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Although it has always been known that laughter can lower stress levels and provide several other benefits, it is generally believed that kidding around and having some laughter in the workplace is not helpful at all with regards to employee performance and the general welfare of the organization.
However, numerous studies into this issue have come up with findings that show that laughter plays a very important role in boosting employee morale and performance. It is very important to be friendly and in a positive state of mind to achieve better results. So, it goes without saying, that humor plays an essential role in this matter.
Indeed, a study sponsored by an international temporary service agency made similar findings. It found that American executives believe that persons with a sense of humor perform their jobs better than those with little or no sense of humor. In fact, a massive 96 per cent of those interviewed said employees with a sense of humor performed better.
Fun and humor have been found to be beneficial to the human spirit as well the body. But can we extend this fun and humor to the workplace, traditionally associated with serious-looking fellows who seem to deeply engrossed in their work? Thankfully, the answer is positive.
Just as the old saying goes, laughter is truly a medicine that can help reduce stress levels among employees, boost employee confidence and morale, enhances cooperation among employees and teams, and perhaps even prevents burnout at work. Some people worry sometimes that they may have problems at the working places cracking jokes and using humor at working time.
It is a big mistake to think like this. There is a range of advantages of using humor at working place that is shown in high results of increasing productivity of working, reducing of stress and improving interpersonal relationships (McFadzean & McFadzean, 2005, pp. 319).
Unfortunately, fun and humor also have the potential to create a more hostile work environment that can result into lawsuits, all which may make the workplace a more stressful place to be in.
Benefits for Workers
Today, workplace stress is one of the greatest enemies to the success of employees. Stress can make employees depressed, irritable, and less productive. However, the cure to workplace stress is cheap and very effective: humor and fun. In their study of the role of humor in the workplace, Ford, McLaughlin and Newstrom (2003, pp. 21) report that those employees who are in a positive state of mind have less problems and troubles at their working places and, have corresponding friendly relations with their colleagues and bosses.
It is proved once again by the idea, that it is very important to control one’s emotions and to think positively, do careful analyzes of the actions and do not everything close to heart.
Fostering laughter is one of the forms of humor that may take place at the working place. Nevertheless, one should not forget that it is important to know the right time for humor as it is not always suitable for the hardworking times when it is plenty to do. A high productivity of the working progress also depends on the interpersonal relationships of the colleques.
It would be a nice idea to create different types of going out with the colleques, picnics, parties, dinners, etc. It goes without saying that the mood is better, the emotional state and the working progress are better when one feels comfortable in the company, both formal and private-personal (Hudson, 2001, pp. 49; Meyer, 1999, pp. 15).
Hudson (2001) wrote about the significance of creating and encouraging a fun and friendly atmosphere in the workplace, which happened to be her company: The Brady Corporation. This corporation had a very tight structure that did not even allow staff to have coffee at their desk until 1989. When Miss Hudson took over as the CEO, she immediately sought to reverse this tradition and implement fun in the workplace.
In the 1996 season, the Green Bay Packers football club was looking forward to a promising start to the season. Ms. Hudson fount a very creative and unique approach to present his organization by making his people wear the same green costumes to perform for the television.
It was very fascinating to see how the staff was excited telling and sharing funny stories, anecdotes and various jokes, wearing funny glasses and Mickey Mouse ears. It has been already mentioned above, the one of the most important things in the rapid development of interpersonal relationships at work is mutual understanding and the feeling of comfort in the presence of each other.
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The example of such situation was portrayed by the Brady Corporation that organized a meeting out of working time and place, in informal setting. After the fun program became part of the organization, sales doubled while profits tripled. This illustration proves that fun and humor are indeed important in boosting employee morale and, consequently, their performance.
A second way in which laughter helps to reduce stress levels in employees can be explained biologically. The say that the level of stress is reduced and the sense of being alert increases when a person is laughing. So, it is possible to say that laughter is a good medicine, especially for a blood pressure.
Published studies by Dr. Lee Bark and Dr. Stanley Tan show that laughter improves a general state of a person from the physical and emotional points of view, generates hormones for a person to have a good spirit and even makes one’s life longer as it is reckoned to be an essential part of a healthy life that can even be compared to going for sports.
Obviously, nowadays almost everybody knows about endorphins that are generated in the process of laughing and work as good painkillers for a person. In addition, when employees are of good health, absentee rates and sick leaves are lower, leading to improved performance.
Since laughter is aerobic, that is, it requires oxygen,it provides a workout for the diaphragm and increases the volume of oxygen entering the body. This increases a person’s energy levels, relaxes the muscles, and makes the immune system stronger. Humor and fun can make a person think exhibit more creativity than one who does not laugh frequently.
This can come in handy in workplace situations, for instance, when an employee is stuck on a problem, a good laugh can get rid of the problem and allow such employees to look for other avenues into the problem through a more positive outlook. A research undertaken by psychologist Dr. Ashton Trice at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia found that humor makes us think. When we are stuck on important tasks, we normally feel angry, dejected and/or depressed. This change in mood can interfere with consequent tasks.
