A laugh a day gives results that pay: the power of humor in the workplace

A laugh a day gives results that pay: the power of humor in the workplace

They say that laughter is the best medicine. So much in fact, that injecting a little fun in the workplace can help make your employees more engaged, positive, connected and productive.

And since an engaged workforce is critical to organizational success, injecting a little humor in the workday could be just the thing to foster a high-performance culture.

Before you think I’m pulling your leg, consider this fact. In a survey sponsored by Accountemps, 96% of U.S. executives who were polled believed that people with a sense of humor do better at their jobs, compared with those who have little or no sense of humor.

The ability to produce and make humor is associated with intelligence and creativity. And since these are highly valued qualities in the workplace, it makes sense that humor could be contributing positively to your employee’s performance.
And laughter actually has many proven health benefits including:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline
  • Working out your diaphragm, abs and facial muscles
  • Improving alertness, creativity, and memory [Source]

In a work setting, it has its own set of unique benefits:

  • Helps employees release tension
  • Lowers absenteeism
  • Stimulates better communications and group cohesiveness
  • Boosts individual performance [Source]

Humor: it’s human nature!

Humor is deep-seated in our history and humanity and it’s now believed that humor comes from the higher levels of the brain.
Humor has been broken down into four types:

  • Affiliative humor: used to enhance one’s relationships with others. This may consist of telling a joke, or partaking in witty banter to improve relationships with others.
  • Self-enhancing humor: a “bright side of things” type of humor. It can be used to diffuse a trying situation and add a positive spin on things.
  • Aggressive humor: characterized by the use of sarcasm, put-downs, teasing, criticism, ridicule, and other types of humor used at the expense of others.
  • Self-defeating humor: humor at one’s own expense. It may be a way to gain approval from others by making oneself the “butt” of the joke.

Which type of humor works best in an organizational setting? Well, context is king, but on the whole, affiliative and self-enhancing humors tend to yield the most positive outcomes.

Because of its inclusive nature, affiliative humor has been shown to increase group cohesiveness, nurture interpersonal relationships and enhance learning.

Self-enhancing humor can promote creativity and reduce stress as it tends to encourage people to change their perceptions of negative situations.

A moderate dose of self-defeating humor can help lubricate communication–but jokers beware! Putting yourself down too often speaks volumes about your self-esteem and will more likely make people feel sorry for you than laugh.

Aggressive humor is the least beneficial to a work culture since its primary function is to segregate and boost oneself by bringing down someone else.

The case for humor in the workplace

When it comes to leadership, studies show that teams perform better under leaders who make high use of humor. For one, humor helps bridge the social distance between leaders and followers. By sharing a laugh with employees, leaders fortify their social influence, enabling them to achieve their transactional and relational goals. After all, people are more inclined to go out of their way for someone they like.

Leaders who use humor also help lower their teams’ anxiety and stress levels. When people have a good laugh they release tension, enabling them to concentrate on their work more efficiently.

But humor doesn’t only help leaders gain influence. Employees can also use humor as an effective discourse strategy to challenge their superiors. Sometimes, a light jab about a certain decision or task can open a dialogue about an issue that may have otherwise gone unvoiced.

Is this thing on?

Humor can certainly help lighten the atmosphere at work, but those who use humor and reap its many benefits, tend to also rank high on personal integrity.

That said, those with an honest and genuine disposition who use humor will be better adept at enhancing follower performance, improving relations within the company and with customers, and by and large, helping to foster a fun workplace that makes even Mondays seem alright.

For more on building an engaged and motivated workforce read 5 ways to empower employees.


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