CL: Laughing – How serious is that?

Just for a moment consider the possibility of an organization that punishes ‘laughing’ and ‘smiling’.

You might think, ‘This is ridiculous. Is that possible?’. 

But such was the ‘law’ in Ford Motor Company. At Ford’s River Rouge plant, laughter was a disciplinary offence. Anyone caught humming, whistling or smiling were punished by instant sacking. Such acts were considered to be acts of insubordination.

Not long ago, in 1940, John Gallo was sacked because he was ‘caught in the act of smiling’ after having committed an earlier breach of ‘laughing with the other fellows and slowing down the line by may be half a minute’.

This was the overall philosophy of the times which did not escape Henry Ford who said, ‘When we are at work we ought to be at work. When we are at play we ought to be at play. There is no use trying to mix the two.’

Though it seems a bit weird in today’s context I still find this attitude prevalent in the factories of today where the ingrained attitude rooted deep enough is ‘NO PLAY; IF IT IS PLAY YOU AREN’T SERIOUS’.

It is such a deeply held belief that not long ago British Airways initiated a change management program that implored their flight attendants to ‘simply smile’.

Having fun and joy in work is the new mantra of work today. May be modern organizations need more balance and integration of the Right and Left Brains for survival, growth and productivity enhancement! Having exhausted the old and tested methods of enhancing productivity we must realize the innate but hidden strengths that lie in the new ways to laugh at our own stupidity and our deeply held assumptions on everything only to find new ways of creating value for the society in the future. 



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