Dr. Trice’s research recommends that taking time to have some humorous moment can help in eliminating the negative feelings, allowing us to return to a project or move onto another one unaffected by past setbacks. In the case of an employee, laughter and fun can help in handling tricky and challenging projects as they are able to look at the tasks or projects from different angles and perspectives.
It through some breakthroughs that employee morale is boosted (Ramsey, 1997, pp. 7). Employee morale is also boosted by reduced stress levels, good communication among employees, and teamwork. Coincidentally, fun and laughter at the workplace can lead to all of these elements of employee morale (Ramsey, 1997, pp. 7).
Benefit to the Organization
The benefits of a workforce whose morale is high cannot be overstated. Since fun and humor at the workplace lead to happiness and contentment, then a workforce that is encouraged to share jokes and regularly engages in fun activities is bound to have a very high morale. This has a very significant contribution towards the success of the organization as occurred in the Brady Corporation.
When workers area happy, they become more productive. When one has a good sense of humor and knows how to use it at the right place and time, the working place turns out to be a nice and funny place to work in. Consequently, this makes staff more passionate about their jobs and boosts their performance.
Fun and laughter can also improve communication at the workplace. A well-placed joke can help a worker get a serious point across at a meeting without necessarily appearing or talking ‘hard’. A joke can also make a positive criticism of a fellow employee or superiors appear light and not create any tension as would be the case in a humorless meeting. Humor can also be important when handling customers or when the employee is admitting his/her own mistakes.
However, one should be careful in using humor jokes towards other people as a personal address as those people may not have such viewpoints and there may be a great misunderstanding. Despite this fact, humor makes lets people feel comfortable and feel free to contact you in case of any questions, both formal and informal, that is very important.
When used in the right manner, humor shows other people that the ‘human’ side of the employee and makes it easier to others to approach the employee for ideas, questions and advice. Such an employee seems friendlier and approachable and if every employee integrates humor in their relations with customers, sale volumes and profitability will no doubt multiply. Indeed, humor can be used a customer relations tool!
Whether it is telling jokes during tea or lunch breaks or putting a grey flamingo sculpture next to the cash register to get a smile every time a customer has his/her shopping totaled up, fun and humor help to build relationships at the workplace stronger.
When people laugh together, a natural bond is created between them, be it with peers, superiors or with customers. When workers feel comfortable towards each other, have trust and understanding, it is easier to build good relations based on the problem solving basis, what is more difficult to do when there is a constant pressure and just reigning formal relations.
Occasional humor among peers also promotes department cohesiveness and improves overall performance (Robert & Yan, 2007, 210). This later statement was a conclusion made by Robert & Yan after thoroughly analyzing theories on humor and incorporating literature from numerous disciplines touching on the subject.
Humor also helps lighten up work-related tensions. During times of high stress, humor can become very important. It allows every person to take a step back, relax, and return to their workstations with a renewed vigor that keeps them going until the task is completed. When tensions between two or more staff members run high, laughter can diffuse the situation, and provide the crucial cooling off duration before finding an amicable solution.
In general, it stands to reason already that people who feel free towards each other at working place achieve big result and succeed more that those who live and work in strongly set measure and rules where each step is bounded with a corresponding norm and rule.
The Dos and Don’ts of Workplace Fun and Humor
Although humor is a very important tool in enhancing employee morale and increasing their performance, inappropriate jokes and comments will do just the reverse. It should not be forgotten that one people’s jokes may sound offensive to another people, so, one should think twice before joking with people whom he/she hardly knows.
Therefore, employees must refrain from telling certain kinds of jokes. For instance, telling jokes about a person’s appearance, religion, ethnic background, or sexuality may not be welcome, similarly, jokes on controversial topics such as death, physical disabilities, and sexual harassment or racial inequalities should be avoided at all costs.
Although political jokes are common, a person must first know his/her audience, and avoid sharing political jokes that may offend someone of different political ideology. Lastly, in case of uncertainty on how the joke will be received, then it is best not to say it at all.
Hudson, K. M. (2001). Transforming a conservative company – one laugh at a time. Harvard Business Review, 79(7), 45-53.
Ford, R., McLaughlin,F., and Newstrom,J. (2003). Questions and answers about fun at work, Human Resource Planning, 26(4), 18-33.
McFadzean, F., &McFadzean, E. (2005). Riding the emotional roller-coaster: a framework for improving nursing morale. Journal of HealthOrganization & Management, 19(4/5), 318-339
Meyer, H. (1999). Fun for everyone.Journal of Business Strategy, 20(2), 13-17.
Ramsey, R. D. (1997). Employee morale: does it matter anymore. Supervision, 58(9), 6-8.
Robert, C., and Yan, W. (2007).The Case for Developing New Research on Humor and Culture in Organizations: Toward a Higher Grade of Manure. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 26, 205-267.