Humor in the Workplace: Don’t Take It So Seriously
Some managers seem to think workplace humor is a waste of time at best, a potentially offensive minefield at worst. Let’s lighten up. As Missouri-Columbia Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business Professor Chris Roberts pointed out in his paper entitled "The Case for Developing New Research on Humor and Culture in Organizations: Towards a Higher Grade of Manure" (yes, that’s the real title), humor has a positive affect in the workplace. It tends to increase productivity, as well as the ability to communicate.
The use of humor is associated with intelligence and creativity. Often it involves juxtaposing two seemingly incongruous things. This sort of playfulness inherent in humor is often exactly the quality that leads to innovation. Also, the link between humor and positive emotions is very strong. Humor in the workplace can be a great stress reliever.
Those who frown on workplace humor tend to cite the fact that humor is often used as a way to criticize power indirectly (“I was just kidding.”). One who jokes may in fact be issuing a sort of challenge. If so, the joke can give you insight into issues people may feel uncomfortable talking about. That’s a positive benefit! There’s nothing wrong with dealing with issues in a non-confrontational way.
Legalistic types also worry humor can get offensive. It’s true: humor can be offensive. But then, people can be offensive without humor, too. Don’t blame the medium for the message.
So should you be looking to hire comedians? Of course not. But you may certainly want to find people who can take a joke and put a humorous spin on life’s—and work’s—little trials. After all, no one ever said the workplace had to be ALL work.