All work and no play … makes for one long day at the office

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

See? Ike got it. A little humor can go a long way in delivering a message. According to a 2017 article in Psychology Today, humor is one of the highest forms of human communication, increasing intimacy, compassion and understanding while also breaking the tension.

There are places where a witticism, regardless of the subject matter, can be a bit inappropriate. A funeral comes to mind as one example. Another, of course, is the office. Your job pays the bills. Your job puts food on the table and provides for your family. The workplace is no laughing matter, right?

Wrong.

Yes, yes. We all know the trope of the workplace as a dry and dull wasteland where productivity trumps all, and at one time or another, we’ve likely all had the stereotypical scowling specter of a boss who apparently underwent an irreversible funny- lobectomy.

Yet humor at work can provide a big boost to employee behavior as well as your bottom line.

Roughly four out of five chief financial officers questioned in a 2017 survey by human resources consulting firm Robert Half International said a sense of humor plays an important role in how well an employee fits in with a firm’s corporate culture. In addition, the study notes that people want to enjoy work, and happy employees typically produce a better product. A workplace devoid of humor can increase stress as well as decrease morale, which may result in a higher turnover rate.

Similarly, a 2012 survey conducted by the Bell Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, found that when employees were asked to describe the strengths of senior colleagues, “sense of humor” and “work ethic” were listed twice as much as other phrases. The Bell study found that the most effective leaders use humor to spark enthusiasm, deliver a message, boost productivity, ease tensions, build bonds within a team and see the lighter side of a situation.

However, there is a double-edge to this sword. The Bell study also found that less effective leaders use humor negatively to show off, cut people down with sarcasm and distract employees from tasks. The point is that, if you’re the office standup, be sure to read the room correctly. To paraphrase the Spider-Man comics: With great humor comes great responsibility.

So, wisecrack wisely. You just may be laughing all the way to the bank.

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