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Humor Smooths Workplace

Last month Johnny Carson went to that big comic stage in the sky. Johnny had the gift of a wry wit, offering intelligent observances in a way that made us laugh. It didn’t matter if he was being bitten by a hysterical monkey, or facing an insipid starlet, he could make the situation more interesting and funny at the same time. We can react at work with stress and anger, or we can be like Johnny Carson and still get the job done.

"Nothing is good or bad. It is thinking that makes it so." Shakespeare

According to the Discover Health Website Science of Laughter, “When we laugh, natural killer cells which destroy tumors and viruses increase, along with Gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T-cells (important for our immune system) and B-cells (which make disease-fighting antibodies). As well as lowering blood pressure, laughter increases oxygen in the blood, which also encourages healing.” To make it simple, we are healthier and happier if we laugh more.

Finding the humor in stressful situations at work can diffuse them, make them easier to deal with and get your staff out of the adrenaline-ridden flight or fight mode. When faced with anxiety, no one thinks properly. Creativity disappears and worry replaces it. Some of the best business owners I know are incredibly funny. They don’t do their job any less well than anyone else, in fact, they accomplish more, and their customers appreciate the light atmosphere it creates.

As a manager in my 20’s I was very intense and equated seriousness with being professional. Now I realize it was lack of confidence. As I became more sure of myself in work situations, I was able to relax and reveal a funnier side. That funny side is inside everyone-even the most staid individuals. Even people in the most serious jobs, like policemen, tax collectors, attorneys and doctors can benefit from loosening up a little bit.

Board meetings go faster when the quips are flying and everyone is less likely to dread attending them. Associations can be deathly boring and often have trouble getting people to participate because of it. At Fairhaven Association Board meetings we joke about taking the treasury and going to Hawaii (about 15 years ago our ex-president actually did!), we kid the chairperson for being too strict and we beg the Fairhaven Village Inn for cookies. If someone makes a suggestion, we appoint them in charge of the committee for it. On my birthday someone gave me a child’s tiara and I wore it for the entire meeting. This is not a frivolous group. We get an amazing amount of things done, and are constantly told by new merchants that they join because of our attitude.

Rick Segel, one of my favorite speakers and writers, wrote a book called “Laugh and Get Rich.” He says humor makes audiences more alert. They pay attention to what you are saying. He says to use the absurd to get new ideas. Other people call it “thinking outside the box.”

Segel has lots of suggestions for how business owners can create a culture of humor in the workplace. Here are just a few:

• Acceptance of humor has to start at the top. If management is dry and corporate-driven, employees will worry about the risk of losing their job if they act any other way.

• Use humor to teach new things to staff. They’ll retain more. “Humor creates an anchor for learning.”

• Laughing about the same situation at the office will bond your staff together.

• Business is about human nature. “When you humorize you humanize.” No one prefers to associate with people who are aloof, arrogant, stuck-up or know-it-alls.

• Avoid negative humor. Laugh about behaviors, frustrations and issues, but don’t make fun of people. It’s not only unkind, but you can be sued, too.

• Eliminate “funsuckers” from your workplace. They’re the ones rolling their eyes and telling everyone to grow up. If they think healthy laughter is unimportant, perhaps they aren’t having fun at work and don’t belong there.

• Humor is a part of good service. If you’re having fun, your customers will too.

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