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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 2
Issue 4

Laughter Between the Cubes

Business does not necessarily have to be as serious as it is. Sharing a few wise remarks and adding a little humor to discussions of business strategies and customer issues can be helpful. After all, we are not discussing brain surgery. Even surgeons can be funny while doing their work. Do you oldies but goodies remember the television show MASH? If you are a lot younger, think about Scrubs as an example.

Humor does not mean off-color jokes or any jokes for that matter. Humor can flow nicely through natural conversation. It can be recalling a story that seemed traumatic at the time but in retrospect is actually quite funny.

Humor about the workplace is a big industry. Ask Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip. You have to laugh at the absurdity of working in a cubical and attending long non-productive meetings; and identify with having clueless managers. We have all been there.

The office is not the only place in business using humor. If you watch the Super Bowl, which is serious and competitive, you see humor used in the ads. The ads often get as much hype as the game. Raking in $2.4 million per 30-second ad, the show's producers laugh all the way to the bank.

Organizations can benefit from humor because it:

  • Releases stress and prevents burnout. Laughter releases a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Serotonin improves your mood and helps you feel happy and relaxed. People who are less stressed are more productive.
  • Encourages team building. People will enjoy working with each other more if they have fun as they work together. Also, they get to know each other better.
  • Improves attitude and increases company loyalty. Fun in the workplace makes employees feel good about their work and makes them less likely to change jobs.
  • Stimulates creativity and problem-solving skills. Play and humor allow people the freedom to think "out of the box." It encourages innovation and improves problem-solving skills.
  • Reduces frustration and conflicts. Fun in the workplace can make people less on edge and more tolerant of others.

You may not think of yourself as naturally funny, but humor is in the situation. It is a state of mind rather than a skill. You just need to see the humor around you. Take notice of Harold who always has a stash of candy on his desk and a group of colleagues standing around who "need" to check with Harold about something. Then there is Amy, who is always misplacing files. Now everyone just brings stray folders left on the copier straight to Amy's desk. There are many ways to build an environment that invites and appreciates appropriate humor.

Some ways to build a fun environment:

  • Tap into the most comical people in your company. There are always a few funny individuals around who could qualify for stand-up at a comedy club.
    Use fun exercises and games. They help engage people in team projects and stimulate new ideas.
  • Poke fun at yourself. You can be very serious about your business, but don't take yourself too seriously.
  • Provide a special space for relaxing and fun. Many companies have special areas for foosball or ping-pong. It's the sandbox of the business world.
  • Create a skit or parody about your company. Use your most creative people. It can strengthen group identity as well as provide belly laughs.

If you make the workplace an enjoyable one, everyone will get a lot more done; you will attract and retain employees; you will be more approachable. As an added advantage, you will enjoy your time at work, too, whether in an office or in a cube.

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