 
After a couple of months, when the pressure had risen even more, management decided to remove him from the team because they believed that he didn’t perform, and even worse, that he kept others from performing. 
They soon regretted their decision.  The team’s performance didn’t increase after Fritz was removed from the project.  It fell drastically.  Apparently he kept the team together, acting as the glue, building bridges between people and increasing communication between them.  He was the reason why, despite the high pressure, they came to the office smiling each morning.  When that reason was gone, the team fell apart and the project became a drag.”

So although this person might only reach 50 % of the other’s productivity, his part in the team was much more crucial.  He allowed others to reach their full capabilities.

My 2 cents are : If you’re a manager, don’t get stressed when you hear your team chatting and having fun.  Embrace it, because they’re on the right path to become a real team that will exceed your expectations!

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

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