A piece in The Guardian by Christina Patterson (‘writer and broadcaster’) entitled ‘The secret to an effective workforce is fun’ (20 February 2015) has triggered in my three non-fun reactions. Number one. Why is it that pieces of self-serving, pseudo-clever trivia with zero critical thinking occupy a third of page in a prestigious newspaper? Number two. Why am I reading that piece to the end instead of bypassing it on behalf of mental pollution avoidance? Number three. Why do I feel insulted by this trivialization of management recipes often coming from people who have never managed any organization?
Patterson’s message is clear: all the ills of the British National Health Service (NHS) can be solved if staff could have more fun. Apparently an audience of shocked nurses did not know what to make of her idea that ‘maintaining values in the workplace has to do with having a laugh and dragging our colleagues off for a drink’. Her piece ends with the expected ‘ All the evidence shows that happy people work better’ (the Happy Cows model).
Funny enough (forgive me) she has a bit of the diagnosis right: ‘So many people feel that they can’t move or breathe without a manager hovering, poised to tick them off or slap them down. So many people feel that there are now so many boxes to tick, they do not have time to do any real work. Offices are full of silent figures slumped over computers and counting the minutes until they can leave. And on their CVs they talk about “passion”.
But, aha, the answer is let’s go for a drink!
I hope Ms Patterson never gets a job managing anything in the NHS, at least not one near a pub.
The NHS is a structural monster close to being uncontrolled, full of incredibly bright, passionate and committed people, with a flawed management structure and a dysfunctional organizational architecture. A second rate political class skillfully manage to add un-manageable-ability on regular doses. This extraordinary Public Service in the brink of breakdown, needs something, I am afraid, more than ‘fun’.
Now, can I have my £2.50 back please?