Political correctness campaigns have forced us to believe we have to act professional in a work environment. They demand boundaries and keep us from believing that a little horseplay is healthy. We are too up tight, living in a time of professional and political correctness that is dulling our ability to enjoy our lives while at work—where many of us spend nearly one third of our adult lives and entrepreneurs even more.

Political correctness campaigns have forced us to believe we have to act professional in a work environment. Tweet This Quote

Along with being an entrepreneur for over twenty years, I am also an avid student of archetypes—the main characters of our collective unconscious that are illustrated in story. They often serve as a perfect example of a particular type of person. When we look at the stories that have permeated our culture, we see archetypes everywhere. And learning how to invoke their various qualities at just the right time can be instructive and beneficial in all areas of our lives, including work. I have discovered an archetypal energy we can greatly benefit from invoking—such as Pan, the god of mischief—and it would serve us well to invoke these qualities of playfulness in the workplace.

Cultivate a culture of play
Ensuring politically correct action at the office demands a great deal of our precious energy and the return on investment is not met equitably. Alternatively, lightening up at the office with the playfulness of Pan or Dionysus—the mythological character who frolics in the forest and drinks wine from a loincloth—creates energy rather than exhausts it. I’ve been known to invoke the qualities of Pan and have slowly unbuttoned my shirt during a meeting just for the hell of it. I’ve pretended to take notes with both hands during a board meeting without any evidence that doing so is not totally normal. I’ve even hummed a high pitch tone without any change in facial expression. Once others take note, they begin to giggle and their giggles elevate into laughter. Since laughter is contagious, it is not long until everyone begins to loosen up, laughing together, resulting in connectedness.

Laughter is a peak experience—like an orgasm or being scared by someone. These experiences tune us in to the present moment. It is in these instances we are seamlessly aligned with the here and now. Our workdays desperately need more of these moments as this kind of fun stimulates creativity and gets team members to engage more authentically.

At the core, we are not snobby creatures, yet we find a way to stuff down laughter and fun like they are beneath us. Interestingly, however we are often attracted to—and sometimes envious of—others who are having a good time.

Let your individuality shine at the workplace, and invite others to do the same. Tweet This Quote

Sure, you can invoke qualities of Hercules when you have a killer task a head of you. Turning on the archetypal energy of Athena when we need to think logically, plan and strategize can be beneficial. Reflecting on her qualities reminds us to use our intellect as well as our creativity in the pursuit of any goal. She represents controlled strength and the power of integration. Studying and adopting the characteristics of these archetypes can support you in all areas of business, but until you invoke the playful ones and start tuning into the individual moments of your day, the others won’t do you a bit of good.

Invoking playfulness at work is a low-cost—even no cost—method for elevating the wellbeing of your business and work culture. Culture is not a commodity you buy off the shelf like you would Adobe Suite or Microsoft Office. It is something you create. It is an extension of your personality––those unique traits that make you tick and likely why you have engaged in business in the first place. If you are a bit of a prankster, invoke Pan-like qualities. If you are more competitive, invoke the qualities of Zeus or Arachne. Think of creative ways to manifest healthy competition. If at home you relax with music, tune in at work. Let your individuality shine at the workplace, and invite others to do the same.

Commit to discovering the archetypal energies of every co-worker, employee, partner, and client you do business with. Doing so will help you discover how best to engage them. If, for example, you are a leader in your work place and a member of your project management team is demonstrating the wizard-like qualities of Merlin, consider shifting them into a role in your creative department where he or she will really shine. No matter what your role is at the office, it will serve you well to learn how others feel most valued. An Aphrodite type will respond well to loving and caring words of encouragement and gratitude. A Sophrosyne will appreciate and respond well to a sense of security, and when engaging a King Midas type, know they respond positively to monetary reward, and gifts. Study archetypes to know these characteristics and to become aware of their presence in others.

Cut Loose to Create Abundance
Tony Hsieh has built Zappos into a multi billion-dollar company and not by way of minding his P’s and Q’s. Instead the fun freak created and maintains a culture of play. Zapponians at their corporate campus have all day access to a bowling alley, and complimentary breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Foosball and Ping-Pong are available to them at their leisure, and they are constantly holding contests to introduce healthy competition, camaraderie, and fun. They are treated like mutually respectable adults who can act like children if they so please.

You can increase the playful vibe of your office digs without spending a dime. Having fun and being playful is a state-of-mind Tweet This Quote

Tony has hit the nail on the head. By creating a work environment that is peppered with play, he retains the best talent and is blessed with outstanding performance from staff. Does it look like his empire is suffering from him invoking the archetypal qualities of Pan and Dionysus? I say not. I’m not suggesting you launch a campaign or start a “fun” committee. Doing so would mean you’re over thinking it. And if you are an executive, you don’t need to go out and blow a ton of dough on arcade machines, Love Sacs, or a movie theatre. You can increase the playful vibe of your office digs without spending a dime. Having fun and being playful is a state-of-mind and a matter of choice.

I do not subscribe to political correctness and have chosen to be irreverent and playful at the office and you know what? When I do, everyone has more fun. And you know what happens then? More shit gets done. Why? Because, everyone is happier. My staff is energized, feeling connected, and are motivated to be their best selves, which includes being great at their job.

Having fun and being authentic increases energy and collaboration. When co-workers work in teams and enjoy the day together, they are more likely to overcome challenges, accomplish tasks with greater efficiency, and are more likely to achieve goals and meet deadlines. This energy ripples out into the world. You connect deeper with your consumers, your clients and partners, and as a result, they feel valued. With personal touch and an environment energized with fun, you spread joy through commerce, something we desperately need more of.

David Howitt

Author David Howitt

David, author of the integrated business book, Heed Your Call, is the founding CEO of Meriwether Group—a private equity firm offering business advising and accelerator services. He is an accomplished entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience providing business strategy and brand counsel to thriving start-ups, small businesses and Fortune 100 companies.

More by David Howitt