Thursday, June 07, 2007

Morale Improvement Idea From An Unlikely Source

I'm a big fan of The Onion. Though usually, I expect humor from them and not sound business advice. But, today I was surprised to receive both.

Chris Tandy passed me this surprisingly thought provoking article on using Nerf Guns as a morale booster at work. It's not just the idea of the Nerf Guns that caught my attention but how well the article takes you through why they are so effective.

Here's a snippet:

You might think boosting morale is an easy task–a kind word here, a pat on the back there. But if that were the case, anyone could be a manager. No, a good manager is constantly finding new ways to keep his or her folks happy. And sometimes, that means thinking outside the proverbial box.

The Nerf guns were hardly the first initiative I'd enacted to improve morale and stimulate creativity. But it was the most successful. Take the foosball table I brought in last September. I thought it might bring a little competitive spirit to the office, but Greg and Andrew were such ace players, they completely hogged the table. Not a great way to encourage teamwork.

Then there was my idea for a bi-weekly mid-afternoon ice-cream break. Everybody likes ice cream, I figured, and it might provide a nice, relaxed forum for people to exchange ideas on their current projects without calling a formal meeting. But because we were so busy eating ice cream–and I could still kick myself for this–a bunch of customer calls went unanswered. Well, the head office got wind of that, and you can bet I got a first-class butt-kicking. To make matters worse, it turned out that a lot of my workers were lactose-intolerant. How was I to know?

One of the great things about the guns is that my team can have their Nerf battles and get a little crazy without getting too carried away. After a few Nerf-gun volleys, the tension is broken and the monotony of staring at humming computer screens for hours on end is broken. Then my troops can go back to work refreshed. And it sure beats a cup of stale afternoon coffee and a dried-out bagel!

Maybe I'm reading too much into this article and it was just supposed to be fun. But I really think that the author is on to something here. And of course, just like the author couldn't simply get away with using the same tricks that worked at other places (like the foosball table), I shouldn't assume that Nerf is the answer in our office. But, it's a great reminder to keep on trying new things.

So, which model do I need to outfit the team with? And what do I put under description on the requisition form?


  1. Do you remember when one of our co-workers erupted over a nerf gun being fired near him at AMZ? Probably other factors at play there like no privacy, constant annoyances, and a bunch of twenty somethings constantly goofing off and playing games.

    Ahh, weren't the pre-bubble days fun.

  2. I vaguely remember that incident. I suppose one man's morale booster is another's big-time-distraction.

    I'm actually considering getting licenses to Planet Fortress so the team can blow off steam while shooting at each other, but do it in a virtual environment that won't annoy the rest of the office.