How often do you consider adding humor to your workday?
Being a leader or supervisor is difficult. Every second of every hour revolves around meetings, unexpected last-minute fires and constant team-building. Besides having an impressive title with lots of responsibilities, leaders deal with considerable pressure to keep staff happy while avoiding trouble, ie, Human Resources detentions. (See HR Detentions further below.)
A priority too often overlooked is use of humor at work. Admittedly, humor can be tricky - especially if it is at others' expense. Some of us seem to think humor exchanges represent a huge waste of time. Boy, are we mistaken.
Humor, hands down, can turn frowns into profit, gossip into problem-solving, and boredom into productivity. There is no other form of human interaction which promotes so many positives in one fell swoop. Polishing our humor skills takes time and a yearning to bring out the authentic and lighter side in ourselves and others.
Humor solves three major hurdles for leaders
Innovation. The brain never tires of capturing signals that distract, stimulate and entertain. Once the brain feels it on target, it tells anxiety and stress to mark some other territory. Cat videos are a prime example of signals finding the right targets to keep the cat energized. Check out your brain and cat videos here. Humor is a perfect example of using distraction, stimulation and entertainment at the same time with the added bonus of entering the imagination portal. When the brain engages with positive humor it accesses the portal to creativity and resolution over stale suggestions and unnecessary drama.
Engagement. The art of successfully engaging employees is a constant challenge. Beyond financial incentives, flex-time and a certificate of appreciation, employees crave a workplace which reflects their personal values. They long to connect to others invested in maintaining like values. Humor is both a powerful tool and value which links people to the organizational structure and culture. People yearn for the feeling of looking forward to coming to work, not the reverse.
Team building. Humor builds trust among individuals, teams and leaders. A humor mindset helps individuals take themselves and others less seriously. Its favorable effects reveal how a smile or a joke forms bonds and showcases our humanity as a driving force of solid relationships. People are more cooperative and willing to treat team members with more kindness, respect and to lend a hand in times of struggles and setbacks. More on the use of humor at work here.
Why humor is amazing for your workplace
Leaders should know that people are attracted to those who possess healthy humor. This amazing attribute reflects someone who is confident, open-minded and agreeable. Projecting this type of image is priceless. Leaders can tap into the respect, attention, admiration of their team through humor.
How humor can be an automatic Human Resources’ detention
Humor can take a serious downturn when it harms others. If humor offends or makes fun of co-workers, other leaders or clients, a climate of tension ensues. Staff walk around scratching their heads and wonder who will be the next victim. If harmful humor persists, it can be perceived as a form of bullying.
Tommy and Louise: Humor gone wrong
Louise thinks it’s funny when she insults Tommy for his quirky laugh. At first Tommy ignored Louise. Over time his tolerance has diminished, and he is now uncomfortable around Louise. Feeling ashamed, Tommy spends more time in his office than with his co-workers. What should Tommy do?
Ignore the jokes and quietly keep doing his work? (Avoidance)
Answer Louise back with similar insults, argue with her and make a scene? (Attack)
Stop talking with everyone and just perform his work and go home? (Lonely)
Ask Louise to stop her comments by saying: "I'm sure the jokes are meant with no bad intentions, but they're making me uncomfortable. I'd appreciate it if you would stop." (Proactive)
Report Louise to Human Resources? (Escalate)
Talk to a friend for support? (Guidance)
It’s obvious that Tommy has several options in addressing Louise. He needs to determine which option(s) provide adequate emotional relief. He should also expect to spend some time recovering from the situation as his resentment likely won’t disappear overnight.
And another thing ...
Don’t bother with insults, gossip and laughing at someone because of their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity. If you are unable to share jokes with someone you care about, like your mom or grandpa, consider another strategy.