A Funny Thing: Humor in the Workplace

Picture of Gina Blitstein Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts. That first-hand knowledge, matched with an insatiable curiosity to know more about just about anything, makes her a well-rounded writer with a sincere desire to engage and inform.

A Funny Thing: Humor in the Workplace

Before you take on the persona of a business owner, boss or manager, you’re a human being. And as a human, you possess a varied spectrum of emotions, moods and ways of interacting with the world and others. Getting into the rut of exercising only a few of them can lead to experiencing a stale, stunted existence. To live as a healthy and well-balanced person, it’s important to manifest the gamut of those human expressions.

Some of those expressions seem ideal for the workplace: seriousness, tenacity, critical thinking, diligence… In a very logical, straightforward sense, these traits contribute to getting a task or a project done. But what about widening the array of healthy human facets expressed in the workplace? How about humor? Does it have a place in the workplace? And if so, why?

Think about how humor - something that causes a chuckle, a laugh, an outright guffaw - affects you and those around you in your personal life: it diffuses anger, lessens frustration, lightens a tense situation. It sends a rush of calming endorphins throughout the body and mind, relaxing muscles and lowering blood pressure. Imagine if such a powerful tool were deployed in a place of business to enhance the working atmosphere.

Indeed, humor can be a welcome - and productivity-raising - addition to workplace culture. It’s proven that employing humor during the workday nets significant positive results. A study quoted in the Harvard Business Review states that leaders with a sense of humor are perceived to be 27% more motivating and admired than those who lack one. These leaders’ employees are 15% more engaged with their work, and their teams are more than twice as likely to be able to solve a creative challenge. Isn’t it a relief to know that you don’t always need to be wearing your "serious suit" when dealing with coworkers?

These statistics are no doubt due to the fact that humor is a great equalizer. Those who can laugh at themselves are highly relatable. We all goof up from time to time and when a superior laughs at themselves, they become humanized and less intimidating. And when humor is incorporated into the company culture, it results in no one taking themselves too seriously. A workplace with a lower sense of hierarchy is more collaborative. People work with greater ease and flow and the mood is lighter and more casual.

That is not to say that a workplace that embraces humor lacks structure and discipline. To the contrary - the humor augments the "vibe," making for a more convivial (and therefore more comfortable and productive) work environment. Positive workplace humor must be defined as a good natured attitude and easy manner of interaction. It is definitely not clowning around, playing pranks or utilizing cruel or demeaning words or actions. When humor is incorporated into the workplace culture, it does not stand out and get noticed; it blends seamlessly into the flow of the interactions taking place within the environment.

Utilizing humor in the workplace creates a generally friendlier, more conducive-to-productivity environment. It produces benefits like these:

  • Reduces overall stress
  • Breaks tension
  • Increases employee participation in projects and meetings
  • Improves employees’ memory for details
  • Creates a positive work atmosphere
  • Builds unity and team trust among coworkers
  • Breaks down barriers and helps coworkers know one another better
  • Allows employees to bring their whole selves to work
  • Helps keep issues that crop up in perspective and makes their resolution more likely
  • Makes for positive, lasting impressions of encounters with others
  • Promotes a sense of equity among layers of management
  • Prevents burnout

Are you ready to start incorporating more humor into your workplace? Don’t just start being uncharacteristically humorous; let your employees in on the joke. Explain to them how humor can enhance the workplace and ask them for suggestions about incorporating more of it into their day-today work experience. Together, decide upon the goal of your workplace "Humor Policy," its purpose and plans for its implementation. Stress to employees that this is not a mandate that they "become" humorous but rather that they feel free to adopt a more fun-based attitude and approach to the workday toward the goal of building a tighter knit workforce, based on trust and good humor.

Humor can be a valuable tool to keep workplace morale high. How does your company use humor in the workplace?

Read other Gina articles