In the interest of getting tasks completed on time and minding bottom lines, humor has left most of our workplaces. Managers show disapproval at the sound of laughter, hearing it as an indication that serious work at hand is being neglected. In fact, introducing humor in the workplace could be the most effective tool to increasing innovation and unconventional thinking.
Humor In The Workplace? Why Use Humor?
More and more Human Resources departments are taking courses in gelotology, the study of laughter, and its effects on employees both from a psychological and physiological perspective. This study is name after the Greek word for laughter, gelos.
Laughter has long been seen as an agent to enhance people’s physical health. Research conducted by Robert Provine and his team at the University of Maryland showed that humor can hike the level of our infection-fighting antibodies and increase the levels of our immune cells.
It now seems that laughter can also invigorate a workplace. According to scholar Giselinde Kupiers writing in The Sociology of Humor, the use of humor in the workplace creates shared experiences, solidarity and identity within groups of workers. It is also an effective tool for the promotion of communication and heightens creativity and productivity.
The Use Of Humor In The Workplace
Whether working with employees or with focus groups, humor can add a dimension of breaking the ice between people, uniting people from different levels within the company, and creating a shared responsibility.
This is not accomplished by telling jokes or smiling without reason. Humor is a more subtle force, introduced through quiet, funny exchanges in the course of our regular business operations.
A prime example of how humor can foster innovation took place as far back as 1953 when a New England chef George Crum mischievously decided to play a little joke on customers who repeatedly returned his fried potatoes to the kitchen complaining they were not crunchy enough.
Crum sliced the potatoes super-thin, added salt, and fried them literally to a crisp. The customer adored these first “potato chips” and shared them with other patrons who immediately wanted more. An entire industry was born.
In this instance as well, humor was a tool to dissolve friction and help people solve their differences. Being able to laugh genuinely together makes people feel safe and comfortable with each other and willing to try again and try differently.
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