Is Work a Laughing Matter?

Perhaps you’ve noticed tomorrow is April Fool’s? With that in mind, the following is a guest post by Kit Goldman. Is Work a Laughing Matter? first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

It’s been said that laughter is a survival skill in the often intense atmosphere of the workplace.

Well, guess what? It actually is.

If you Google “health benefits of laughter”, you get 2,240,000 14,000,000+ results. The secret is out! Laughter is a great way to promote physical and mental health, key ingredients for a high performing workplace.

Laughter boosts the immune system, lowers stress hormones, decreases pain, relaxes muscles, prevents heart disease and lowers anxiety, among many other benefits.

Laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary. It signals acceptance, positive interaction and membership in a group. There are thousands of languages, but everyone speaks laughter in pretty much the same way. Babies can laugh long before they speak. Children born without sight and hearing have an inherent ability to laugh.

Laughter is uniquely, innately human – like each of us!

As long as the source of laughter is not offensive, hurtful, or at someone else’s expense, mirthful moments at work can foster harmony and teamwork. Laughter can also help reduce conflict. It’s a lot harder to argue and stay mad at someone when you’ve shared some healthy laughter!

Some people would like to give the gift of laughter, but are afraid to take the risk. A well known survey shows that for many, speaking in public is their number one fear in life. Death was number 2! As Seinfeld observed, “At a funeral most people would rather be in the coffin then giving the eulogy!”

So… if you’d like to improve your humor proficiency and confidence, ask yourself these questions:

  • In a seemingly serious situation, what nuggets of humor can I find?
  • When faced with a potentially difficult situation, could humor help? Could it lead to a better outcome?
  • Am I funnier than I think I am? Less funny? Who will give me an honest assessment of my sense of humor?
  • Could I start my next meeting or conversation with a funny story?
  • What are the humorous situations in my life that have taught me something?

Here are some tips for keeping laughter safe and appropriate for the workplace:

  • Never joke about co-workers’ sexuality. You see the headlines about Sexual harassment. Don’t become one!
  • Don’t joke about people’s appearance. That is an emotionally charged area.
  • Stay away from religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation.
  • Avoid joking about bodily functions.

Yes, yes, we are talking about keeping your humor politically correct in the workplace. This can be challenging if the atmosphere of your workplace is down-to-earth and “family-style”. However, we must resist the urge to approach the boundary of harassment for a laugh. It’s not worth it! You can achieve healthy humor that enriches and enhances your workplace without it. Stick with humor everyone can enjoy, support, relax with — goodhearted laughter that gives those great mental and physical perks!

So… what are some fairly safe “targets” for getting laughs?

  • Yourself! Your own flaws and quirks. Making lighthearted jokes about yourself puts people at ease and brings them closer to you. They can relate. Humility is charming!
  • Situations you all face, i.e. new regulations, how busy it is, the industry, difficult customers you all deal with (with no customers present, of course!)
  • Personal characteristics with low ego-involvement. Most of us are sensitive about appearance, but we’re less invested in other aspects of ourselves. For example, I don’t mind colleagues sharing laughter with me about my bad handwriting, my raucous laugh, or how grumpy I am when I get up at 5 a.m. for pilates and there’s no coffee going when I get there! They do it with affection for who I am, not with disdain or ridicule.

We’ve been using humor as a powerful training tool for 20+ years. We’ve learned that people are much more open to learn when we laugh together. Even the most resistant employees are engaged and enlightened once we get them to relax and laugh a little!

 

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