Humor in the workplace can mean you’re all having a little bit more fun -- but its benefits go way beyond that. Humor can help people relax and see each other’s humanity. It can also increase the amount of trust in the workplace, and even lead to increased sales and increased productivity.
As with everything though, there’s a right and a wrong way to introduce humor in the workplace. As a general rule, the humor you practice at work should feel natural to you; in other words, don’t aim to be the class clown if that’s not in your nature. Still, you can practice good humor by taking a few simple steps.
Don’t Take Everything so Seriously
A good place to start in practicing good humor at work: By practicing some levity with yourself. Making the well-timed joke about something that happens at work is good too, but you’ll begin to lighten the mood by directing some of that humor toward yourself. If you screw up, make light of it. Don’t stop taking your job seriously, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to be self-deprecating when it’s appropriate. If you spill on your shirt, make a joke about it. If your office is a mess, call it out. Whatever you do though, don’t make jokes that could make the company - or you - look incompetent.
Start a Humor Board
In the book “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be More Persuasive,” authors Noah J. Goldstein, Robert B. Cialdini and Steven J. Martin talk about the effectiveness of the funny cartoon, saying that sending an inoffensive cartoon to a person with whom you’re making a deal increases trust. That, in turn, can lead to more revenue for your business.
The next time you’re brokering that big deal, share that funny cartoon with the person on the other end of the deal. Try something similar in your own office by creating your own humor board. Get a bulletin board to post funny cartoons that relate to your industry and the challenges you face, or start posting jokes and cartoons near the office water cooler.
Stay Away from Offensive Humor
Humor can have its place, but stay away from anything that could be potentially offensive to others. That includes jokes about religion, sexual orientation and race. If you’re doing business in an international setting, it also helps to research the cultures in which you’re working, as some other areas of humor might not be well-received. On the safe side, jokes about your kids are always a unifying theme.
Recognize the Limits
The class clown can be pretty entertaining, but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. While there’s no doubt that good humor can help you in the workplace, don’t overdo it. If your joke-telling is taking up a lot of valuable work time, you’re wasting not just your own time, but you’re also distracting others. Sometimes, a well-placed joke at just the right time is worth much more than the everyday song and dance.
Good humor might take a little practice, but even the most serious among us can stand to try.