Laughing Your Way Through the Workplace

Libby Gill is an executive coach, leadership expert, and international speaker. She is the former head of communications and PR for Sony, Universal, and Turner Broadcasting where she worked on enduring comedies such as Married…With Children, All in the Family Special, and Who’s the Boss? Gill is the author of five books including The Hope-Driven Leader.

If you think having fun at work isn’t important, the joke’s on you. Research on humor in the workplace has shown that having a good laugh on the job has a positive impact on health, happiness, and productivity.

“Having fun at work doesn’t mean you don’t do things with excellence,” states Greg Brenner, Assistant VP of Talent and Organizational Development at the University of Miami and known on LinkedIn as the HR Dad. One of Greg’s favorite examples is pediatric neurosurgery physician assistant Tony Adkins, who works at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California. Adkins, known as the Dancin’ Doc, is regularly seen dancing his patients down hospital hallways just put a smile on their faces. “Nothing is more important than the health of a child, and I am so lucky to play an integral role in that.” 

You don’t have to bust a move to enjoy your job, but you may be surprised by the many benefits of encouraging fun and laughter in the workplace. Here are just a few:

Humor increases employee engagement. Among companies rated as “Great Places to Work,” 82% of employees agreed with the statement, “I work in a fun organization.” Only 62% of employees at organizations rated “good” rather than great claimed their companies were fun.

Humor diffuses conflict. Well-timed humor is one of the best ways to turn down the heat in a workplace clash or disagreement. However, the humor, which must be appropriate in terms of tone and language,  has to lighten the situationwithout ridiculing the people involved or it can backfire.

Humor reduces stress. Employees with a sense of humor report that they feel fewer negative results of stress such as anxiety and burnout than their more stressed colleagues, even when they’re grappling with the same challenges. Not surprisingly, workers who experience higher levels of stress also experience higher levels of absenteeism or illness. 

Humor enhances perceived leadership ability.People who use humor successfully at work are often seen as more credible, likeable, and trusted by their co-workers. According to a recent study titled, “Risky Business: When Humor Increases and Decreases Status,” a good sense of humor, used appropriately, elevates professional status since people perceive their funny colleagues as more confident and competent than their more serious ones.

Adds Brenner, “It’s important that when you hit a hiccup you can deal with it and still have fun, instead of going right to the command and controlstyle of leadership. When you can have fun in the workplace combined with a meaningful mission, that’s the Holy Grail of what we look for in leading organizations.”

By Libby Gill