When it comes to humor, or rather a sense of humor, I find that it is the most important quality I look for in someone I can work really well with, be good friends with or have an intimate relationship with. So many people find it vital to their mental health to find humor everywhere they go, or else they will be inclined to see a “distorted,” negative view of the world.
Specifically, in the workplace, humor has its purpose and place if done appropriately. For example, some companies find it beneficial to have team-building workshops or retreats that place humor at the top of the agenda. In addition, they might do things like hire a professional caricature artist to come on-site (or virtual) to lead their initiative. These professionals can create caricature portraits to be used in their internal communications for their professional headshots to invite a more approachable “brand” image of their team.
Having a sense of humor in the workplace can create a more cohesive and productive environment. Whether through team-building exercises, workshops centered around humor or incorporating humor into your everyday work life, it will make work more enjoyable.
In group settings, laughter will strengthen interpersonal relationships, promote group bonding, facilitate teamwork as well as cooperation, and defuse conflict. And if used appropriately, humor can convey a sense of humanity, overcome barriers, build trust, and encourage empathy.
At some point in our lives, we have heard many intelligent people talk about the essential life skill of humor. Some of the sayings that resonate with me best are below:
- “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”
― Audrey Hepburn
- “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
- “Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now.”
― Veronica Roth, Divergent
- “If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.”
― Robert Frost
- “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”
― Maya Angelou
- “If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know a man, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, of seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you will get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky
- “Laughter is the best medicine.”
― The Bible, Proverbs 17:22, “it is true—a merry heart really does a spirit, soul and body good like medicine.” There are spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits of joy and laughter.
- “Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.”
― W.H. Auden
And this last one resonated with me best. My closest friends, colleagues, and family have the power to really make me “belly” laugh, and we ‘get’ one another in a deeply spiritually intimate and powerfully humorous way. Their wit and sincerity bring joy to life and am genuinely grateful for the bond we share.
Examples of inappropriate humor in the workplace
“But it was just a joke!”, “You’re too sensitive!”, “Jeez, I was just teasing you!”, “Just kidding! You just take everything too seriously!” Any of these sound familiar? Unfortunately, these are all things people say when someone reacts negatively to inappropriate humor in the workplace, home, or school. And that is not ok. It is a form of emotional abuse. Whether it is an off-hand comment, a casual remark, or a mocking phrase, these can be hurtful and have a lasting impact.
While humor can create bonds and cohesiveness in the workplace, if not used appropriately, it can be misinterpreted wrong, especially if the person is not being respectful or professional. Additionally, this type of humor is viewed as bullying in a school setting. It has the ability to emotionally and psychologically hurt others so profoundly that it affects how they grow into adulthood.
So whether in school or at work, creating a safe environment that fosters character and kindness through humor is essential. Here are a few examples of inappropriate usage of humor to avoid:
- Making jokes about someone’s physical appearance
- Jokes about someone’s age
- Making jokes regarding race, gender, or sexual orientation
- About disabilities
- Concerning religious beliefs
- Making jokes about sensitive political topics
- Jokes about economic backgrounds
- About work performance
- Telling offensive or off-color jokes
- Sharing jokes or memes that are not appropriate for the workplace
Negative effects of humor in the workplace are sometimes severe enough that they result in a violation of any number of state or federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA). Federal agencies have steadily increased the enforcement of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in recent years.
How to implement humor in the workplace
Now we have been shown what not to do, let’s lighten things up again and talk about the right way to use humor and learn how to best implement humor in the workplace.
According to a study done by Harvard Business School, “shared laughter accelerates a feeling of closeness and trust. For example, when pairs of strangers were prompted to laugh together for five minutes before completing a self-disclosure exercise, their interactions were viewed as 30% more intimate than duos who conversed without laughing first. Even reminiscing about moments of shared laughter causes couples to report being 23% more satisfied in their relationships. And research by Gallup shows that one of the greatest drivers of employee performance is having a close friend — presumably one you laugh with — at work.”
To bring more humor into the workplace, even during trying times, here are some suggestions to consider incorporating:
- Recognize that everyone has their style of humor and that any kind of levity brings benefits;
- Use clever, witty signoffs to emails, such as “Stay safe, stay sane, and stay funny!”;
- Share funny stories and anecdotes, such as your favorite “Dad Joke”;
- Exchange jokes with colleagues, but keep it appropriate and professional, such as a pun about your job title;
- Utilize gifs, memes, and other visual humor to lighten the mood, such as a “That Moment When” meme;
- Make lighthearted jokes about shared experiences, such as “Looks like we’re all Zoom experts now!”;
- Try some self-deprecating humor, such as “I guess I’m the last one to understand this new tech”;
- Use humor to diffuse tense situations, such as “Well, I guess we can all agree that it’s been a wild ride, and that sucked!”.
Always remember to run your jokes or humorous ideas by a trusted friend, therapist, colleague, or HR department before using them. Utilizing these tips can bring levity and laughter into the workplace appropriately and professionally.
Why is humor in the workplace important?
Why? Because silly! Seriously though, all jokes aside – humor can be a powerful tool for leaders in the workplace. Many studies have shown that leaders with a sense of humor are seen as twenty-seven percent more motivating and admired than their counterparts. Ultimately, it leads to their teams being more engaged and better able to solve creative challenges, increasing customer willingness to pay by eighteen percent! At the end of the day, humor in the workplace leads to improved performance, increased engagement, and greater success.
Examples of humor in the workplace
In conclusion, humor in the workplace is a powerful tool to help foster a positive and productive environment. Leaders can use appropriate and self-deprecating humor to increase team morale, foster better relationships, and create a more engaging and successful workplace.
And in the words of Warner Brothers Looney Tunes Porky Pig, “Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!”