Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Australian Miners Fired for Harlem Shake Dance? Humor at Work Responds

Without digging deeper (pun intended) into the story here’s my thoughts on the story of the Australian miners who were fired for dancing at work.  And let me say that of course it’s always risky to comment without knowing all of the facts.   But here’s the gist:  An Australian mining company fired up to 15 workers who video taped themselves spoofing a Harlem Shake dance and uploading it on You Tube.  The company fired them because of concerns over safety.

Of course safety has to be always given top priority. Nothing matters more than making sure your employees make it home safely at the end of the day.  Everything pales in comparison to that.  And I suspect men who work in a mine doing a dangerous and difficult job in a difficult environment know this better than anyone!  It’s their lives after all that are on the line.

But assuming no one got hurt or was put in jeopardy (hey, they kept their hard hats on), then I think any company is crazy not to embrace this sort of spirit, if not necessarily the activity itself.  If doing a crazy dance helps employees blow off a little steam and de-stress and helps them bond as team, then this sort of behavior should be encouraged!

And I think the intent in these situations must always be considered.  Were their intentions good and well-meaning? Of course they were.  Did they intend on hurting anyone or putting anyone’s safety at risk?  Of course not.

So worst case: give them a slap on the wrist, and remind them of the importance of safety, but firing them, in my humble opinion, and again without knowing all the facts, seems outrageously extreme.  Every company should be striving to employee a crew of guys with this kind of spirit over a bunch of  fun-sucking deadbeats with no energy any day!

In fact, given how hard it can be to recruit people for dangerous, unglamorous work such as this, I’d use this video as a recruiting tool to help brand a business in a more positive, employee-friendly light: a place where, despite the hard work and tough environment, people still enjoy coming into work, work as team, support each other, and yes, every now and then have a little fun!

And why not use this as a teaching moment to have a real dialogue about how safety, work and fun can co-exist?  If the Harlem Shake Dance was unsafe, then use it as a video to talk about how, although the positive intent was there, workers need to be 100% committed to safety.  What could have been done differently?  How are employees dealing with stress at work?  What can the team do to have SAFE fun in this kind of challenging environment?

Michael Kerr, March 4, 2013.   Michael Kerr is an international, award-winning Hall of Fame business speaker and the author of Putting Humor to Work.   Be sure to sign up for his raved about weekly e-zine, Humor at Work.








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