Why did the chicken cross the road? Who knows, and more importantly it doesn’t matter because the ability to tell jokes is not a requirement for the effective use of humour in today’s workplace.
Fun fact. Did you know that Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. used to host an annual Humour in the Workplace Awards? That’s me above, ages ago, about to give out one of the awards. And yes, that’s a custom-made award of a rubber chicken head surrounded by feathers.
The effective use of humour in the workplace is humour that:
- Encourages laughing ‘with’ not ‘at’
- Includes not excludes people
- Fits your organizational culture
- Leads to business success because it has a purpose and is strategic
- Draws on one or more of the reasons to use humour in the workplace outlined below
7 Reasons to use humour in your workplace
1. To reduce stress and increase wellness
Laughter is like an internal massage, plus it can lower your blood pressure and ward off illness. This is significant when you consider that 54% of workplace disabilities are stress related. So get laughing.
Case In Point: 1-800-Got Junk was moving offices and stress in the workplace was through the roof. To help diffuse the tension, Rock Paper Scissors set up a fake “Security Checkpoint” complete with metal detectors that found your best ‘junk’ and a decontamination chamber that rid employees of old office stress. It was a great way to get the staff laughing on what could have been a difficult day.
2. To team build
Laughter brings people together, it is a shared human experience – everyone laughs (ok, except for perhaps your Great Uncle Harry). If your team is lagging, try introducing some gentle humour.
Case in Point: Harbour Air’s maintenance department once raised money for the food bank by making and wearing “barrelly-there” briefs (custom-made, in three styles, barrels).
3. To inform/teach
Who isn’t inundated by information overload these days? (If you put your hand up I want to talk to you.) Humour is a powerful teaching tool – the same part of the brain that’s used to understand humour is also used in higher cognition. The appropriate use of humour can also help people retain information longer.
Case In Point: Trying to get branch managers excited about a 5-year business plan wasn’t an easy task for Vancity. So Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. created a futuristic ‘Space Odyssey’ where senior management played characters such as Princess Leia from Star Wars and Scotty from Star Trek, and the CEO played the eccentric director. The hilarious video kicked off the management meetings and was a great way to help everyone remember the key points of the business plan.
4. To improve a business practice
The same part of the brain used to interpret humour is also used for higher-level thinking. Want to reinforce your product or service? Use humour. Research shows that the effective use of humour makes us retain information longer and better.
Case in point: HUB International TOS Ltd’s challenge was to explain Director’s and Officer’s Liability to Corporate Influencers in order to raise the company’s profile. Their answer was to hire Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. improv actors to act out typical scenarios. The actors used several improv techniques that involved the audience; for instance, requesting the audience shout out the type of business the scenario should involve, and what the type of harassment was. Two referrals were received as a direct result.
5. To deal with change
Humour bridges the communication gaps, conflict, stress, and challenges that constant change brings.
Case in point: ACL services did just that – when their company was expanding quickly, in order to continue to have staff know each other, they introduced a ‘separated at birth’ section in their company newsletter, where staff photos were paired with celebrity photos. This was one of the winning nominations when Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. used to hold the annual Humour in the Workplace Awards.
6. To increase innovation and creativity
Humour is a gateway to increased creativity and innovation, which was the case when the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association asked us to design a workshop on hiring and firing for their annual conference.
Case in point: The client provided the context expertise and we made it engaging. In the morning attendees took part in a workshop where an employee was hired, only to be fired later that afternoon. The ‘case’ had gone to adjudication with RPS Inc. improvisers playing the lawyers and an audience member the judge.
Exercise your own rights to humour and see what creativity results.
7. To increase communication and decrease conflict
Case in point: Suntech Optics Inc and Bugaboos Eyewear include “have fun” as one of their company’s core strategies. They adopted a mascot of a Pineapple Head with Sunglasses that they call the Arriba Head. Whenever the Arriba Head is posted somewhere people know something fun or funny is going to happen that day! Not many companies have 5 core strategies for 5 years on it, and one of the strategies is “Have Fun”!!
Still not sure?
Your ability to successfully use humour in the workplace may be connected to your overall success. 96% of surveyed US executives believe that people with a sense of humour do better at their jobs, while an Ipsos-Reid poll found that 93% of British Columbians ‘believe that having fun will lead to a healthy, successful life.’ And if you’re reading this outside of British Columbia, Canada we’re sure you’re likely to believe the same.
So go ahead, get yourself and others laughing and you’ll likely leverage business, training, and learning success.
Now go on and learn, learn some more, and lead
- Doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be hard, like these amazing parents of twin baby boys, on their first plane ride.
- More ideas for how to use humour and gaming for learning – Suffering is optional- games for learning
- Sometimes a good laugh is all you need to rescue yourself (make sure to listen to the giggles starting at 0:36 when this cat rescue takes a surprising twist.
- I’ll be releasing a laugh track at this week’s 100th Learning and Development Roundtable. Get your laugh included. Send a 5-second or so audio clip of you and yours laughing to laughter(at)rpsinc.ca
- Speaking of a barrel of laughs, It’s not too late to RSVP for this week’s Learning and Development “Roundtable Rewards, Recognition, and Celebration- it’s the 100th Learning and Development Roundtable.” RSVP now and invite a friend and/or colleague. You’ll see the strategic use of humour in action!