Humour in the workplace is too easily dismissed by leaders as irreverent play and disruption, and is not given the respect it deserves.
Workplaces are interactive places, where people come together to discuss and work through issues in the hope of coordinating activity aimed at a higher goal. Today’s workplaces evolve rapidly, throwing up divergent interests that have to be structured in some way. It is complex and often stressful, creating negative reactions that work their way into the soul of the business.
However there is an antidote: humour. Humour is perfect for diffusing toxic situations and calming people down when having to deal with multiple and ranging issues on a day-to-day basis. Rather than getting caught up in the drama, humour offers employees an effective way of discussing challenging and uncomfortable issues without having to be too formal or difficult. It acts as a safety valve in which negativity can be released slowly in a managed way.
Humour is also effective when dealing with:
- Organisational change: humour can help staff negotiate and find constructive ways out of tense and unfamiliar situations, such as changes to the business or period of high tension.
- When dealing with stress: humour helps employees relive tension and produce a more enjoyable workplace.
- Low innovation: humour is an act of ‘play’, which is commonly thought of as a trigger for creativity and convergent thinking, both key to establishing a innovative ecosystem.
Humour is commonplace and not something that needs much nurturing in order to take place. As such, leaders don’t need to worry about employing an army of comedians in order for humour to occur at work. However leaders should also be vigilant against suppressing humour at work. Of course, there is a limit, and it is wise not to encourage excessive humour as this could lead to distraction and possible employee grievances. Yet humour is a natural response when people are dealing with difficult and tense situations, and so, on some occasions, a little humour at work could offer more benefits than the occasional chuckle.