When Work is Play

By Rabbi Dr. Naphtali Hoff

Recently, I delivered leadership trainings based on the True Colors Personality Assessment. In this system, people are identified as being one of four colors: blue, green, gold or orange. The personalities differ from each other in many ways, including their approach to relationships and situations.

Of the different colors, I personally identify most with green. Greens” are, among other things, less interested in connecting with others emotionally and engaging in small talk. Instead, they like to jump right in to solve problems and fix things. (Not surprisingly, this attitude can get Greens in trouble, particularly when dealing with more emotional, relationships-driven Blues. But that’s for another time.)

Greens are also independent thinkers, natural nonconformists that live life by their own set of standards. They are deeply analytical and tend to think about and do things differently than most of their peers. They love independence and eschew outside control. When applied to work, Greens are likelier than most to see their work as play, as in less drudgery and more fun, since they invest a level of themselves into their projects.

Whether you are a Green or not (most aren’t; only about 10% of society primarily men identify with Green as their primary color), the idea of viewing work as play can have many positive workplace benefits. These include being more:
  1. Punctual
  2. Energized and engaged
  3. Focused on tasks
  4. Creative in completing them
  5. Willing to persevere to get the job done right

In addition, those who see work as play tend to suffer less from workplace stress.
In contrast, those who see work as a necessary burden will invariably be less punctual, energized, etc. in each of the above areas and may ultimately come to be less valued by their employers.

How can those who are not naturally enthused by their work become more so and gain the benefits that workplace play” has to offer?

  1. Exert a feeling of choice Remember, despite how trapped” you may feel about your work, you were the one who chose to be here and do this. Even if the latter is not true (i.e. your job description and responsibilities have changed over time, and not to your liking), you still have the capacity to choose your attitude towards the work. The more that we feel that we made our own choices in what we do, the likelier we are to feel empowered and in control of our situation, as well as invested in the work that we do each day.
  2. Make work self-directive Become really good at your work to the point where you are given latitude to do it your way, without much direction and oversight. This will make tasks feel more as if they are yours,” which adds to your enjoyment.
  3. And creative In most cases, there is no single way of doing things. Find opportunities to be creative with your work. (Even with something as uninspiring as penning a memo can, with a little creativity and humor, be made to be fun for both the writer and reader.) So long as the work gets done satisfactorily, your boss won’t care and may even come to appreciate the creativity and color that you have infused into the workplace.
  4. Develop intrinsic motivation Ask yourself, What I am learning and becoming, in terms of skills and confidence, by doing this?” Also consider, What will others gain from my efforts and example?” The more that you feel that your work is making a bigger impact, for you and others, the more that you will come to feel a sense of mission, purpose and joy in achieving it.
  5. Seek alignment If you can, look for ways to make your work align better with your skills and interests. This may require volunteering at first on projects that speak to you and you seek to become more capable at. In most cases, there are opportunities lying right under our noses and if we proactively seek them, we can often position ourselves to do the work that most speaks to us.

Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and President of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Please see his website, ImpactfulCoaching.com. For a free, no obligation consultation, please call 212.470.6139 or email [email protected]. Check out his new leadership book, Becoming the New Boss”, on Amazon and on the book site, BecomingtheNewBoss.com