Former President Ronald Reagan was the epitome of leadership with a fair amount of humor. When running against Walter Mondale in 1984, during one of their debates, he said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Reagan was 73 at the time.
At a later point in time, Mondale made mention of that moment being when he realized he was going to lose the election. While humor, when used in the right manner, can be very beneficial, it has also carried a lot of negative baggage along with it over the years. Typically, as noted in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, authors Brad Bitterly and Alison Wood Brooks indicated that humor is typically left off of characteristics people value in leadership. That is, until now.
While instilling humor in your workplace may not be a top priority for your growth, a strong case could be made that it can be a component that helps your company succeed.
Many people feel laughter in the workplace is not only good for us, it can be used in many productive ways. The author of “Ha! The Science of When We Laugh and Why,” Dr. Scott Weems, says that humor is a form of mental exercise. “It is a way of keeping the brain engaged.” Our brain likes to look ahead of where we are at the moment. In a landmark study from Tel Aviv University determined that subjects who heard a comedy album before taking a test on creativity, scored twenty percent higher than those who didn’t listen to the album beforehand. In many respects, laughter can be likened to the ‘rush’ we receive after an intensive workout.
Further research indicates employers prefer to hire people with a sense of humor. By introducing laughter into the culture of a company, a study by the Human Relations journal indicated the use of humor actually attracted skilled workers.
If there is stress in your business, relieving that stress might take a little humor. Psychologist Arnold Cann did an experiment where subjects saw a stand-up comedy routine before viewing a deeply disturbing file depicting many scenes of death. The overall conclusion reached by Cann showed that humor can help protect us from some forms of stress.
It is better to have someone walking around your place of business with a smile on their face, than a frown, or a blank expression. Two of those three possibilities are not conducive to a friendly or productive work environment. A lack of humor can result in a negative atmosphere, whereas a few well placed jokes can create a positive and happy atmosphere.
Some people will put various quips, quotes, or humorous anecdotes at the bottom of their e-mails. Many a comment has been received by someone who, up to the point of reading the e-mail, was having a bad day. By reading that one line or humorous situation, it made their day.
Laughter can be instilled in the workplace several ways. Jokes and funny stories usually hit the mark in staff meetings. Recounting a few stories or telling a few clean and well-intentioned jokes before dismissing the staff from their daily, weekly, or monthly meeting will give them an opportunity to leave with a smile on their face.
You might use your employees as the source for the jokes, not mentioning who submitted what joke (in case it bombs), but by giving them the self-satisfaction in knowing their joke was selected by you and it put a smile on everyone’s face or generated a hearty laugh from someone in the audience.
Andrew Tarvin, a New York based humor coach has said “The best office humor brings people together, often through shared pranks or inside jokes.” In addition, the Leadership & Organization Development Journal has done research that shows the use of self-deprecating humor in the workplace implies you are more approachable and human.
Laughter is also the universal language, according to neuroscientist Robert Provine. “All language groups, laugh basically the same way……everyone will understand laughter.”
Without a doubt, the better your company morale, the better your company productivity. The more your company productivity, the more likely it will be to grow. As the creator of humor in your workplace, you should see many of the positive aspects and results for your business.