Humor at Work: Office Jokers Can Play Important Role in Workplace Culture

A study reported in the International Journal of Humor Research  looked at the role of “the joker” in three different IT companies in New Zealand. The study found that the jokers were considered invaluable members of the organization by both their peers and managers.

The office joker played four key roles: they pushed the boundaries; they questioned authority without subverting it; they helped develop a strong culture; and they provided much-needed relief.  Medieval court jesters reminded the king or queen of the”hubris” that can accompany power; the modern day IT jokers also played this role to some degree. The jokers in these companies also played a key role in keeping the corporate history alive, by retelling funny past stories. And by bigstockphoto_Man_And_Coffee_Mug_1119173challenging management in a humorous way, the jokers were often considered heroes by their colleagues, which helped cement a sense of camaraderie. Some brave companies have even taken to hiring outside comedians to poke fun at organizational policies and management as a way to laugh at themselves and raise uncomfortable truths that are easier said through humor.

Now of course there is some risk here. In some cultures perhaps an enormous amount of risk! But I really like what a senior manager in the study had to say about the role of the joker: “They are the glue of the organization and 95% of the time they are good for the company. The other 5% of the time they might overstep the mark,  but overall, the good definitely outweighs the bad.”

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Mike’s Fun at Work Tip

Add a “I’d like to take the moment to thank _______” section to your meetings, and give everyone around the table a moment to thank  someone. This simple gesture, once it becomes a normal routine, can help remind everyone of the need to build a culture of appreciation and respect.

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Quote of the Week

“What is funny about ourselves is precisely that we take ourselves too seriously.” Reinhold Neibuhr

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It’s a Wacky World

Today is official “Eat What You Want” day! (You’re welcome!) And  for all you cat lovers out there, tomorrow, May 12th is “Hug Your Cat” day!

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Copyright Michael Kerr, 2011 www.humoratwork.com

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