In today’s workplace the number of problem-related words like ‘stress-related-illness’, ‘burnout’, and ‘work-life balance’ have become quite common. What this simply means is organizations are at last recognizing the importance of such things. If you have noticed, today’s hectic workplaces have become extremely humorless sapping the energy of everyone right from the janitor to the CEO. For example, when was the last time you had some continuous weeks or months of fun and humor in the office? However, I am not talking about those occasional and rare humorous situations of exchanging some silly jokes or laughing at a Dilbert cartoon, but a continuous period of workplace enjoyment when you did not dread that Monday morning alarm. A period when you used to go home relaxed and contented instead of planning to update your resume. Probably never. But, do you remember the amount of fun you used to have as kids? As children, you would laugh or giggle dozens of times an hour. But, as you grew up the laughter reduced dramatically. By the time you became 30 years good laughter and fun disappeared totally. You started avoiding humor and fun as childish stuff. Soon the fun is totally gone from your life, and all you think about is becoming more and more serious to an extent that a frown can result in a lawsuit.
Everyone knows modern work is often associated with excessive stress and is one of the main causes of illness, absenteeism, and burnout of employees. But until a few years ago, things like sickness, boredom, stress, fatigue, etc., were always considered as an employee’s personal problem, and the organization was quick to distance itself from the employee’s sufferings. In other words, organizations were covering up their lousy leadership skills by blaming their employees for being bad workers. But that thinking has now gradually changed, and professional organizations now accept blame for their employee’s stress and are taking active steps to self-correct by introducing fun and laughter at work. However, many ordinary and mediocre organizations still consider humor at work as abominable and a distraction from getting the ‘real’ job done. They do not see the importance of fun in the overall success of their organizations.
But, unknown to many employees and managers, humor is a fantastic stress reliever. In fact, humor is one of the sixty-four qualities of a king. Most people are unaware of the positive effects of humor in the workplace, offices, and homes. People often tend to think humor and laughter are unproductive or unprofessional, and being serious is the only way to live. This is exactly why you have too many serious managers, serious meetings, work under the high-pressure atmosphere, etc., and finally achieve burnout, ulcers, toxicity, lawsuits, etc. Actually, humor is not about taking your work, job, and responsibilities lightly, but to see the fun in everything you do. It is the ability to laugh and make fun of yourself. It is about creating a pleasant atmosphere where you work and allow others to work to give their best with the fear of being reprimanded or punished. And people who work with humorous bosses and managers tend to become highly efficient and productive employees. They are able to share good news and bad news without fear, and it builds trust both ways. The most successful CEOs are the ones who have discovered the power of clean humor in their day to day life, inside and outside the workplace. It’s comparable to children who enjoy and learn their studies better when they have a jolly teacher, instead of a teacher who is strict and suffocating.
Bruce Baum, a professor at Buffalo State University who specializes in applied and therapeutic humor says, ‘The more fun you have, the more you can get done.’ Humor makes everyone feel good and humane. A sense of humor sees the fun in everyday experiences and appropriate humor can lighten up even extremely difficult situations many times. Managements often associate humor with circus jokers. But a humorous person is neither a joker nor a clown. Humor is different from practical jokes, wearing a funny hat, having a red nose, mimicry or making fun of someone’s physical appearance, height, weight, religion or color. The humor that I am talking about is your pleasantness quotient. In other words, how approachable are you? How do you take bad news? Do you shoot the messenger? Do people avoid approaching you for help? Are you a fault inventor? Do you know how to ask beautiful questions? Do people consider you pleasant or toxic? Do you know how to laugh at yourself? And so on. However, it’s important to realize that some things like practical jokes are inappropriate and not funny. For example, deleting somebody’s important computer files or teasing about their height or skin color is not funny or called humor. Humor is medicine with good taste, but practical jokes are poison and sour. Having fun on the job has can stimulate your creative thinking, prevent burnout, and increase productivity. Various studies have shown that employees who are humorous are more productive and efficient than workers who work in a stifled, serious atmosphere. Today, many corporations are hiring corporate humorists to bring fun to workplaces. Humor helps one think in different ways and one should get into the habit of looking for humor in everyday situations. Finally, clean humor is eco-friendly, non-toxic, childproof, and recyclable. Start spreading it. And we can conclude this chapter with a quote that says, ‘If you don’t have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.’