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 Humor in the Workplace Articles

by Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

Changing Corporate Perceptions of the Value of Humor

Work vs. Prison: In prison, you spend most of your time in an 8 x 10 cell. At work, you spend most of your time in a 6 x 8 cubicle. In prison, the reward for good behavior is time off. At work, the reward for good behavior is more work. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Making Work Fun

A funny thing is happening in American companies these days. From very small companies to Fortune 500 corporations, businesses are learning to put fun to work. The word is out that employees who enjoy their jobs work more effectively and are more productive, and companies are reexamining a long-held assumption that has formed the core of the American work ethic. That assumption is that work and play don’t mix. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

 25 Ideas for Building Fun into Your Work Setting

1) Hire competent employees who already value fun and have a sense of humor.
2) Be sure humor and fun are modeled by top management.
3) Establish a Fun Committee.
4) Provide challenging work.
5) Encourage spontaneity on the job.
6)Create a humor bulletin board...(Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor Reduces Job Stress

An artist, a psychologist, and a corporate manager are facing a firing squad. They are each allowed one last request. The artist says, "I’d love to have one last look at an impressionist paining." The psychologist asks to give a brief talk about coping with stress. The corporate manager then jumps up and says, "Shoot me first! I can’t take another talk on stress management!"

For many employees, a good part of every work day is now spent at tension levels that are worsening job performance and the quality of service provided. But we now know that there is no more effective tool than humor to quickly reduce tension, and re-energize efforts to complete the task. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor Improves Employee Morale

One of the most consistent trends I have noticed in companies through the 1990s and into the new century has been a drop in employee morale. People who used to love their jobs are burned out and just don‘t enjoy coming to work any more. . . There is no more powerful tool for improving morale (with the possible exception of doubling one’s salary) than making work fun. Fun, humor and laughter are enjoyable in their own right, but they also make your work more enjoyable by reducing the stress your job generates—as well as the negative emotional state that goes with it. They help let go of frustrations and upsets that accumulate during the day. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Team Building: Humor Strengthens a Team Identity or Team Spirit

Most companies emphasize the importance of building a team spirit or team identity at all levels of the organization. The idea is that if individual employees feel like a meaningful part of a larger whole, they are more likely to take the initiative to do whatever is necessary to achieve the goals of the team. This helps assure the success of the team, and successful teams mean a successful company. The challenge of creating dynamic and effective teams that work well together has become greater in recent years, however, as the employees composing teams have become more culturally diverse. . . Humor is a powerful tool in building more cohesive groups. And this is important, because cohesive groups work together better in pursuing common goals—especially in situations where there are expectations for high performance. Managers in a variety of work settings who initiate humor have been shown to be more likely to become an integral part of a socially cohesive group. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Using Humor to Boost Creativity

Creative thinking in the workplace is more important now than ever before. With the rapid pace of change that has been occurring throughout this decade, every company in the country has had to face up to the fact that the old solutions don't work any more. In fact, the problems themselves are often new. This means that it is essential to have employees in your organization who are capable of "thinking outside the box," and coming up with innovative and effective solutions that your competitors have not thought of. . . There has been research since the 1950s documenting a close relationship between humor and creativity. People with a better sense of humor tend to be more creative. There is even evidence that you can boost scores on a standardized test of creativity by exposing people to humor or other conditions which establish a "playful atmosphere." (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor Helps Produce an Emotionally Intelligent Workplace

The last decade has seen a tremendous growth of interest in what is generally referred to as emotional intelligence (EI). Corporations now spend a great deal of money in efforts to boost their managers’ EI in the belief that this will sharply improve job performance and quality of service. Humor skills are now known to be central to several different components of emotional intelligence, including the management of both your own emotions and thoise of others, the ability to motivate yourself and others, the facilitation of thought and problem-solving skills, and the ability to cope with job stress. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor Improves Communication

"Have I reached the person to whom I am speaking?" (Lily Tomlin, as Ernestine)

No matter what kind of job you have, communication will always be an important aspect of your work, whether it’s in meetings, phone conversations with clients or discussions between managers and other employees. A good sense of humor supports good communication be removing barriers betwen management and non-management staff, facilitating awkward communications, softening the emotional tone of communications, and more.  It is also a powerful ally in conducting effective meetings. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor Energizes Employees, Physically and Emotionally

If you’re like most people, you feel physically and emotionally drained at the end of high stress days. And since many employees now experience stress every day they walk into their office, this feeling of being drained is now a commonplace experience. Over a decade ago (1994), a poll showed that 42% of American workers felt "used up by the end of the day." It’s no surprise that so many employees are burned out. And this is precisely why leaders in many companies have made finding ways to revitalize their work force a top priority. Other articles at this website discuss the many ways in which companies are putting fun to work. All of these fun activities are designed to help revitalize employees and help them enjoy their work. Most people use their weekends to revitalize themselves. They do things that are fun to regenerate the energy and aliveness that the work week steals from them. By building opportunities for fun and laughter into the workplace, you provide opportunities for this revitalization to occur every day. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor Boosts Sales

"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."  (Victor Borge)

Any experienced sales person can tell you about the power of humor in sales. Humor helps break down any initial objections the potential buyer has by creating a positive emotional disposition toward both you and the product or idea. It also holds the buyer’s attention even when s/he may prefer to direct attention elsewhere. This is why radio and television commercials now use humor so often. When you think of frogs and lizards, chances are a particular beer comes into mind (along with a mental grin) from the commercials of the mid-1990s. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

Humor as a Management Tool

If at first you don't succeed, try management.

In addition to helping employees cope with change, humor is the only management tool you'll ever find that will do all the following: Strengthen bonds between co-workers, create rapport with customers, get and hold attention, strengthen memory of the points you want to be remembered, persuade others to see (and perhaps adopt) your point of view, make awkward communications less difficult, deflect criticism, reduce tension, frustration and anger, manage conflicts, reduce burnout, remove intimidating barriers between management and non-management employees, bolster eroding trust, boost morale and motivate employees, build resilience, stimulate creative problem solving, sustain a positive attitude on the job, and keep everyday hassles and problems in perspective. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)

The Negative Side of Humor: Put-Down Jokes

We've all seen situations where humor alienates people and creates barriers. The problem here, of course, is the kind of humor employees use on the job. Humor that disrupts and weakens teams is generally some kind of put-down humor—humor in which there is a clear victim or butt of the joke. This kind of humor always feels like "laughing at" rather than "laughing with." It seems to be part of human nature to tell jokes which poke fun at other groups or individuals. . . If you know a lot of jokes poking fun at other racial or ethnic groups, the opposite sex, etc., and tell them on the job, it's just a matter of time until you seriously offend someone (even if they laugh at your joke). With increasing levels of cultural diversity emerging in most work settings, the best rule of thumb is to simply not tell any put-down jokes on the job. (Read More...) (Download as PDF) (back to top)