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Published: May 20th, 2015

If you’re managing some members of your staff, you probably could stand to learn a few good jokes.

Now, we are not suggesting that managers should be sent to comedy school and that they should stand up in front of their employees each week and do a Saturday Night Live comedy routine. But, what we are talking about is that, given the pressures of working and the very high employee disengagement levels present in the modern workplace (87 per cent according to Gallup), the tightly wound work environment could benefit from a more light-hearted working culture.

What kind of benefits could a manager see? Well, for starters you will attract more talent. A study from Randstad shows that 49 per cent of those surveyed rated a pleasant working atmosphere as a key criterion when choosing to join a company. This shows that personnel want to work hard, but want to do so in a fun, nurturing and pleasant environment.

Secondly, if your workplace puts humor at the center of its teaching culture, you will find that workers are much more likely to work hard longer. How do we know this? Every year the Great Places to Work Institute asks thousands of people to rate their experience of working, one of the key factors is, “this is a fun place to work.” They also found that 81 per cent of the employees in the companies were deemed as ‘great’ said that they were working in a fun environment. Employees who enjoy their workplace environment are more likely to attend on average and are also more likely to put in more effort inside and outside of work. What should also be noted is that all the companies were in the fortune 500, meaning that these were high performing companies and so humor, levity and light-heartedness were the hallmarks of a successful high performance culture.

So, how can companies inject more humor and levity into proceedings? For starters, it’s about both hiring high performing employees with a naturally more humorous outlook on life and encouraging managers to use humor on a regular basis. A study by the Hay Group found that outstanding executives used humor 17.8 times per hour vs 7.5 times per hour for average executives.

But, you need to do more than hire funny managers and tell them to crack jokes. You are looking for people who can deploy a very specific type of humor. You need people who are able to deploy humor appropriately in difficult, high pressure or tense situations as a means of defusing conflict, deflating tension, removing fear and nervousness to encourage employees to act.

Beware though as the Hay Group study also found that the highest performers used humour in a positive, even self-deprecating way, and were not negative and did not put down others or make others feel bad. So, always encourage positive and supportive humour within your organization.

As you can see, used appropriately, humour has the power to contribute to a more attractive, nurturing, sustainable and high performing workplace culture.

Have you ever experienced working with a humorous and light-hearted manager? How did it make you feel as an employee working for that company? We’d love for you to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below. 

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  • Yes, Yes and Yes! As an advocate and trainer for humor in the workplace, I have seen companies “want” to have this levity – however a culture change is more challenging to do when they see it as a “fad”. An established culture will need to help embrace those with levity – just for those wanting it NOW – it will take time. Great article!

  • Mat Pancha

    One of my interview questions, and when I’m down to 2 candidates, the decider is “tell me a joke”. This is very important, not only b/c its more pleasant working for a humorous manager, but in crisis, you need to be able to laugh through the situation so you aren’t stressed and angry.

  • awview

    Intelligent people usually have sense of humour.

  • Most people with higher intelligence have a great sense of humor. and great to be with. – Plomberie Alain Bernard