Sunday, August 24, 2014

How Often Do You Laugh at Work?

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Maybe it’s an age thing for me now, but not a day goes by when I don’t have at least one really great laugh at work with colleagues – sometimes I suppose it might be defined more as just a giggle and other times I find myself crying with laughter and it makes me feel great. It’s like a shot of adrenaline, as afterwards I seem to feel more relaxed, am more focused and have loads more energy.
Over the years I’ve worked in cultures that embraced laughter within their ranks and you can feel the energy as you walk around their offices – employees just seem to smile more. Then I’ve walked the corridors of those more ‘stuffy’ organisations where ‘fun’ and ‘laughter’ aren’t traits that are associated with ‘hard’, ‘productive’ work in the minds of their leaders.
Jacquelyn Smith wrote in Forbes how “tasteful humor is a key to success at work, but there’s a good chance your co-workers aren’t cracking jokes or packaging information with wit on a regular basis and your office could probably stand to have a little more fun.”
An international research team at Oxford University found that when people laugh hard, the kind that leaves them almost physically exhausted with tears in their eyes, the human body triggers the release of endorphins that help reduce the feeling of pain and promote feelings of general wellbeing. So the next time the project team you’re leading hits what feels like an insurmountable obstacle, find something funny about the situation and then laugh your way to figuring out a creative solution.
There’s no doubt that laughter helps break down barriers and helps build relationships – other employees are more likely to engage with you if you have a sense of humor as you make communication easier.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work, and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank (Dec. 2013), says that “dozens of surveys suggest that humor can be at least one of the keys to success. A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.”
Some of the reasons why laughter is a positive trait in the workplace include;
People will enjoy working with you;
Humor is a potent stress buster;
It is humanizing and it puts others at ease;
It helps build trust; and
Helps break down barriers;
It boosts morale;
It creates a positive working culture;
People who use humor tend to be more approachable;
Humor can allow your company to stand out; and
It can increase productivity.
Laughter should be part of the culture – but if it’s not, then often it’s not easy for employees to start a ‘new’ trend especially if they are a new employee; youngster or someone focused on their career – where they can feel very self-conscious about trying to bring a sense of humor into the work place, especially where there is an atmosphere of ‘stuffy’ leadership.
Leaders who can’t have fun and laugh, and that includes laughing at themselves, are either so caught up in the power of the role they just can’t see how demotivating their style is or simply don’t know how to deal with people having fun. Leopards don’t change their spots don’t expect these types of leaders to read this article and start laughing and bringing fun into the workplace – if you want to change their leadership style it will take a lot of time. But from a positive perspective do be aware that there are organisations where laughter and fun are part of the very fabric of their organisational culture and where their employees are much more productive and innovative than their stuffy counterparts.
Smith, J. (2013). 10 reasons why humor is a key to success at work. Forbes, 3 May, on-line.

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