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Enabling teams to work better together

How not to be a killjoy at work

Popping the balloon to kill the joy


When your teen says it, you might roll your own eyes.

But when a work colleague calls you that…


To be accused of spoiling fun or ruining the moment, especially in front of others, can really cut to your core.

And it’s most likely that you didn’t mean to be mean. You were just stopping everyone from having regrets later – like missing deadlines or sabotaging this month’s excellent safety record.

I’ve posted before about the importance of fun to healthy teamwork and memorable training experiences.

Fun and joy, however, are not the same thing.

Allowing the fun can still kill the joy for others.

And work can be joyful even without a laugh or lapse of routine.

Fun is the action. Joy is the feeling.

Writing for Brainz Magazine, which covers entrepreneurship, personal development, leadership and lifestyle, Kristen Lessig Schenerlein says:

According to the psychological literature, joy is an intense momentary experience of positive emotion — one that’s recognizable through physical expressions like smiling and laughter and through physical feelings such as a sense of lightness in your body.

In the moment, it’s a major, measurable upward shift in mood.

After, it can be an important motivator to front up every day.

Because it’s a positive expectation of more pleasure than pressure.

When you feel good about what you do, you’re more inclined to keep doing it.

And when you see that what you’re doing does good for yourself and others, joy can be profound.

Joy is communicated with words, tone, facial expressions, and posture – and just like a smile, it can be contagious!

Fun can help you forget for while – the budget squeeze, the difficult conversation, the tasks procreating like rabbits in the in-tray.

Joy, on the other hand, doesn’t end when the games and good times are over. It’s the feeling that pulses afterward, reminding you you’re glad you participated.

It’s what keeps you buoyant when you’re feeling swamped.

Moments of joy are a measure of happiness.

Did you know that a 2022 YouGov/Indeed study into the current state of Australian workers’ wellbeing found 26% of people surveyed said they were looking for new jobs because they didn’t feel happy in their current roles?

And that 42% associated ‘workplace happiness’ with having good relationships with colleagues
and managers?

Recognising what makes the work or the workplace enjoyable for everyone in your team, not just yourself, is powerful for self-awareness and social-awareness.

Not only because you can avoid being called a killjoy, but because you can proactively contribute to regular pulses of joy.

You can use your knowledge of what gives your people joy to keep them engaged and thriving.

I created the following list from posters people make in my TrueColors workshops when asked, ‘What joys do YOU appreciate at work?’

  1. Celebrating success
  2. Working harmoniously
  3. Sharing food on special occasions
  4. Laughter
  5. Camaraderie
  6. Freedom of expression
  7. Sharing a purpose and standards
  8. New experiences
  9. Friendships
  10. Feeling appreciated

Do you know what ‘joy at work’ means for the individuals in your team?

We could have some fun finding out.

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PS. When I was a child, Joy is like the rain was my favourite hymn. The lyrics still resonate.


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