Some of the most respected corporations have created fun workplace environments. Zappos, Warby Parker, Southwest Airlines, Chevron, Google have made their mark for creating a culture of fun.
With the Covid under control and the students back on the campus, the Director of an academic institution was taking a vote in the faculty council meeting to find out how many faculty members would like to take classes online and how many offline. Everybody raised hand to vote for offline mode except one. When the concerned faculty was asked by the Director as to why he did not want to take classes offline, the faculty member replied, “I don’t have trousers.” A huge laughter erupted in the room. Guess what happened after that. A very heavy, dry and dull environment suddenly became fresh and lively.
Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas observed, “Research shows that leaders with any sense of humour are seen as 27% more motivating and admired than those who don’t joke around. Their employees are 15% more engaged, and their teams are more than twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge — all of which can translate into improved performance.
Research shows that leaders with any sense of humour are seen as 27% more motivating and admired
Humour works as a social lubricant to build and sustain harmonious relationships. It is much better way to raise sensitive issues. It is accepted as a socially appropriate means to express aggressive feelings or negative emotions. It helps in giving a very subtle message.
A professor in a college wanted to get an AC installed in his office because it was difficult to work during summers. He requested the principal for the same by arguing that it will help him write more research papers during summers. The principal quipped, “But Professor tell me one thing – how many research papers you write in winters?” Mary Hirsch said, “Humour is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”
Humour relieves stress and diffuses tension. Humour has an important role in peoples’ lives by helping them to live better and to deal with day-to-day adversities. The literature on humour provides ample evidence that humour reduces stress. Michael Kerr, president of Humour at Work explains, “Humour offers a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors; an emotional response; and a physical response that relaxes you when you laugh.”
Humour just feels good. Many of us may relate to high-anxiety situations where a joke feels like a much-needed outlet. Consider a serious problem at the workplace being reported by a person to his friend in this way, “I always go the extra mile at work, but my boss always finds me and brings me back.”
Humour helps in building relationship. We want to be around people who make us smile, laugh, and overall raise our spirits. Studies show that employees who have three close friends at work are 96% more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with their lives. Humour allows both employees and managers to come together. Shared laughter accelerates a feeling of closeness and trust. It puts others at ease. Humour is a way to break through the hierarchy. Humour is a great icebreaker and removes the walls that exist between leaders and followers. When an employee asks his manager do you have a minute and the manager says, no, I have 60 seconds, you are likely to be more comfortable reaching out to such a manager.
Humour is a great icebreaker and removes the walls that exist between leaders and followers.
Humour is not always good. Martin classified humour into four categories – affiliative, self-enhancing, aggressive, and self-defeating. Of these affiliative and self-enhancing styles are considered to be positive while aggressive and self-defeating as negative. Affiliative humour is used to enhance one’s relationships with others in a way that is relatively benign and self-accepting. Individuals who use affiliative humour tend to attract others, bring them together, and in doing so, reduce interpersonal and intra-group tension. Self-enhancing humour is used to enhance the self in a way that is tolerant and non-detrimental to others. Users of aggressive humour typically have little regard for the feelings of the targets of their humour; they are more concerned with getting a laugh and feeling superior. Self-defeating humour involves excessively disparaging humour or attempts to ingratiate oneself or gain the approval of others by doing or saying funny things at one’s own expense. One should make sure that you choose humour appropriately.
Some of the most respected corporations have created fun workplace environments. Zappos, Warby Parker, Southwest Airlines, Chevron, Google have made their mark for creating the culture of fun. These companies have used humour and a positive fun culture to help brand their business, attract and retain employees and to attract customers. In some of these companies a sense of humour is a way to judge the suitability of a candidate for a job. A candidate was asked a question during his interview, “What one thing one should never do at work?” The candidate replied, “Work.” A follow up question, “What one thing a candidate should always do at work?” The answer, “Keep exploring other options.” I am told that the candidate got the job.
Let us pay some attention to Oscar Wild who said, “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” “People who take themselves overly seriously are often, ironically, taken less seriously by the people around them,” said Michael Karr.
The author, Kamal K Jain, is Professor – Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at IIM Raipur. First published in ET HR World dated 7th October