Volume 21, December 2002: “Joy in the Workplace”

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2002 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Happiness depends, as Nature shows, Less on exterior things than most suppose.” — William Cowper, Table Talk

“What do you have without pride of workmanship? Just a job, to get some money. There’s not much joy in that.” — W. Edwards Deming

“The manner in which it was given is worth more than the gift.” — Pierre Corneille

“All who joy would win must share it – happiness was born a twin.” — Lord Byron, Don Juan


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Promoting balance between work and family/personal life.
  • Giving people meaningful work to do and recognizing them for their contributions.
  • Creating healthy workplaces, with low stress, room for innovation, and optimism.
  • Making space for celebration: summoning joy to the workplace.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “Management’s job is to create an environment where everybody may take joy in his work.” He felt that leaders failed at this by instituting faulty practices, some of which are:

  • Performance appraisals
  • Deliberate introduction of fear, conflict and competition, incentives and threats, slogans and exhortations to motivate
  • Poor materials and tools
  • Lack of constancy of purpose to stay in business
  • Management job-hopping
  • Emphasis on short-term profits
  • Managing by numbers alone
  • Management by objective
  • Arbitrary numerical quotas
  • Merit pay
  • Treating the exception as the rule (special/common cause confusion)

Oddly, he also mentioned two deadly diseases unique to the U.S. – excessive medical costs and the costs of liability. None of these is under the control of the worker; only leaders can change the system.

As a gift to your organization, audit these practices that defeat pride. In the end, Dr. Deming held that all of this good work is about the Human Spirit.

In this season of Joy, Hope and Light, awaken and encourage Joy in Work and it will come.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do I help put joy and meaning in work?”
Everyone authors their own work, and our failure is not matching people with work that gives them joy. Work is a creative act, and to the extent that individuals/teams can control their own processes and have freedom to innovate, their work can become their art. A second aspect of meaning is the connection of their work to the big picture – why theirs is important work to do. I once witnessed a dietary worker in a hospital display her notebook of hand sketches on how to array the cold plates – with swells of pride; a maintenance worker who led the way to saving $35K by product substitution; a housekeeper who could evaluate and make recommendations on efficiency by observing the refuse. There are no unimportant players in organizations like this.
“I can’t afford celebrations. We used to have an annual employee recognition ceremony, but I had to cut it off when times got hard. Besides, frivolous spending wouldn’t look right to the Board and investors (a frequent comment).”
There are a few flaws in thinking here. One is that celebration is only for good times, when in fact, it’s more important in down times – that’s when people really need to pull together. Second is the belief that it is the leader’s job to orchestrate the function – people are actually very good at creating their own celebrations, given time and permission. Last is the idea that it costs money. The best celebrations are those that are born spontaneously, and consist of basic activities, like eating together and telling stories.
“Corporate gifts – any ideas?”
Time is the most precious commodity, something we cannot manufacture more of. What about time for family, education, altruistic activity, fitness activities and other healthy undertakings? Anita Roddick of The Body Shop offers corporate “externships” for staff to go out and do good in the world. “People become motivated when you guide them to the source of their own power,” she says. Spell out your company values in your giving.


Key Associates offers facilitation in planning and executing corporate celebrations. Also, check out our publication, Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose and Profit at Work.

See our back issue, “On Spirit at Work”.

Read DHHS’ publication on Stress at Work and learn what you can do about it.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

A CEO talks about Joy of Work.

Six ways to enjoy work: The Joy of Work: 6 Ways to Enjoy Work.

Create a psychologically healthy workplace: A spark to the business-psychology connection.

Add joy to the work formula: Unconstrained Thinking – Joy to the Work.


  • Adams, Scott. The Joy of Work. Harper Business, 1998.
  • Autry, James. Life and Work: A Manager’s Search for Meaning. New York: Avon Books, 1995.
  • Collins, James C. & Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: Harper Business, 1994.
  • Deal, Terrence & Key, M.K. Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose and Profit at Work. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1999.
  • Fox, Matthew. The Reinvention of Work. San Francisco: Harper-Collins, 1994.
  • Frieberg, Kevin & Jackie Frieberg. NUTS: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. Austin, Texas: Bard, 1996.
  • Glanz, Barbara. Care Packages: Dozens of Little Things You Can Do To Regenerate Spirit at Work. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
  • Hemsath, Dave & Leslie Yerkes. 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996.
  • Neave, Henry R. The Deming Dimension. SPC Press, 1990.
  • Nelson, Bob. 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. New York: Putnam, 1994.
  • Richards, Dick. Artful Work: Awakening Joy, Meaning and Commitment in the Workplace. San Francisco: Berrett Koehler, 1995.
  • Roddick, Anita. Body and Soul. New York: Crown Publishers, 1991.
  • Weinstein, Matt. Managing to Have Fun. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
  • Weihrouch, Jacqueline, J.O. McGrath (Editor), & J. Kulak (Illustrator). Joy in Work.Jaw Publishing, 2000.
  • Yerkes, Leslie. Fun Works. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2001.


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