All of us remember a particular job that we had which had a more relaxed attitude, jokes abounded and the camaraderie we felt helped us pass the hours just that bit more quickly. So popular, is the idea of humour at work, that any workplace depicted in television has a good dose of humor accompanying it.
For example, anyone who has seen the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine will know of the hilarious antics that take, place in the police station that the captain not only puts up with but also joins in with. However, if everyone isn’t in on the joke, the situation could be more damaging than it is helpful. This article seeks to explain how you can take of advantage of the productivity which comes with encouraging jokes in the workplace, without causing offence to some of your employees.
Having a good laugh in the workplace has been shown to benefit creativity and productivity in the workplace. Yet, some employers make the mistake of stifling humor, seeing it as a distraction from getting work done. This is definitely a mistake, as humour has been shown to increase productivity, rather than hampering it.
Similarly, the role of humour in the workplace is hardly ever taken seriously by researchers, yet the work that does focus on this area shows overwhelmingly positive effects (1). Humour generally has a hard time being taken seriously, only tragedies being considered truly great pieces of literature. However, if you want a seriously great film, I recommend the hilarious dark comedy “the Seven Psychopaths” starring Colin Farrell. Don’t make the same mistake of these researchers and literature critics, encourage humour in your workplace to benefit productivity today!
While humour can have all of these great benefits in the workplace, it can go awry quickly. Poor jokes, especially sexist, homophobic or racist jokes can only serve to alienate certain members of the staff.
One need look no further for an example than the seriously awkward situation on “The Office”, when in the process of making a point about racial discrimination, the manager, Michael Scott gives the role of “Black” to Stanley (who is a black man). To combat this, understand that styles of humour can be broken down into:
- affiliative humour (when you laugh with others)
- aggressive humour (jokes that are made at the expense of others)
- self-enhancing humour (in which one attempts to cheer oneself up)
- self-defeating humour (in which one uses, or allows others to use negative humour at their expense)
Employees can be educated on these four types of humour styles to understand that affiliative humour and self-enhancing humour are the most acceptable forms. Additionally, ensuring that work behaviour and anti-harassment policies are up-to-date and communicated to employees can be helpful. Once these steps are in place, feel free to encourage as much humour as possible, to the benefit of both your employees, and the bottom line.
- Holmes J, Marra M. Having a laugh at work: how humour contributes to workplace culture. J Pragmat. 2002;34(12):1683-1710.