Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Should I let my staff do a Harlem Shake?

The Life: The workplace doctor is asked whether letting employees do a Harlem Shake video is a fun idea or just plain daft.
The Harlem Shake dance craze hits Szczecin, Poland. Marcin Bielecki / EPA
The Harlem Shake dance craze hits Szczecin, Poland. Marcin Bielecki / EPA

Dear Workplace Doctor, I enjoyed your response last week to that whinger FA; I read it online and now have a question of my own, but from the perspective of a bank manager. I have heard water-cooler buzz that my employees are preparing to do a Harlem Shake video. Should I stop it, allow it or encourage it? I read just the other day that a company in Australia fired a lot of people for doing such a thing. DH, Beirut


Thanks for your contact DH, Let's use some imagination here. Let's pretend the radio is discussing this issue right now. Tune in with me …

Announcer: Good morning Fujairah. Have you heard about the Australian electricians who were fired for performing the Harlem Shake in a mine? Did they get shafted or what? Yowza. Let's go to your calls, listeners. Was this just some good old-fashioned stress release, or sheer stupidity on the miners' part?

[The phone lines light up]

Announcer: OK. Lotta interest in this one. But let's focus it a bit: what if you were the manager in that situation. Or what if you were a boss at, say, a bank and you heard murmurs that your team was ready to break out with a Harlem Shake video in the workplace. What would you do?

Caller 1: If I were the leader, I'd quickly and effectively stop it before it had a chance to happen. It shouldn't happen as it would disrupt the standardised work practices, it would negatively impact the customer experience, it would stop service for a brief time - there's just no room for such frivolous approaches in business; it's irresponsible and unacceptable.

Announcer: I see that's through your eyes. How do you think the team would see your reasons?

Caller 1: Oh, they are always the same. I'm here to look after the customer and not play to their every whim.

Announcer: Now to you, second caller - how would you handle the situation?

Caller 2: I'd most certainly allow it. What a great way to add a special touch to a workplace that can be the same, day in day out. In the light of no legal or security issues, it could only bring surprise element to the customers, an empowered feeling to the team and a spark of creativity to a relatively staid work environment.

Announcer: Sounds like you welcome spontaneity, as long as there's a respect for the existing standards.

Caller 2: Yes I do. After all, without the team being happy, my customers won't be.

Announcer: And Caller number 3, how would you have handled this situation?

Caller 3: I'd not only allow it but encourage it. Ownership is a huge part of any job, and for them to make this happen, they'd have to own it. I have yet to see training convert workplace behaviour to true ownership when there's no challenge, fun and effort.

Announcer: Let's go to a break with one final reflection: you are a leader only if other people think you are.


The doctor's prescription

Step one: Connect with your business

Step two: Connect with your people

Step three: Connect with yourself


Deb Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based Business En Motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the workplace doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague

Updated: March 13, 2013 04:00 AM



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