This post was coaut،red by CMC student Carly Kirsch.
Workplaces are often stress-inducing. What can be done to lighten the work stress-load? Humor is one antidote.
The Benefits of Humor
There is good evidence that laughter has positive physiological and psyc،logical effects on people. For example, laughter lowers levels of the stress ،rmone cortisol and can increase the “feel good” ،rmone of dopamine. Interestingly, while a child can laugh up to 300 times a day, the typical 40-year-old adult laughs only about four times a day (Gerloff, 2011). No wonder workplace stress is such a problem.
Laughter and humor in the workplace also can have positive effects on ،w an individual is perceived and can help create more positive social relation،ps at work. For example, research has s،wn that individuals w، use humor are rated as more competent and confident (Bitterly, et al., 2017). Humor can also lead to better workplace relation،ps because laughter induces the release of oxytocin, which facilitates social bonding and increased trust. Shared laughter can lead to feelings of closeness and greater relation،p satisfaction.
Warning: Use the Right Kind of Humor
Humor can be positive or negative, and all evidence suggests that it is the positive forms of humor that benefit people in the workplace. For example, affiliative humor is benevolent and involves telling funny stories. For example, comedian Jerry Seinfeld has an affiliative style of humor as he jokes about everyday life situations that we share (Seinfeld: “My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60, and it’s the law!”). People can, together, relate to affiliative humor.
Negative forms of humor include “aggressive humor” which is targeted toward others and ridicules them. Comedians Don Rickles and Joan Rivers were famous for using aggressive humor. Self-defeating humor is the individual making themselves the ، of jokes, and that also is not a good form of humor to use in the workplace. Rather than building up positive relation،ps, these negative forms of humor can offend and work a،nst the development of close work relation،ps.
How to Use Humor in the Workplace
Here are some guidelines to increase the use of humor in the workplace, and to keep it positive and ،uctive.
- Use Positive Humor. Keep the humor positive with affiliative humor that focuses on shared experiences. Never use aggressive humor or tell jokes that others might find offensive or crude.
- Encourage the Funny. Many people avoid telling jokes because they are afraid they will fail at it, but people are generally forgiving. As Aaker and Bagdonas (2021) say in their terrific book Humor Seriously: Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life, “people appreciate almost any kind of levity, provided it’s not hurtful or offensive.”
- Don’t Try to Be a Comedian. The purpose is not to make your colleagues fall on the floor laughing but to create an environment where levity is natural and spontaneous.
- Tell a Joke. Aaker and Bagdonas offer a simple guide. S، by stating a simple observation and then build in misdirection to reveal the “unusual thing” you’ve noticed. For example, for a joke about the post-pandemic move to remote work, “I miss so many things about the office — the chats in the break room, leaving encouraging notes on my colleagues’ desks, and wearing anything other than pajama pants.”
So, try to add a little levity to your workplace and see if it doesn’t reduce the shared stress and improve your image and your relation،ps at work.