Published: 10 Jun 2021
Category: Productivity , Team Building , Workplace Culture

It's no Joke: Achieving Employee Success by Leading with Humour


After the last year, we all need to have a good laugh at work, don't we?
As employees return to the workplace after working from home and having one too many Zoom calls, they need to be able to balance productivity with some light stress relief. Humour in the workplace can benefit the mood of the team, relieving stress and helping employees to bond.

Research shows that a boss with a sense of humour is seen as 27% more motivating and admired than those without one. Employees are said to be 15% more engaged, and teams over twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge. This results in improved performance, cooperation, and a more relaxed workforce. However, balancing being the approachable and humorous boss with commanding respect can feel like a tightrope. So, how does office humour work?

Laughter is just what the doctor ordered

Mayo Clinic research showed that laughter is stress-relieving. It can fire up and then cool down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. When we laugh, our brains produce less cortisol (reduces stress) and release more endorphins (energizes) and oxytocin (feeling of wellbeing). It stands to reason then, that if your team is working hard for you, they'll benefit from a giggle along the way. Taking a cue from the boss, employees will gauge what humour is appropriate. To alleviate work stress, funny jokes can keep rolling as long as they are entirely inoffensive. When a joke goes too far, it can alienate, anger and offend. Worst case scenario, it can get you fired and publicly humiliated. Jennifer Aaker, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-author of the book, “Humor, Seriously.” states “Just don’t make fun of anyone’s basic identity or background. The jokes that are rooted in these things aren't any more necessary to society than smoking in an aeroplane on a cross-country trip." Funny workplace jokes can be hilarious without offending.

Creating a funny workplace

Shared laughter brings a feeling of closeness and affiliation and if it's good enough for the boss then the team start to laugh along. Feeling like your co-workers are friends that you can share funny work jokes with has been proven to have productivity benefits. Research by Gallup showed that there is a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the effort employees put into their jobs. Women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).
Managers must lead by example; if the team posts something funny on a company feed, managers could join in and comment. If it looks like the office is getting a little serious, they could start a joke thread themselves. Running fun games and competitions which have a humorous edge usually gets teams bonding as does rewarding those who bring laughter into the office when it's needed. The aim with these workplace funny moments is to bond the team and bring more trust and co-operation into the organization. A team that works and plays together well is much healthier than a set of individuals that come to work only to get paid.
In an age where deeply serious issues are being discussed including the COVID-19 pandemic, race, and politics it helps to balance this with some light relief. Leaders must include more workplace humour to boost wellbeing and connection. As the research shows us, a good laugh at work can benefit the bottom line!


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