Mix business with pleasure? Add copious amounts of fun and humor to the workplace? Surely, you can’t be serious!
Some people react incredulously to the notion that they need to spend time focusing on their organization’s laugh line instead of their bottom line. Visions of skateboarding executives, whoopee cushions at meetings and toga parties in the boardroom dance through their heads. Mixing humor into a business environment, these humor-challenged professionals believe, will result in anarchy, chaos and an unprofessional approach to work. Productivity will plummet as employees are given a license to goof off. Furthermore, they argue, humor is nothing but trivial fluff, something we just can’t afford to waste our valuable time or resources on. In other words, if you’re having fun on the job, these folks believe, you must not be getting any real work accomplished.
These misconceptions about adding humor into the workplace often result in a stifled, over-serious work environment where creativity is suppressed and enthusiasm stifled at every turn. Here are five of the most common “mirth-conceptions” about humor in the workplace:
Humor is no joke. Adding humor into a work environment doesn’t mean we need to morph into stand up comics and lurk by the water cooler all day zinging one liners at innocent bystanders. Having a sense of humor, in fact, isn’t remotely connected to telling jokes or even being funny.Having a sense of humor is about having a sense of perspective about our workplace problems and challenges. It’s about seeing the absurdity in day to day situations and about how we react to things that happen to us. Adding humor to the workplace is about using our humor resource (a skill we can all practice and develop) to keep ourselves balanced in the face of a crisis, to manage our stress and to help us problem solve in a more creative fashion.
When things go wrong – smile. Some people worry that using humor is merely a window dressing solution to more serious underlying problems. When the going gets rough, all we have to do is smile from ear to ear and cheerfully tell everyone to “turn their frown upside down” and somehow our problems will magically disappear.Using humor as an emotional barrier or defensive shield to avoid serious problems can be as dangerous as not accessing our sense of humor. Putting humor to work effectively, rather, is about learning to use our humor resource to help us face our problems head on. Laughing in the face of a workplace crisis helps us maintain a positive and flexible mental attitude, reduce stress levels and think more creatively when confronted with a challenge.
If I have fun people aren’t going to think I am a professional. Adding humor and fun to the workplace is about learning to take ourselves lightly, not our jobs. Of course we need to take our work and our goals seriously, but this does not mean we need to take ourselves seriously or take the things around us that we have no control over seriously. In fact, in order to do a good job and be as professional as we can at whatever we do, it’s often imperative that we learn to take ourselves lightly.
Adding fun will lead to anarchy and productivity will plummet. There is a profound difference between acting childish and child-like. Behaving more child-like and creating a workplace culture where creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm and appropriate humor is encouraged can improve morale, motivate employees to work harder, stimulate creative thinking skills, strengthen teamwork, reduce workplace stress and ultimately lead to improved productivity. It’s not rocket science – we do best what we enjoy doing.
Humor is trivial fluff and not the “important” stuff we need to focus on. Many managers are realizing that the so called “soft stuff” is the “stuff” that makes or breaks a successful organization. As management guru Tom Peters put it, focusing solely on the bottom line is like trying to play tennis while staring at the scoreboard – it’s a surefire recipe for disaster.
It’s equally perilous to dismiss humor as trivial. When one considers the role humor has been credited by countless adventures, explorers, prisoners of war, hostage victims and even holocaust survivors as a survival tool we should probably take a closer look at the power of our humor resource.
Viktor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, recounts his experience surviving a holocaust camp during world war two. Frankl speaks eloquently about the role his sense of humor played in helping him rise above an unspeakably horrific circumstance. He made a pact with a friend in the camp to share a humorous observation or joke about life in the camp or after the camp if they survived. Frankl describes how his inner spirit, including his sense of humor, was the one thing no one could ever take away from him and he credits his humor resource as helping him save his life. If humor can save lives, what could it do for your organization?
Now that we have these humor myths cleared up the real question is, “If you’re not creating a more fun, enthusiastic, humor-filled and spirited workplace, what’s stopping you?”
Michael Kerr is an international speaker, trainer and author of “The Humor Advantage,” “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work” and “Inspiring Workplaces.” You can reach Michael at 1-(866)-609-2640 or firstname.lastname@example.org . For more humor at work articles, DVDs and other humor at work resources, surf on over to www.mikekerr.com. Michael helps workplaces reduce stress, boost morale, spark creativity and increase productivity by putting humor to work.
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