Once, I was in a particularly tense meeting where everyone sported grim faces. You could cut the air in the room with a knife. The subject on the table concerned options, none of which were especially pleasant. Getting tired with the meeting, and the lack of decision making, I announced, “It seems to me that it’s kind of like playing golf in the Philippines, ‘you have to play the ball where the monkey drops it’.” At least for that moment, the tension was minimized and clearer thoughts prevailed which led to a decision.
Humor in the workplace can be beneficial, leading to creativity and a lengthened life span. An article entitled “leading With Humor” by Alison Beard appeared in the May 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review which discussed the benefits of using humor in the business environment:
“The workplace needs laughter. According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a host of business benefits. Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.
And yet, as the MBA candidate Eric Tsytsylin recently put it in a video presentation featured on the Stanford website, working adults are “in the midst of a laughter drought.” Babies laugh, on average, 400 times a day; people over 35, only 15. A recent study of Gallup data for the U.S. found that we laugh significantly less on weekdays than we do on weekends. Work is a sober endeavor.”
Using humor to diffuse tension in business settings can provide needed relief and make the workplace more fun. Iconic legends like Dilbert have been poking fun at the workplace for years and, thankfully, there is no letup in sight. Humor reminds us not to take things so .
It goes without saying that humor must comply with certain etiquette. Making fun of other people is dangerous and, taboos like race, sex or religion should be avoided at all cost. Often the safest thing is to poke fun at yourself. People tend to see us differently when we can lighten up with ourselves and show that we are human. After all, human beings are basically funny creatures!
Don’t use humor if you are just not good at it. As Robin William’s character, Adrian Cronauer, in the movie, Good Morning Vietnam, indicated to his lieutenant, “you’re just not that funny”. Encourage others who are good at it instead.
Does humor lead to success in business and life? In her recent article appearing in Forbes magazine entitled, “Are Funny People More Successful in Business?”, Jenna Goudreau references Steven Sultanoff, Ph.D., former president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor:
“Sultanoff says that people who are funny likely will be perceived as more enjoyable and as better employees because they are in fact more successful. ‘If someone is using humor then they are connecting with people and building relationships, which creates opportunities that other people may not have’.”
We are all bestowed with certain gifts that make us the unique people that we are. Employing humor is fun and that after all is what life is all about.