This article was published on 31st March 2017 in Dunya Newspaper
Boardrooms are serious, and chairmen are scary. Or at least the ones we see in movies are. This much is certain; boardrooms are places where nobody except the person in charge can openly discuss their true ideas.
Sometimes you enter a company and feel chills all over. And sometimes the air is so dense it feels as if you’d need a knife to cut through just to walk inside.
Business is serious.
But taking your work seriously and building a layer of seriousness as a social mask are two separate things.
Being creative, motivated and loving your work comes with being relaxed in your work environment. Just as creating an office culture that revolves around skipping work and having fun is not the opposite of a serious work environment, wasting time on mindless chatting is not the synonym of a motivating one.
When we are serious our energy becomes dense, opaque, so that no creativity may flow through. On the other hand when we take pleasure in our work and approach it as a sort of game, we become productive for both ourselves and for those around us. When we create something that we are proud of, or have a good performance either as a team or as an individual we feel accomplished and energetic. Good teamwork is where there is little enforcement of hierarchy, where we are not afraid of making mistakes or being misunderstood, where we are not shy about expressing ourselves.
Sometimes on a plane journey you will meet those serious types of businessmen and women. They are dressed to the nines. They talk at length about some details on a proposition, loudly and with the supposition that they are more important than those around them. Going over the final draft, double-checking the balance sheets, life is serious, especially when it comes to business. You must frown and feel –more importantly, assure others that you are- important.
Is there no another way?
Who told us we have to be serious?
We all know “Murphy’s Law”, named after American engineer Edward Murphy. Its main idea is that there is a very high probability something may go wrong in the last minute. That in the root of failures lie the high probability of mistakes. That chaos is the more probable result.
Things usually go horribly wrong exactly when they are supposed to go according to plan. During the presentation of your new app, at the most crucial moment you get an error message. On top of everything this happens right in front your most important audience.
Lets take an example outside the business world. Two young people are in love and decide to take it to the next level. Families are introduced; marriage preparations start and guess what happens next? Suddenly the romance is lost, the subject has become serious. Now the young couple sees their marriage as a series of rituals and obligations they have to fulfill. The magic is lost.
Because an event which started out with joyful motivation has suddenly become serious; It is a very serious decision! The energy has become opaque, the environment is as dense as concrete. Here is where Murphy comes in. Everything beings to go wrong. You start to get cold feet. These happen right after our fear of failure tells us we have to take it seriously. All effort and work up until that moment is ruined.
When you arrive at this point, just think to yourself: “How could it be worse”, worse, worse, worse: The worst case is that you may die. If you consider what problems you will need to overcome in the next 60 years of your life, you will understand that whatever you are going through, it is really not that bad.
The secret is that you have taken life more seriously than necessary. All your joy was lost and now you are not you anymore but a shadow of your fears.
In a company I worked in many years ago we had a very serious manager. He has an aura of fear around him. All this actions were planned. I vividly remember his perfectly ironed pants, cuff links, and how he sat up straight as a pole to avoid wrinkling his jacket. I remember these, and yet I cannot remember any bright idea of his, or any productive action. All I know about him is that he came from abroad to take on an important position in our company, and then faded away as we looked on like some bright comet passing through the night sky.
As a stark comparison the founder of that company wore the same winter coat for years and his wristwatch was quite ordinary. He cared about us, his employees. He greeted everyone from the accountants to the janitor. I learned important principles from him regarding business life. Where I was filled with fear he was always joyful and he always had a different viewpoint. He wasn’t taught the serious business attitudes but instead he really cared about his work. Therefore he also cared about his employees and their motivation.
If you feel reluctant to go to work, although you do your job well and care about your work, then maybe you are taking your work too seriously. If you have a bitter feeling about your job, think about this.
Try to remember the last time you felt motivated at work, where were you, what were you working on?
What was it that motivated you?
Think about your success, the environment or event that gave you this positive feeling and compare it to your current situation. What is different?
Is there anything positive about your current situation? What are they?
What can you solve by being overly serious?
Is it too serious? Try and be funny!