Research has consistently shown that people who are intrinsically motivated are more satisfied in their work, have greater commitment to tasks and have lower levels of absenteeism. They concentrate longer, are more adaptable, have more empathy and come up with more creative ideas.
These are qualities that organisations want in today’s climate of constant change and uncertainty. Yet it is not easy to get these in employees because many aspects of an organisation’s culture and processes get in the way. Time constraints, micromanaging, and fear of being honest can be major obstacles to a happy, productive workplace.
One effective way is to increase motivation is use activities and games derived from theatre and the arts to explore, examine and safely express what is really happening in the workplace. A number of companies such as the Perth Airport, the Department of Child Protection and the Department of Treasury have used these theatre games and exercises to help staff experience, identify and discuss what motivates or causes dissatisfaction at work.
In one recent workshop staff enacted many moments throughout the day in which they were interrupted by managers giving them little things to do which took them away from their main task and drained their ability to put their creative energy into their high priority work. While having lot of fun and laughter during the improvisation, they realized that these situations resulted in them being busy but were dissatisfied because they had not accomplished anything effectively.
While the culture and leadership were positive, staff felt they had no control or autonomy in the work. Because this was shown in a playful activity and their managers were present, the managers also laughed when they saw the undermining effect that these interruptions had on the team.
There was a feeling of relief as the employees expressed their frustrations while at the same time the managers identified their role in the breakdowns. The session then rehearsed the ways section managers could give team leaders more autonomy but still be confident that the production schedule would be achieved.
These theatre based workshops and training explore the three basic needs of intrinsic motivated: self-determination; use of an individual’s skills; and the need to feel positive about what we do.
Self-determination is experienced when an individual has sufficient autonomy and support to determine for themselves how to do their job. Employees want to use their skills and to be challenged and grow. They also need to feel they have the skills necessary to do their job well. And finally, people want to have positive feelings about their work environment and other people.
Workshops using theatre and acting skills allow people to have fun while being fully open and honest. Rather that talk about difficulties they get to see, feel and experience them in a fun and playful way. Many profound insights are revealed during moments of people acting out situations they experience at work. These insights and demonstrations are then used to solve problems in ways that involve people’s hearts as well as their minds.
Everyone would like to work in a workplace where they are trusted to make decisions and where they are capable, happy and valued. Once leaders realize this is also the best way to increase productivity and creativity, they will build our workplaces with a lot more laughter and play.
Written in collaboration with Ron Cacioppe – Integral Development