Don't mention fun
discovers a CEO in Germany, Judith
Mair, who believes business and
pleasure are an unproductive combination.
Where fun ends and work
A 30-year-old German businesswoman
is leading a revolution against
management gurus, insisting her staff wear uniforms and banning
private phone calls and words such as "flexitime" and
Der Spiegel magazine called her "Germany's
toughest woman boss" last week
while other publications identified her as leading a "counter-revolution"
in the workplace by championing a return to traditional German
values of discipline, hard work and rigid punctuality.
who has been running her Cologne-based advertising and web design
company for less than four years, has propelled herself into
the limelight through the publication of a controversial new
book, Schluss mit Lustig (End the Fun). In it she delivers a
withering attack on what she sees as the American-inspired "enjoyable"
approach to work that dominated Germany's now shattered internet-based
industry during the mid-1990s.
Managers have snapped up the title because it appears to offer
a way out of Germany's present economic misery. Last week the
publishers, Eichborn Verlag, announced that just a month after
it went on sale a second print run was being ordered.
More than 50 per cent of Germany's "New Economy" companies
in the dot-com industries have gone bankrupt over the past six
years, contributing to the country's record unemployment of more
than four million.
Germany's post-war "economic
miracle", founded on consensus politics, a broad social
safety net and restrained market forces, has failed to respond
to the faster, more ruthless economic demands of the computer
age. The nation described for more than 40 years after the end
of the war as the economic motor of Europe is now more often
seen as a drag on the global economy.
the daughter of a university professor, argues that her rediscovery
of the puritan approach to business is one of the main reasons
why her Mair and Others agency has survived. "The fact is
that work has nothing to do with fun. I began running the company
on this principle three years ago and the system has decreased
rather than increased the level of stress at work and at home,"
Her credo is that fashionable notions such as weekend company
get-togethers, "flexible working hours" and "team
spirit" have led to a disastrous erosion of the boundaries
between work and private life, which has crippled company efficiency
and exploited staff.
Mair and Others started business in a tiny office - a converted
staff lavatory in the former Cologne branch of the German electronics
company Siemens. She has since moved to a former fruit shop on
the edge of the city centre which last week seemed less like
an advertising agency than a Lufthansa bureau stripped down to
its barest necessities.
Miss Mair and her three female colleagues
were all dressed in identical tight-fitting blue tailored jackets
and skirts and sat obediently at computer screens working out
advertising and product designs. No pictures, posters or calendars
were to be seen on the office walls, which are kept bare to prevent
staff from being distracted.
Company rules state that uniforms are to be worn at all times,
with a rigid 9am to 6pm working day and five-day week, no private
telephone calls and no chatting about private matters.
It is forbidden to take work home and half-hour lunch breaks
are compulsory. The company's golden rule is: Those who think
that good work is only work that is fun do not belong here.
"When we started out we ran the company according to the
so-called 'cool' approach adopted by most of our competitors.
This meant that we started work at around midday and drank beer
in the office. We ended up working most weekends and half of
most nights. In the end we were all exhausted and ended up with
a lousy product," Miss Mair said.
She blames, for this "laissez-faire" approach to work,
the New Economy management gurus of the 1990s such as Matt Weinstein,
the American author of Managing To Have Fun. In his book Mr Weinstein
states: "Are you having fun is a pioneering question that
will have to be asked in business. Only when we ask this question
can we begin to change the nature of our work."
Miss Mair cites
such ideas as examples of the "management twaddle"
that has encouraged employees not to work hard unless they feel
that they are having a good time. She is equally dismissive of
concepts such as "flexitime" which she says is an excuse
to make people work until midnight and at weekends. "Team
spirit", she argues, allows employees to think "someone
else will do it".
Her dislike of Americanisms including "deadline", "workflow"
and "brainstorming" has led her to ban the use of such
terms in her office and she charges extra to clients who insist
on her using them in their work.