Have your employees ever come to work to find you dressed like a chicken? If not, you may be missing an opportunity to improve teamwork, increase enthusiasm and lower stress, says Matt Weinstein, a management consultant and co-author of Work Like Your Dog: Fifty Ways to Work Less, Play More, and Earn More (Villard Books). "Laughter and play," he says, "are a common language that cuts across office hierarchy."
The following entrepreneurs speak that tongue:
Fun doesn't have to be confetti and balloons. It can be as unconventional (and fuzzy) as the slippers worn by managers at the Quality Suites Hotel Behind Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. Owner John Ruzic, 43, saw the value in the tradition when he got into a confrontation with an employee, glimpsed the man's Scooby Doo footwear and dissolved into gales of laughter. "When two parties are wearing Tasmanian Devil or skunk slippers, there's no way they can get upset," says Ruzic. "It completely takes the anger out of the workplace."
Rather than halt fun in the name of work, Dana Brigham, co-owner of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts, just rolls with it. On Valentine's Day, an author signing turned into tango lessons as the also-dance instructor helped attendees get into the groove. "It's simply not a high-wage industry," Brigham, 51, says, "so we try to mitigate that as much as we can."
GIFT OF GAGS
Shazam the Juice Man (a.k.a. David Riordan), co-owner with wife Jennifer Neuguth of OOP!, an eclectic gift shop in Providence, Rhode Island, says, "Behind all the crazy hoopla and endless shenanigans is a business that maintains a very profitable bottom line." Crazy hoopla includes assigning staff members aliases like Diva and Manager of the Inner Child. The owners, both 34, also have a list of "special days" card companies can't rival. Recent ones have included "Let's Make a Deal Day," when customers showing their completed tax returns received five OOP! bucks; and the mayor's birthday, when the staff videotaped customers singing "Happy Birthday" for the ultimate gift from the people.