What happened to humour? Workplaces have become spaces of no humour and I miss having lighter moments at work.
I remember growing up watching sitcoms of office humour and I remember hoping that someday I would work with people who were in touch with their humorous side and a workday would be filled with laughter and joy. While I have had some colleagues, who are full of humour of different forms, to most part, a lot of people either mask their humour or just don’t have a humorous side.
The benefits of humour at the workplace are innumerable, yet we seem to live in a world that gets more jaded by the day and all joy and mirth is somehow lost in the race.
Laughter is the best medicine is a line that never becomes irrelevant and it’s a good thing for us to evaluate how much of humour is in our workplace and how much do we really laugh at work.
I remember a few times being sent out of the conference room because I found something so funny that I couldn’t keep the laughter down or mask my grinning. Both instances I remember the people who caused the laughter were up to imitating one of the others and both from different organisations were popular and much loved. Humour is an amazing tool and makes you endearing.
A lot of people think that if you are funny you won’t be taken seriously, or you won’t garner respect. That is a true misconception as I know some successful leaders who have used their humour to their advantage and continue to succeed and grow.
When people take themselves too seriously, the atmosphere of work becomes dry and boring. While work is an important aspect and management isn’t a joke, just introducing humour into the workplace can be the breath of fresh air that it needs.
There are books on how to infuse humour into the workplace, there are courses on how leadership using humour really elevates the culture of a workplace. Statistics prove that laughter is a tool to enable business success. So, all the numbers and theories are pointing in a certain direction. All we need now is to put them into practice.
Here are a few reasons why humour helps at the workplace:
- Humour builds bonds and bridges
- Humour makes you human
- Laughter is a mechanism to relieve stress and reduce burnout
- Humour builds a congenial atmosphere and a sustainable and positive culture
- It helps build trust as it is disarming and comes from an honest space
- It helps motivate people and builds up morale
- Humour helps you to stand out of the crowd and creates a personality, both for brands and people
- It’s also a tool to improve productivity
- It helps improve creativity and improves brain capacity
- Humour is proven to improve decision-making capabilities in people
- It also helps acceptance and openness to diverse ideas and people
- It promotes design thinking and helps create connections
- It is a great way to diffuse conflict as it is quite disarming
- Humour improves health and is a wellness measure
I can go on about how humour is such a great way to build a great place to work and build great brands or just simply to be used by leadership to their advantage. But, the instances of humour around us in the workplace aren’t promising and the hope is that people embrace humour a lot more than they do now.
One of my favourite quotes on leadership and humour captures how I feel perfectly, and it goes like this:
Next to power without honour, the most dangerous thing in the world is power without humour.
— Eric Sevareid
Humour can be in many different forms and ways. It can just be clever wit or sarcasm, or wry comic timing. We all have a funny bone, it’s about finding it and using it to our advantage. It’s good to create a humour code to avoid being unauthentic. Honesty and authenticity to who you are should be the primary premise of who you are at the core.
Leaders can use it to their advantage as it makes them more amicable and adds a touch of realism to them. It helps them drive outcomes and build a culture that is open and welcoming. It’s also a great way to communicate messages in such a way that they last, and people remember messages communicated with humour a lot longer than those without.
It’s always good to exercise caution and judgement while using humour and as they say discretion is the better part of valor. Ill humour has far reaching negative consequences and can damage reputation so it’s good to be careful. Insensitivity or offensive content to a group of people is avoidable, especially racist and sexist jokes and patronising commentary. Humour that is not in line with the culture or context and badly timed humour is also something to be aware of and avoided.
For me, what always worked was being the joke myself. I would always be comic relief and would be the butt end of every joke. I always laugh along and never take myself or what I do so seriously that I miss out on the fun and laughter. I was always called a sport for playing along and it never did pull me down in any form. I can laugh with my teams and my peers and joke with my boss and still be respected for who I am and what I do.
We take ourselves and our work a tad too seriously and we forget that life is about living in the moments and living to the fullest.
So, go on, explore your humorous side and the next time you have an opportunity, don’t shy away from using it!