When I was just starting out in my career, it was frowned upon to laugh at work. Work was serious business! And it still is but sometimes, work can get a little too serious.
According to a 2007 study performed by University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Chris Robert, humor “has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor and the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.”
Many other studies prove how positively humor can impact the workplace. Not long into my career, I worked for Ben, a Sales Manager, who taught me why it’s important to laugh at work. Ben’s brand of humor endeared him to clients and colleagues alike. It engineered a team spirit and customers loved having him around.
As I worked more closely with Ben, I realized the true power of laughter and the ways in which it could motivate, defuse tension and create trust and respect with co-workers. But I also realized it was rare to have this open and humorous approach.
So if you feel there’s not enough laughter where you work, here’s a few suggestions:
1. Set the Tone – Laugh At Yourself
We all make mistakes. We are not perfect. Make light of it and share the humorous side of the mistake. This shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we understand that mistakes happen.
2. Start Meetings With a Joke
Take turns for someone to tell a joke at each Level-10 meeting and rate it! Keep a scorecard! Have an award for the best or worst joke (or both).
3. Start Meetings with One Word Describers
Or, at the next L10 meeting, ask employees to use one word to describe his or her day. You’re doing a check-in anyway – why not make it a little more interesting?
4. Hold Silly Events
We held a Ryder Cup office golf event at one of the places I worked at. Everyone was involved as we set up a golf course around the office, including putting (no pun intended) holes in people’s offices. Scorecards were issued, scores were recorded and we even ended with an awards ceremony to recognize the overall team and individual winners. Amazing how inventive people were in playing a ball off office chairs or walls.
5. Surround Yourself with Reminders to Lighten Up
Keep a toy on your desk or put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Display photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
6. Look for the Humor in Things
When things are getting heavy, break the ice. Look for the amusing, funny or interesting parts of your day for a much-needed laugh that will help lighten your load.
7. Hold a Series of Events Called “Laughter Lunch”
You can watch clips from funny movies or television shows like “The Office”.
Humor can help in so many ways at work. We just need to take ourselves less seriously and look for ways to make light of things when we do. As Alan Rickman said, “ I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously.”
Or, as a famous proverb said; “If you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy.”
Of course we can’t turn the hallowed business corridors into Comedy Central but we should always allow some room for humor. Do me a favor and smile right now. Feels good, doesn’t it!? Now laugh!
Author, Peter M. Beaumont, is a Business Advisor with The Resultants as well the Founder and Principal of ConnXN Consulting. He is also the author of The Relationship Roadmap, a comprehensive guide to building relationships with strategic clients.