A sense of humour in the workplace

A sense of humour judges one’s actions and the actions of others from a wider reference. It pardons shortcomings, it consoles failure.” Thornton Wilder

Appropriate, well placed humour can be a key to success at work.

Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author says “In workplaces that encourage people to be themselves … that are less hierarchical and more innovative … people tend to be more open with their humour. Even those who aren’t always comfortable sharing their humour tend to do so in more relaxed environments where the use of humour becomes second nature.”

In general, employees feel more comfortable using humour with their colleagues rather than with their bosses or line managers. Or they may be reluctant to offend someone; they may worry that they are not funny or will look stupid.

According to Lynne Parker, founder and CEO of Funny Women, women use humour liberally to bond, reassure, and instil a sense of wellbeing within their communities. It give us confidence, charisma and may even help us to climb the career ladder. “However, recent research has suggested that female bosses are less likely to make jokes in the boardroom. When they did, more than 80% of their quips were met with silence. By comparison, 90% of jokes made by men were met with a positive response.” (Baxter, 2011)

“I have seen a growing willingness for women to experiment with humour in their business and personal lives, just as they are on the comedy circuit.” Lynne will be speaking on ‘The Power of Female Humour in the Workplace ‘ at The Room Upstairs dinner in London west end, February 2019.

One of the most difficult aspects of office humour is ensuring that it is appropriate. For many years I worked with a delightful individual who was great at his job and extremely popular. However, his jokes were racist and sexist and no matter how often I told him he genuinely didn’t believe me.

We spend more time at work and with our employees, colleagues and boss so it makes sense to make it as pleasant as we can. But remember, whether it’s fun or not, to paraphrase American journalist and film maker Nora Ephron: all life is copy!

Humour can be the only way to get through difficult times or when dealing with difficult people – hence the old phrase ‘laugh and the world laughs with you’! And while humour means something different to each of us at its most successful it need only be as simple as a smile.

A good sense of humour may get an employee through their day, but it can also be the key to successful leadership. According to Forbes Magazine, 91% of executives surveyed believed that those with a sense of humour are more likely to do a better job. While research by the Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits of a leader were a strong work ethic and a sense of humour.

If we think about it, that makes sense. If your boss is worried, angry or depressed, after a while you pick up on it. It is unnerving and inevitably it undermines the team and the potential for success.

There is a body of research that shows that strategic and purposeful humour impacts positively on an organisation. It improves brand, creativity, innovation, productivity, communication, positioning and morale; staff engagement improves; stress is lowered; retention is greater, as is customer service and companies find it easier to attract staff.

89% of CEOs say they would prefer to hire someone with a good sense of humour … managers with a sense of humour, who can laugh at themselves, are able to diffuse uncomfortable situations, improve personal interactions and align employees with the objectives of their boss or company.

You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian any form of positive humour makes the office environment pleasant and improves job satisfaction. Just don’t try too hard to be funny … you don’t want to emulate David Brent!

Well placed, clever, humour that is apropos to a business situation can enhance an employee’s career opportunities. Being funny shows confidence and an ability to take risks; it also requires timing, empathy and intellect.

To quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower “A sense of humour is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”

Sandi Goddard is a strategic brand and management consultant,

A prolific networker for over 20 years, Sandi works with business leaders, boards and leadership teams, using the experience informed by her corporate background with global enterprises to prepare and enable clients to achieve demonstrably significant growth and profitable, £multi-million returns. Her approach, and very personal service delivery, is results-driven.Her clients look for more than strategic marketing and business consulting; they want a trusted advisor, a sounding board or a Non-Executive Director.