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| Humor in the Workplace | The Power and Purpose of Wit | Humor Whys |
| A Few Humor How To's | You Deserve a Humor Break Today |


Humor in the Workplace

Did you hear the one about the organization that thrived with healthy humor; experiencing more creativity and innovation and funny lines that positively affected the bottom line? Or maybe instead you heard the one about the solemn and toxic organization where humor was not valued, or when it was attempted was disguised as offensive jokes, sarcasm and put downs that negatively affected morale and productivity?

Which scenario describes where you work? The more stressful your workplace is, the more seriously you need to take the importance of humor.

The more creativity that our lives and work require, the more we need to understand how the hahas! can leads us to the ahas!

Humor, an essential ingredient in organizational culture, can be helpful and healing or it can be hindering and harmful. Donít leave home without it. Medical studies have concluded that a good sense of humor provides protection from the physical damage of stress. Humor can raise or lower morale and can increase communication and productivity. But often we have not di-jested the benefits and parameters of humor in a professional setting.

Recently I was coaching a manager who had been written up along with one of his employees, on a serious complaint involving "humor." The employee ,"Rich" had received several complaints about the use of name calling and telling jokes that were offensive to colleagues. When counseled by the manager, Rich thought that others were being too sensitive and that it was important to joke around with employees that he liked. The manager knew that Richís behavior was unprofessional and disruptive but had no idea what to do to correct the problem and how it prevent it in the future.

Healing humor can help teams reach synergy and innovation but harmful humor can destroy the team and its goals as in this case. Conflicts like this can be dealt with at three stages

1) pro actively, before the conflict ,with dialogue, education and agreements,

2) in the midst of the conflict with the appropriate choice of interventions or

3) after the conflict when the team analyzes what happened and looks at options and agreements to deal with situations in the future.

As Rich, his manager and their organization did, consider these points and questions at all three stages and open the dialogue on humor.

The Power and Purpose of Wit

P Place-Is this the right place and setting?

P Person-Is this the right person? What kind of a relationship do I have a with this person?

W Workplace-Does this fit with Workplace ethics, rules and agreements?

I Integrity-Does this uplift the Integrity of others and myself?

T Timing-How is my timing? Both comedic and professional?

"Nothing is quite as funny as the unintended humor of reality".  -Steve Allen

In researching this article I called upon Dr. Joel Goodman, director of The Humor Project in Saratoga Springs, New York, editor of Laughing Matters magazine and author of many books including Laffirmations-1000 ways to add Humor to your Life and Work.. In 1978 I took a sabbatical and worked with Dr. Goodman at The Humor Project. He has worked internationally with humor in organizations and sponsors the annual Positive Power of Humor and Creativity Conference in New York.

Joel has continually modeled and taught me that there is no conflict in taking our jobs seriously and ourselves lightly and that humor connects people.

Dr. Goodman defines humor as creative self expression that is an attitude, a perspective, a way of looking at life and a way of laughing at life. Humor is prepared flexibility . Humor is power. You canít always control situations around you but you can control your internal responses to them with humor 

"The richest humor is at no oneís expense" Joel Goodman

He believes that constructive humor in the workplace must pass the AT&T Test. Is the humor Appropriate? Is it Tasteful? Is it Timely? Avoid sarcasm, put downs and ridicule and concentrate on esteem building humor.  Remember that one size does not fit all. Are you laughing with others or laughing at others? " Invite rather than impose humor. See what brings joy to the environment, and makes people laugh and then try to invite occasions for that to happen," Joel says."Humor is a way to keep us sane and keep our dignity when we face insane or inhuman situations."

Warning: Humor may be hazardous to your Illness

Of course issues of taste and appropriateness and timing are individually and culturally constructed.  Free flowing humor among colleagues may need some understanding of the relationship first. You donít want to miss out on the benefits of humor in the workplace so it is important to know your personal and organizational values about humor.  Consider this rationale and how to from The Humor Project .

Humor Whys

1. " A smile is the shortest distance between two people" according to Victor Borge. Positive working relationships and morale have important implications in these times when creative teamwork is essential to organizational innovation.

2. Jest for the Health of it! People who laugh, last. Avoid stress and burnout.

A Few Humor How Toís

Joke telling it's not the only way to transmit humor. Here are four tips:

1. Put humor in the physical environment- by osmosis, it may filter into peopleís awareness. Use posters, sayings etc.

2.Use humor as a tool rather than a weapon- Laughing with others builds confidence, brings people together and pokes fun at our common dilemmas. Laughing at others destroys confidence, ruptures teamwork, and singles out individuals as the butt of a joke.

3. Build humor into the corporate culture. Ben and Jerryís established a Joy Committee offering Joy grants to their employees who have an idea that will bring more joy into the workplace.

4. Humorís Bottom Line -Tom Peters says, " The number one premise of business is that it need not be boring or dull. It ought to be fun. If itís not fun, youíre wasting your life." Set the tone by modeling your ability to laugh at yourself and to tell stories on yourself.

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You deserve a humor break today

Quick! Reach for your humor file! Donít have one? Move from grim and bear it to grin and share it.

Our present work environments of competition and downsizing and doing more with less and long commutes are often overly stressful. We are required to work smarter but authoritarian control and stress rob us of our innate brilliance.  Humor allows new possibilities which bring new ideas and innovation.

We need to develop managers that have an entrepreneurial, humorous and creative spirit . Repetition, solemnness, boredom, fear and conformity (oh my!) are not the friends of creativity. Creative environments need a certain amount of playfulness and then serious business results can be seen. Dr. Goodman says "We need to take humor more seriously and welcome it in the workplace because our quality of work life is important. Humor is the best, most delightful, most effective way of improving quality of work life.Build an environment where you can share wild ideas. Stretch your thinking until you can see that what seems impossible is possible. If you donít feel free to share your wild ideas you may be missing the best idea or the one that you fear may be the one that will help you the most. It is easier to tame down an idea than to think one up in the first place. "

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For more humor information you can visit  Dr. Goodman is currently collecting stories for a new book, Chicken Soup for the Laughing Soul. You can email your stories about humor in life and work (with the story in the body of your email and not in an attachment) to

Maggie Finefrock is CLO of The Learning Project. She uses humor and creativity in her work in organizational development and mediation.


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Date of Last Update: 08/20/2011