Laughter is Good for Business

Jul 20, 2015

Executives and other smart business leaders learn to fashion their management style based on their education, past experiences and role models. The Steve Jobs technique - being a brilliant but hard-driving perfectionist - has become popular lately, given Jobs’ many accomplishments.

But many executives have realized that utilizing laughter in the workplace is also good for business. You might refer to this as the George Carlin style of management or the Rodney Dangerfield business-building technique. Leading with humor has been proven to work, even if it doesn’t get an overwhelming amount of respect. You may be surprised to learn that laughter plays a significant role in business. It may seem to go against the serious nature of enterprise, where the bottom line is sometimes all that matters.

But what’s good for business is determined by the results leaders attain. If leaders can improve the bottom line by allowing humor in the workplace, it may just prove to be an effective management style that you might consider incorporating into your corporate culture. That is not to infer that you should turn your office into a Robin Williams movie set or a stand-up comedy lounge. Too much laughter is as detrimental to business as too much high-pressure stress. You must find a balance.

How Can Laughter Be Good for Business?

All the benefits of laughter also benefit business. These include, but are not limited to, the following. Laughter...

  • Releases endorphins, allowing you to instantly feel happier.
  • Relieves stress, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Promotes creativity from being in a more relaxed state.
  • Inspires you to see the world from a different perspective.
  • Helps create bonds with others.
  • Improves your health to keep headaches and illness at bay.
  • Clears your head so you can be more productive.

Exploring Laughter at Work

Contrary to popular belief, most people do have a sense of humor, but your sense of humor can differ vastly from the IT guy’s. To enjoy the benefits of laughter, you need to actually have a sense of humor. You also need to have enough self-confidence to express it.

Generally, the most honest laughter does not come from a forced joke, but from light-heartedness. In other words, laughter can arise from a tendency to seek the lighter side of things. In that sense, humor is a by-product of positive thinking and a natural deterrent for stress.

Self-confidence aids your sense of humor because it allows you to confidently make light of something — yourself, a tense situation, an unappreciative client — without feeling lessened by it. If humor is part of your nature, you can let it out at work to influence your team and it will seem natural. If you force it, they will know, and forced humor doesn’t encourage the natural health benefits of laughter

Type of Humor Matters

Because laughter can be subjective, you must be careful when using humor in the workplace. Obviously off-color jokes should be off-limits because there’s a line between humor and harassment. Also, keep the stereotypical humor to yourself. In order to receive the full benefits of laughter, the humor must be authentically funny, emotionally disarming and informally conspiratorial. It doesn’t offend.

Self-deprecating humor can work, but if you use it too often, it can backfire. Studies show that employees don’t respect people who put themselves down all the time. Also, don’t pick on just one person on your team. If you do make fun of someone, make sure you spread it around equally. And you should discourage laughing at the expense of other team members. Instead, allow the team to laugh at themselves.

Laughter Eases Stress

The role of humor in business settings is to diffuse tension, motivate employees and build loyalty. It’s therefore less about telling a good joke than it is about seeing the humor in the immediate circumstances. Employees often appreciate the attempt at humor in a difficult situation, even if it’s less than successful. Such humor tells employees that you are thinking of their interests.

Benefits of laughter work best when humor is unexpected. Don’t overuse it, as prolonged exposure to humor renders it less powerful, like hearing the same joke for the 50th time. It no longer even causes a smile. Managing a team of executives, after all, is no joke, even if you occasionally use humor to ease tensions.

Benefits of Laughter at Work

Using humor lifts your team’s spirits, but it also has proven health benefits. Another benefit of laughter keeps your employees at work and out of the doctor’s office. Laughter not only reduces stress and anxiety; it helps the lungs, heart and brain.

In addition, when people laugh at the same thing, it brings them closer together. It creates bonds stronger than many other team-building exercises. A team that laughs together grafts together. Besides, people tend to bond more effectively in a positive environment where interpersonal relationships are fun and appropriate.

Ways to Bring Laughter to Work

First, create a positive work environment for your team. Make it safe for team members to be themselves, where they can watch out for each other. Granted, this is a difficult first step if the prevailing atmosphere has been hostile, stressed or adversarial. But a positive work environment pays many dividends besides encouraging laughter.

Benefits of laughter in the workplace can be felt more widespread when you lead by example. Smile and laugh. Enjoy yourself. Give your team some space to be themselves. Schedule special times for fun activities. If you love your job, let it show. That kind of spontaneous exhibition can be contagious.

Of course, you and your team must accomplish your goals and meet your deadlines. Laughter has its place in the workplace, and as the team leader, you must know when serious work takes precedence over fun. Don’t lose control, or your team will lose respect for you.

Laughter Works at Work

Laughter often brings out the best in people. If you want to experience the health benefits of laughter at work, allow a little more humor with your team. In addition to laughter’s health benefits, there are mental benefits as well. Deep guffaws can help defeat depression and engage your team members in their work.

If you’ve never tried it, consider this: it is difficult, if not impossible, to truly laugh with a group of people, no matter how divergent, and still remain aloof. Humor is a deeply rooted human condition that unites people. So laugh a little with your team and you will do great things.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie joined Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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