Here’s a wacky analogy. If someone said that they were going to pay me to throw pumpkins, I might laugh at them. I don’t think that’s what I want to do with my career. But if it was turned it into a competition, it suddenly has new meaning. You get things like pumpkin chucking machines. You get teams of people fighting to be the best. Work isn’t slavery. Managers should try to bring out the best in people.
As bad as the cut-n-paste assignment was, it was well managed. With the involvement of lots of people, the project became more tolerable. Modern video games are often about keeping score and bringing people together for friendly competition. By adding a little of that to the workplace, you might give your team a reason to try harder.
Camaraderie – As a manager, the trick is to keep the competition friendly. Use it like a spice in a sauce. Too much is no good, but a little bit brings out the flavor. If one worker outshines all the others, it can instill feelings of resentment in the others. If you know that your team has players of different skill levels, then maybe focus on friendship and team building. In online games, I’ve accomplished some amazing tasks… like leading the number one Guild Wars guild in the world. I was making friends and getting things done. In the real world, my job rarely felt as rewarding. Employers and Employees both need to watch out for this. The sad truth is that a typical job means more time with your co-workers and less with your family. That’s why it helps tremendously if you like the people that you work with. When hiring employees, it’s not just about skills. It’s also about personalities. Will these people play nice together? It’s hard to judge that from an interview. But once you know someone better, you might be able to transfer a worker to another department or team them up with like-minded people.
Looking back on my career, I remember when I was transferred to the IT department. It was different than the job I was hired for, but I was better at doing it. This also made the job a more friendly place to work. In the gaming world, players often play games that they normally wouldn’t… simply because their friends are doing it. Work can be the same way.
Rewards – But ultimately, I did not stay at that job. Why not?! I felt that I was taking on more responsibilities without proper compensation. I wanted to move my career forward… get a promotion with better pay. There’s more to life than work and video games and I couldn’t experience it on that salary. This wasn’t about greed, like yachts or shopping sprees. It was about the basic things in life… a home, a family life, a good car. It takes a decent salary to make that happen. This is probably my biggest complaint career wide – not enough pay.
Yet, MMORPGs can often feel like work. Instead of getting paid, people pay to play them? Where’s the difference? Video games give players something many managers do not… a sense of accomplishment. In the real world, the reward for hard work is often MORE WORK. This is wrong. Not only is this unjust, it’s not good for productivity. Once workers realize that hard work is not properly rewarded, the main task becomes avoiding work.
True, the job market is highly competitive and companies can’t just give money way. Yet, there must be something better than a 3% raise a year. For three years straight, I received a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Have you ever tried to buy anything in that store for that amount of money? It’s not much of gift. It’s more of a big insult that says, “Those extra hours you put in, the ideas that saved the company money, those projects that you finished on-time… well… it’s meaningless.” Video games are all about managing rewards. In a typical MMORPG, the rewards are huge… lots of content, lots of pretty loot. If done correctly, it builds up to the lofty goals at the endgame. It gives players a career path. From beginning to end, game developers have a good idea of where they want player to go. At work, it’s too hazy. Is the goal to chew up employees until they leave after 3-4 years of torment? If not, then managers should work with employees to move them forward. Give workers reasons to work harder, learn more and do better. It’s good for them and the company.
Encouragement – Performance evaluations are funny to me. Once a year, managers are expected to sit down with their workers and tell them why they suck. For some reason, perfect scores are usually not allowed. Hey… managers… stand up for your team! I’ve had the responsibility where I had to monitor the performance of others. When someone is making slightly more than minimum wage, but they’re outperforming consultants that make hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s my duty to say so. Unfortunately, the same courtesy was not often shown to me. I’ve often had to defend my job performance. I take pride in my work. Those performance evaluations would turn into lengthy discussions about things that don’t really matter. It wasn’t going to put more money in my paycheck. It wasn’t going to make me work harder. It did the opposite. It hurts morale. It wasted time and energy… instead of simply saying, “Thanks Mike, you’re doing a great job!”
In the video game world, it’s not like this at all. Do a good job and the screen bursts with color and your speakers explode with jubilee. You can be a hero in the gaming world. But in reality, it’s almost taboo to speak well of someone. This should stop.
The sweet dream… a job that is more fun than a video game.
The Reality – Ah… but unfortunately, managers might not have the skills to be effective trainers… they might not have the power to give proper raises and rewards… they might be afraid to offer encouragement, as that would imply that a raise is deserved… they can’t build camaraderie because they just laid-off your friends… they can’t create a documentation system because the IT department just had their budget cut… and there isn’t going to be any friendly competition because you’re the only one left running your department.
It’s a small wonder why video games are so popular.