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Workplace blogs

Why Humor in the Workplace is a Key to Success

As a business speaker and motivational speaker who speaks often on the topic of humor in the workplace, I sometimes have to sell the benefits of humor to some of my more skeptical clients.

Fortunately, this task has become much easier over the years.     zappos-team

A growing body of research is showing how the use of strategic, purposeful humor at work can help organizations brand themselves, attract employees, improve employee morale and engagement levels, lower workplace stress, improve employee retention rates, reduce employee absenteeism rates, improve creativity and innovation, improve workplace communication, enhance customer service and ultimately improve overall productivity.

Real-life examples from companies I’ve visited, including Zappos, Beryl,  AFA JCDecaux, Argus Industries and many, many more all demonstrate the humor advantage at work.

And consider just a small sampling of some of some of the data:

  • 75% of respondents in a survey said the number one kind of workplace they’d be most reluctant to leave is one that was fun, with good working relationships and high levels of trust
  • 82% of employees at Fortune 100 companies that were rated as “great” places to work by the Great Places to Work Institute agreed with the statement:  “I work in a fun organization”  (only 62% of employees in “good” companies agreed)
  • A meta-study of 275,000 people in more than 200 studies found that higher levels of employee morale and happiness  translated into lower absenteeism rates, lower employee turnover rates, higher sales, more creativity and higher productivity
  • Hewitt and Associates found that companies with higher levels of employee engagement and happiness outperformed other companies financially by 19%
  • Companies that focused on morale during the most recent recession bounced back faster
  • A study by Professor William Hampes found that there is a positive correlation between humor and trust

The numbers go on and one, while at the individual level the benefits of humor also abound:

  • Robert Half International Survey found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important to career advancement
  • 89% of CEOs believe all things being equal, they’d rather hire someone with a good sense of humor
  • A study by Fabia and Associates found that people with a better sense of humor tended to get bonuses and promotions more often
  • Robert Half study found that 84% of executives believe that a person with a good sense of humor does a better job
  • A  Bell leadership study found that the two most desirable traits of leaders  were a good work ethic and a healthy sense of humor
  • Several studies show that people with a health sense of humor tend to be more liked, trusted  and respected

The research evidence, surveys and real-life success stories of businesses around the globe that put humor to work for greater success all indicate that there’s nothing remotely trivial about humor as a business asset.  And what’s important to keep in mind is the chicken and egg relationship between humor and success. Not only does humor drive success, it also reflects success.   It’s the end result of working on a team or in an organization that is thriving.  As Paul Hawken wrote:   “Laughter and good humour are the canaries in the mine of commerce – when the laughter dies, it’s an early warning that life is ebbing from the enterprise.”

For more insights on why you really should (perhaps ironically) take humor more seriously, check out this great Forbes article that I’m quoted in:  Ten Reasons Why Humor is a Key to Success at Work.  

Copyright Michael Kerr, Humor at Work. Michael Kerr is a very funny business speaker, a  funny motivational speaker and a best selling author who helps organizations re-energize their cultures to help them drive the success they deserve. For information on how to bring Michael in to your workplace, contact   And for a weekly dose of fantastic insights, ideas and inspiration, be sure to sign up for the raved about weekly e-zine Humor at Work – Inspiring Workplaces.  




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