Imagine a world where everyone loves to go to the office. It’s a place where everyone has fun, you’re part of a team that consistently crushes quarterly metrics and achieves success, you can always hear people giggling and cheering, and nobody wants to go home at 5 p.m.
This world doesn’t exist yet, but you can make it so with high-performance humor. Work without fun is just work, and that's not desirable for anyone. In this article, you’ll learn how to achieve high-performance humor that builds lasting trust and ignites engagement.
We’ve all heard how companies like Google, Facebook and Apple have tried to create the perfect atmosphere using costly resources to manufacture fun by design — picture a big slide to play on. But playful games are only one element of workplace fun. Engagement, cohesiveness, happiness and humor come from interpersonal relationships and psychological safety. That means it happens in conversations, meetings and daily interactions.
There are countless studies that show humor and laughter are good for you. It increases focus, memory, learning retention, and it brings people closer together. It builds trust and improves likability, attractiveness and productivity. In terms of the workplace, humor triggers positive communication and creativity, decreases burnout, stress and work withdrawal, and enhances leadership, group cohesiveness and organizational culture.
Learning To Use Humor In The Workplace
Being funny at work doesn’t mean you have to be the class clown. Do you like to laugh? Yes. Can you make others laugh? Yes. We just typically aren’t as funny at work as we are in our personal life because this isn’t a skill we learn, not even in business school.
1. First, be yourself. The word "authentic" means to be true to one’s self. The funniest people on the planet are known for their own individual style that’s authentic to them and only them -- think Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey.
2. Use the “yes, and …” technique. Co-created humor is the best kind of humor. The brilliant little phrase “yes, and” is the secret to spectacular improvisational comedy. It’s a simple mechanism that keeps the humor going. If you’ve read the Upright Citizen Brigade’s Comedy Improvisation Manual, you already know that this is a widely known technique. It allows improvisational comedians to further explore and enhance the things that other people say in a positive way. If someone says something funny, say "yes, and," then fill in something after that to keep the fun alive!
3. Get in a pattern to develop humor organically. For example, remind people of past laughs by bringing it up later on. Creating patterns of humor means you apply it consistently.
4. Practice it. Humor can be learned, but practice is actually more important. Just Google the phrase “school of improv near me,” and you’ll likely find a place to practice and learn from insanely-talented comedic professionals who have decades of formal training.
5. Don't dwell on failed attempts. Failed attempt at humor? No problem. Just move on quickly. The awkwardness only lies in the silence between the failure and the next spoken words. Most failures fall on deaf ears because of delivery, not content. Chuckle a few times before the delivery, and you're more likely to get laughs. This is because of the science behind mirroring neurons.
6. Don't force it. Can’t think of anything funny? That's OK. High-performance humor is more about being ready and trying to find the humor everywhere. I know a CEO who's witty, so last time he walked by, I screamed out, “What’s that? You want me to take over for you?” He quickly replied, “So long as I get to keep my parking spot."
How Not To Use Humor
1. Don’t interrupt someone to make a joke. It’ll do more harm than good. In fact, research shows that people who are interrupted are likely to use humor less frequently as a result.
2. Don’t use aggressive humor. Poking fun at others has a high risk of alienating members of a workgroup. Save this style for your high school pals or a roast. The chances of a destructive consequence are far too high. If you have to make fun of someone, make sure you focus on something temporary, not a permanent physical feature or personal characteristic.
3. Don’t use self-deprecating humor. Unless you’re a CEO trying to reduce the power distance from those you lead, making jokes at your own expense isn't effective. Don’t go there.
Types Of Humor To Use At Work
• Affiliative humor is what brings teams closer together. This style is all about telling jokes and making fun of things that result in positive emotions for others.
• Self-enhancing humor is similar, but it’s used on an individual level. Being amused by everything can reduce stress, so find the humor in life’s challenges. As Queen Elizabeth II said, "Let us not take ourselves too seriously. None of us has a monopoly on wisdom."
Humor can boost creativity, inclusion and productivity. Get started today by bringing at least one relevant joke to at least one meeting per day.
Think of humor as the dessert of life. It’s the cherry on top. Tell some jokes, or at least share a Dilbert comic in your next email.