In fact, the seven dwarfs are often rapt in song. It seems that these hard workers have a high appreciation for and loyalty to their occupational identity—and not simply because they mine diamonds and rubies.
Most likely this job satisfaction stems from Henri de Man’s theory dating just ten years prior, that a worker—when faced with the beast of monotony—will always find some meaning in an activity assigned to him. Thus, the seven dwarfs are compelled to sing, actually, whistle while they work.
And this, sociologists say, is key to employee morale and retention.
This “Game of Work” is defined as a “continuous sequence of short-range production goals with achievement rewards in the form of activity change,” (Roy, 1960).
Lawyers also find themselves frequently and monotonously in search of something valuable. Although not precious stones, lawyers are looking for a gem buried deep within mounds and mounts of boxes and piles and piles of paper in what the industry unlovingly calls “doc review.”
Much like sifting for gold, the process of doc review can be tedious and dirty. With this in mind, is it possible for attorneys to acquire as much job satisfaction from doc review as Snow White’s dwarves derive from mining?
The answer lies in the Game of Work.
Attorneys who struggle to stay motivated during doc review should remember to take little breaks and play little games to keep themselves occupied, alert, and productive.
During the many hours of doc review, create goals to mark your progress. After a certain number of pages, for example, reward yourself with coffee, candy, music, or socializing.
If that’s not enough incentive, then create a mini-competition for yourself. Find out how long it takes you to scan a single page, and then try to beat your own best time.
In the case of physical files, turn the organization of these piles into a game.
Sound too silly?
Well, it should. After all, the effects of “play” have been extensively studied in a variety of sciences, which all conclude silliness is crucial to productivity and innovation.
“Neuroscientists, developmental biologists, psychologists, social scientists, and researchers from every point of the scientific compass now know that play is a profound biological process,” writes Stuart Brown, M.D., in Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.
“It has evolved over eons in many animal species to promote survival. It shapes the brain and makes animals smarter and more adaptable.”
Ultimately, the border between play and work is up to the individual to draw. Work is not inherently monotonous or boring. Rather, professionals have yet to discover what games, little jokes, or interactions with peers can be combined with work to create a balance of pleasure and high-quality job performance.
So, think about why you want to punch out the clock early—is it to exercise, to finish that book, or to catch up with friends? Next, incorporate a part of one of those perks into your office activities as a reward for a certain level of professional achievement.
The Game of Work can, it turns out, beat the Beast of Boredom.
But, my dear dwarves, if you decide to literally whistle while you work… you may want to at least shut your office door.
- Roy, D. (1960). Bananatime : Job satisfaction in Informal Interaction. Human Organization, 18.