Let’s Get Serious About Humor in the Workplace

Have you — or, worse, do you — work in an environment void of humor? That’s too bad, because the right kind of funny business can keep your business sharp, creative and, well, fun.

Here are three tasks that humor in the workplace can accomplish:

1. Humor can aid in problem solving.

Humor relieves some of the tension and tendency to assign blame. Instead, it places an issue in perspective. When you laugh, you’re under less pressure and more likely to consider facts and opinions in the absence of prejudice.

2. Humor can lower stress levels.

Reducing stress, especially in tense work environments, is invaluable, because stress inhibits talent, accentuates emotionalism over logic and limits empathy. (For your consideration: The largest expense for organizations is absenteeism, the largest cause of absenteeism is illness and the largest cause of illness is stress.)

3. Humor can generate interest in you and your ideas.

Most healthy people like to laugh and are attracted to people who make them laugh. The more people you can draw to you in a positive dynamic, the more people who will be open to your ideas and more likely to consider them.

What won’t humor do? Well, it will not accomplish these three things:

1. Humor will not overcome polarized opinions.

The Hatfields and McCoys were not about to be calmed down with some ironic banter or shrewd displays of sarcasm. Note how political campaigns have become increasingly and disturbingly vicious and personal, and humor is employed to degrade, embarrass and undermine opponents. Bullying, in person or in writing, often uses humor to savagely attack the victim.

2. Humor will not create value where none exists.

If you don’t have a sound business case, value proposition, mission statement, beliefs set or message, humor will not serve as a substitute.

3. Humor will not enhance credibility.

You’re not credible because you’re funny; you’re funny because you’re credible. People who think they’re funny but aren’t engage in loud and profane behavior, are stuck on one issue or perform tired gags, and we don’t like them.

Bottom line: The more credibility you have, the more likely your style of humor will be accepted in the workplace.

(Photo by Ryan McGuire via Gratisography)

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