Work as Play

Dr. Debashis Chatteree

I was chatting with the highly stressed General Manager of a major company. I asked "What makes you think that you are the General Manager of the universe?" He smiled sheepishly, stretching his lips by no more than one millimeter. A man smiles like that either when he pays income tax or when he has severe constipation. But our General Manager was undone just by his need to be in control of everything.

One of the reasons why a workplace is so stressful is that we spent a lot of our energy in upholding our own personalities. We quickly become prisoners to our tags, titles and designations. We tend to forget that all our fancy titles are insignificant. They are just labels that define our roles in a play called, 'Office-Office'. The CEO is playing his role just as the telephone operator is playing hers. To be obsessively caught up in a role is to forget that work is play.

Kids teach you that playing is the best form of learning. In play, you can be more focussed, as your ego remains suspended in the fun of the moment. There is total absorption of the player in the playing process. At play, you are not a personality, but a presence. A personality is stiff like a mask. A presence is creative, dynamic and playful. Just think of the greatest organisers of the world like Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Gandhi or Muhammad. Their presence lingers on long after they were gone as persons. You know why? All of them knew that their work was just play.

The author is a Professor at Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.
He can be reached at
[Source: Times of India - Ascent, Mumbai, 202/12/2006, page1]



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