robb manes

I don’t care about your Nerf® guns

Why is it that every workplace I’ve ever encountered attempting to display themselves as ‘cool and trendy’ to younger crowds uses ‘Nerf® wars’ as the prime example as to how they are progressive and laid-back? I picture a board room of aging upper-class crusty white men, in a desperate attempt to reach the younger generation of workers, running to their local Toys-R-Us (they’ve never bought things online and don’t trust online vendors who they’re convinced stealing all of the honest corporate conglomerate’s profits) and, in suits, frantically purchasing various Nerf® branded weapons for distribution to their workers.

Let me make it clear; I’m not trying to destroy fun in the office or workplace. Fun should definitely be had, but more than once foam bullets have hit me whilst I was in the midst of debugging something critical, and the cost of breaking concentration when in the flow of problem solving is expensive beyond measure. This has, as expected, caused me to adopt animosity towards the otherwise harmless, stress relieving toy.

This must be some sort of accidental marketing, I think, on the behalf of Hasbro. ‘Freedom’ in an office environment must be achieved mentally by performing some otherwise taboo and/or forbidden task, and Nerf® guns are the whimsy that appears to fill that need to those attempting a progressive image most often. I am currently lucky enough to work in an office that, although if one were to enact a poll, there would likely be a fair amount of foam weaponry about, but in the midst of this there is still a respect for others and a desire to do good work that such distractions only occur infrequently and in scenarios wherein it is appropriate.

Again, this is not to propose a solution but more to rant on what I believe is likely a deeper fundamental misunderstanding of employers seeking to appeal to the new generation. “We need our environment to be more fun!” says the white-collared manager, and they see whatever Google or another successful progressive company is doing, and halfheartedly attempt to emulate that. This is likely just an artifact of such processes created by what I call ‘internal marketing schemes’ for publicity and public relations in their own organizations, and does not accurately describe the culture of a group.

If you really want to appeal to the next generation and create an actual progressive workplace, understand they have been told their whole lives that they are important and they are going to do great things without much to back those claims up. This has left them feeling dejected, upset, angry, and directionless ever since the mask of overbearing schools and parenting has been removed. Therefore, show them that their work matters and re-instill their sense of purpose at a task. Appeal to the ego slightly, but be honest (brutally so, even) so that they do not burn out performing any particular task; make them part of a group, make their work valuable, and you will earn their trust.

And once you have their trust, never, ever, misuse it.

2016-01-09

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