Some team members resist happiness. What would you do?


I received the following email from a manager who reads my blog and I got his permission to post it here, to get input from all of you. What would you do?

Here’s the email:

I have a team of 10 people doing admin based work. The job can be busy but mundane and this can lower the “fun” factor within the team. I have introduced some nice changes to help their day go better as like you, my philosophy is enjoy coming to work and never be stressed about it.

However, like everyone else I can get stressed but its not the workload, it’s the team that bring me down.

Some ideas, I have introduced are:

  • Listening to music while they work
  • Be flexible with the shifts that they do
  • Let them have their moment where they need to walk away from an issue to calm down without any repercussions.

I could go on and we do the team lunches and have events, but there will still be the people that I can’t make happy.

The big issue I have is motivating all of the team. Some of my team are motivated and up for some fun or keen to get on board with a project but there will be a few that will put up the objection obstacles and flatly refuse to get involved, this can bring others down and ultimately put me down which really affects me.

At times it makes me want to move jobs and try again with a new team.

What would you do, as a manager in this situation? Please write a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

5 thoughts on “Some team members resist happiness. What would you do?”

  1. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time!

    I admire your persistance though. I am interested in what kind of objection obstacles you receive from them?

    I co-manage a team of 23 and I would say only half will get involved with any fun activities that we do at work. The rest of them don’t put up any ‘obstacles’ but just choose not to take part, which is really their choice. I wouldn’t want to force people into taking part in ‘fun’.

    You also have to understand that people have different perceptions about work. You will always get workers with the “me against them” attitude. You will also find that some people just wish to come to work, do their job & then go home. Who am I to criticise that?

    But for advice, I would say continue with the fun stuff to make those interested happier and respect the wishes of those who do not wish to take part. Over a course of time, maybe they will change their mind.

  2. Well, I’d have a look into finding out what the resistance is about. This can be a bit of work, especially since each person’s reasons are probably different.

    What I’ve found, though, is that resistance at work rarely comes down to the thing that’s on the table itself; that thing can – and mostly will – get talked about, and hang-ups and reservations will be addressed as a matter of course (if not, well, that would be a thing to deal with right away).

    What remains is very often another reason – insecurity about one’s own role, dissatisfaction with something completely different, or even things unrelated to work (I’ve had this happen because of “problems at home” more than once), and often solving that other thing isn’t even a requirement for doing away with the resistance. Often, the mere validation of said issue can be enough to get things moving again.

    Of course, the problems will come back if the issue persists and remains unsolved – and so on and so forth…

    Another issue can be distrust in leadership – not necessarily yours but whoever’s above you. I’ve seen work resistance stem from a suspicion that
    another edict will come down from on high shortly, invalidating whatever folks are being asked to do, or even offered.

    My take, off the top of my head – hope it makes a modicum of sense.

  3. This could be done in different ways, all depending on the people. I might ask for the few that don’t want to change why they are reluctant. Sit down with them and hear their concerns. For new projects, do they feel overwhelmed already and a new project is too much? Do they not like the other admins? Maybe they are excited, but they don’t show it as much as others. Listen to their concerns and ask if there is anything you can help with.

    After communicating, use the information to set up ‘fun’ policies that help everyone enjoy their work better.

  4. I think often the problem with mundane work is not just the boredom but the sense of having no personal effect. If you don’t do it, someone else will do it. There are no decisions to make, so the way you do it won’t be in any way unique to you. You’re just a cog.

    A good response would be to look for ways to add empowerment. You can’t make the tasks not be mundane, but… how do you decide what order to do the tasks in? Maybe team members could be involved in that. Maybe you’re filling out templates (mundane) but team members could be involved in designing new templates. Maybe you have to respond to tickets with boilerplate but team members could be involved in scripting the boilerplate. The point is to look for places they can have some power. I think that will do more than trying to add fun.

  5. Everybody’s different. Some people, especially introverts, don’t like mandatory enforced ‘fun’ and object to being ordered to enjoy themselves. If they prefer to be left alone to get on with their job, I would say that’s their prerogative.

    If this extends further and they’re *not* doing their job, then they have other underlying issues that are nothing to do with failing to engage in the ‘fun’ that will need to be addressed.

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