In 1990 the World Health Organisation declared depression to be world health burden number four and predicted it would be number two by 2020.
At the NZ Mental Health at Work Conference in March 2003 it was stated that in any 6 month period 25% of people in this country will have a mental illness. In both developing and developed regions, depression is women's leading cause of disease burden. Depression is referred to as the modern plaque and affects peoples ability to perform across a wide section of activities of daily living. The stresses of daily living, including grief, low morale and poor self esteem affect decision making, concentration and productivity.
The practiced application of good humour in the workplace can aid in the reversal of this modern day malady and create a fun and productive environment.
Humour in business is not about clowning. It is about demonstrating that you are a warm, responsive, intelligent and considerate person. Learning to understand humour is no different to learning to understand any other business communication tool. Humour is a creative tool that sharpens the mind, engenders positive attitudes, fosters friendships, encourages mateship, generates optimism, boosts enthusiasm, restores hope and is simply fun.
Humour takes a positive and a negative form. Using humour in introspection is the first step to overcoming the imperfect and contradictory aspects of business communication.
Being able to laugh at yourself enables you to feel good about yourself.
Positive humour is constructive, appropriate, relevant and strengthens relationships, whereas negative humour is inappropriate, destroys and alienates. There are three basic types of wit or humour; sarcasm or laughing at others; nit wit or laughing at the wrong time; clowning wit or laughing with others. It is appropriate to aim to be amusing, not abusing.
In the world of comedy, humour is about creating maximum laughs per minute as a measure of success. In business being good humoured is about creating an open, positive, receptive and cheerful mood with successful communication the end product. The greatest challenge for every business leader is finding a way through the human capacity to create chaos, finding the good within each individual and then harnessing that to support business outcomes. By getting out of the office and managing by walking around you will get to know your people and the rewards they want from the workplace.
You can optimize this less formal communication by having fun, being responsive and in the moment. Use all these encounters to generate goodwill.
If you made someone else’s day every day your business would grow exponentially.
All you have to do is catch people doing something right and acknowledge it. Maintain this sort of environment and you would see improved and sustained bottom line results.
The first Humour in Business conference was convened in Australia in 2002, following a survey that revealed a FUN workplace would make employees more productive and could even mean the boss had to pay them less. The study by consulting company Customer Care Solutions in Sydney found that 81 per cent of people believed a fun work environment would make them more productive while 55 per cent said they would take less pay to have more fun at work. Ninety-three per cent of respondents said that laughing on the job helped to reduce work-related stress. The survey of 2, 500 employees was released ahead of the “Humour Summit”— a conference which looked at the issue of fun in the workplace and its impact on a business’ bottom line.
Recent research done in Victoria University by Professor Janet Holmes and Maria Stubbe confirms that effective workplace communication has many facets and that humour along with small talk and repetition play an important part.
They found that feelings of solidarity were fostered when workers contributed to office humour.
People were considered to be part of the team and these workplaces tended to be happier. They also cited subordinates using humour to contest their superiors, and as a self-depreciation device defusing the pressure when they know they have done something stupid. (Full research results are available in their book, Holmes, Janet and Maria Stubbe 2003. Power and Politeness in the Workplace. Harlow Essex: Pearson Education.)
The qualities that mark people who excel in real life, who have successful personal relationships, and who are stars in the workplace have nothing to do with IQ. Daniel Goleman US Author of Emotional Intelligence — Why it can matter more than IQ says those qualities include self awareness, impulse control, persistence, zeal and self motivation, empathy and social deftness. These are all evident in people who are good humoured.
Combine this thinking with Howard Gardner, Professor at Harvard Business School, who expounds the theory that we have in fact eight or more intelligences including linguistic, musical, physical, analytical, practical, intra-personal and inter-personal. People with strong inter-personal intelligence who have the ability to get on with other people, and are good at getting things done with and through others. These people are more likely to be good humoured.
All of these intelligences relate to individual core competencies and learning styles in a workplace setting. When the needs of the job are a match for the needs of the person then performance outcomes and productivity stand to grow exponentially. These intelligences are easily determined and isolate strengths and passions of employees. Use them to find out what makes your people sing and then create a plan to help them enjoy their time at work. When you do they will bring a new zeal to encounters with your customers and be the source of increased revenue as a result.
The art of improvisation is a skill developed by actors that boosts creative thought and potentiates deliberate brain activity.
It is not uncommon for participants in programs to quickly develop skills that allow them to perform five or six complex tasks simultaneously. It is a process that involves unlearning old habits and thinking laterally to create new solutions to problems. It’s application in business is relevant as decision making abilities are markedly enhanced, saving time and money and therefore improving productivity. Improv has a pattern that can be learned and is intentionally reliant on the deliberate creation of humour.
It is no great surprise that people perform to optimum when they are having fun, doing what they love, in a high trust environment that rewards and acknowledges their efforts. Being good humoured is a state of mind. In that state we are more likely to laugh and be the trigger for others to laugh. Laughter is a great medicine. Like intense exercise, laughter increases brain levels of serotonin and endorphins that can calm and relax the mind. In that more relaxed state people are more productive. The notion of being able to lift your bottom line by developing a high trust environment where people are rewarded for having fun and doing what they love … is not as elusive as it seems!
People get beaten up enough by life; they don’t need to get beaten up when they come to work.
The new adaptations to the Health and Safety Act see employers and employees having a shared responsibility for the provision of a stress free, safe work environment. The people who walk through your doors each day are affected by life events. Positive relationships can be built using good humour and the mutual respect that ensues contributes significantly to a safe and productive workplace