Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

The Hump Day Humor-Gram Issue #30, January 22,03

Please feel free to pass this along to the in-laws, the out-laws or even the inside-out laws . . .

WARNING: May contain some trace of peanuts.

In this issue . . .

1. Humour in the Workplace – Iranian Style
2. Mike’s Fun at Work Tip – Signs of Our Times
3. Quote of the Week
4. It’s a Wacky, Wacky World
All the best to you, your colleagues and your families for a prosperous, healthy and humour-filled 2003! May the farce be with each and every one of you.
1. Humor in the Workplace – Iranian Style

“Surely, you can’t be serious!” people told me endlessly, “Surely you’re NOT speaking about humor in the workplace . . . in IRAN?”

Well, the answer is yes and no (and quit calling me Shirley).

Yes, I did travel to Iran for over two weeks in December, but no, not to speak about humor in the workplace, but rather to co-facilitate three training courses on leadership skills and creativity in the workplace. Part of the courses involved using theatre improvisational techniques to talk about the role of creativity in the workplace, and in all three courses, the discussion meandered over to the topic of creating positive, healthy and, yes, even fun working environments.

This was no simple task. Although I found everyone I encountered to be gracious, warm, happy and EXTREMEMLY welcoming, there were some obvious cultural differences when it came to humor in the workplace.

When I showed one of our wonderful Iranian female assistants one of my wacky props (some mental floss), she leaned in towards me and with a tight smile on her face, said: “I’m not allowed to laugh out loud, but that is hilarious.”
And although the men laughed more easily in public, and joked easily with each other, their laughter was always somewhat constrained as well. When we visited some folks in the privacy of their homes, however, both the men and women laughed easily and much more openly.

As for the practice of humour in the workplace, this was something that was clearly new to them for the most part (as it is to many North American companies!). Yet it was obvious that the companies we worked with shared many of
the same workplace stressors and the same desire to be more creative and innovative as with western companies.

And as the discussions evolved around the topic of workplace culture, it became clear that despite the cultural differences, the similarities were more striking that the differences. There were clearly the same challenges wrapped around wearing a “professional, public” mask in the workplace, around authoritative workplace cultures and concerns over “what the boss might think.”

So what passes for Iranian humor? I did try out some Iranian jokes that I had researched on the web (yes, there are Iranian humor web sites). Making sure that the humor was 100% “safe humor”, I opted for jokes about one of their small cars, the Paykan (clearly not the vehicle of choice in Iran):

What do you call the passengers in the back seat of a Paykan?
Shock absorbers.

What do you call a Paykan at the top of a hill?
A miracle!

Yes, I had them almost rolling in the aisles with these little gems.
Well okay, laughing politely is more like it.

And after two sometimes challenging weeks, I did discover, once again, that laughter truly is a universal language.

2. Mike’s Fun at Work Tip – Signs of Our Times

For the Calgarians in the crowd who caught the front page article this Monday featuring my goofy mug (I know, I know, it must have been a slow news day) you’ll already know how those wacky folks at WestJet Airlines decorate their offices:

A sign announcing: “Big Shots” hangs at their corporate office, Bean Counters announces the accounting department, while the human resources sign has been replaced by the much friendlier sounding: “People Department”.

So, taking an inspiring page (or at least a sign) from WestJet, what fun signs can you put up in your office?
“Beat the Blues Special Offer”

To help you and your colleagues beat the January blues into the ground
order a copy of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work” before
January 31st and you’ll receive 20% off the regular price! (I know, I
can’t believe it either!).

Order five or more copies and we’ll knock a whopping 50% off the total
price. For information on the book surf up
3. Quote of the Week

“When policy fails, try thinking.”

4. It’s a Wacky, Wacky World

Nudists around the world are rejoicing, or at least those taking part in the world’s first nude flight scheduled to fly between Miami and Cancun this May.

(I’ll say this much: it’s one way to speed up the old trek through the security line!)
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2003

International speaker Michael Kerr, “The Workplace Energizer” is the
author of five books, including When Do You Let the Animals Out? and
You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work. Michael delivers
keynote talks and workshops on humor in the workplace, business
creativity and public speaking skills.

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