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The Way I See It… Having a Laugh


Stock PhotoUsed by organisations as diverse as HSBC, Scottish Equitable and Continental Airlines, positive appreciation and humour in the workplace is a method of boosting team and indivisual morale. Joe Hoare makes the case for injecting some humour into the office (but please no David Brent-style gags).

In the old days, work was work, work was serious, thinking was what really mattered, feelings were things you might indulge in at home, and humour in the workplace, let alone laughter, well, they were almost so frivolous as to be gross misconduct and instantly sackable offences.
Which is why we don’t refer to them as the ‘good’ old days.

Feelings affect your work
Big changes happened with the arrival of emotional intelligence. From the mid 1990s, it became more widely realised that not only do feelings and emotions matter, especially to the person experiencing them, but our brains are wired in such a way that much of our behaviour is prompted by emotion rather than reason or thought. And it became clear that organisations that encourage emotional self-responsibility perform better, and in these organisations good-natured humour is always present. Enlightened, or maybe just open-mindedly realistic, directors and managers have known this for aeons. So often they describe their role as ‘jollying people along’, knowing that energetic focused staff get more done.

High energy working environments
An upbeat working environment has a better atmosphere, higher staff morale, more dynamism and energy, lower absenteeism, less stress. It becomes a more engaging place to work, and open, non-threatening humour will automatically be present as a reliable and invariable barometer.

However, humour in the workplace can be used as a stimulant, an initiator, a tonic, to help create conditions that foster an upbeat, energetic working environment. Used appropriately, it lifts and lightens moods, eases tensions and encourages what is described as emotional fluidity, making it easier for people to change their minds and opinions without losing face or being humiliated. Neuroscience as well as workplace studies provide the evidence, and show that these latest techniques that operate on the physical and emotional planes as well as the mental, provide hard results, whether applied to individuals or groups and teams.

One simple, or simple sounding, technique is to find something positive to appreciate in your current circumstances, whatever they are. It doesn’t have to be a major point, just something that you can feel good about. When you do, you will probably smile, if only a little. Neuroscience shows that each smile releases a cocktail of neuro-chemicals that reduce anger, decrease stress & anxiety and inspire creativity. You will probably feel slightly energised and ‘lighter’, possibly more optimistic. If you can share this appreciation point with someone else, the benefit has just increased exponentially. Not bad, just for a smile. The technique continues to work even as examples become more complex.

Team morale
When these and similar techniques are applied to groups and teams, energy and enthusiasm demonstrably increase. In an age where workplace pressure is perceived to be increasing, where staff retention is increasingly important, where sickness and absenteeism are major concerns for scores of managers and organisations, constructive humour in the workplace offers new insights and solutions appropriate to every working environment.


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