Managers promoting fun can be harmful

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While manager-approved “fun at work” activities lower turnover, particularly for younger employees, sales performance may suffer, according to a new report.

Researchers at Penn State University, Loyola University of Maryland, and The Ohio State University focused on restaurants in the U.S., but activities such as public celebrations of achievements, recognition of personal milestones, or team-building opportunities are often pushed in healthcare settings as well.

Having fun at work was found to increase the development of friendships and reduce turnover; fun activities also increased sales performance. However, “manager support for fun” lowered sales performance, the researchers found.

“The take-home message is that fun can work, but it's not a panacea,” said Michael J. Tews, Ph.D., assistant professor at Penn State. “You really have to think about what outcome you are trying to achieve, and you also have to consider the characteristics of your workers.”

Further research will include what makes a work activity considered fun, as well as who participates and why. 

Results appeared in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly in November.