Getting serious about funny business

published3 months ago
2 min read

Hey there!

I was in a meeting last week with a client team. We were bantering a bit and cracking some jokes before getting started.

Another colleague in the client organization had joined the call.

"Oh don't worry Jamie," my counterpart said, "we just like to have a little fun to get our energy going."

"I know!" she said, "I hear this team always has fun."

That little exchange struck me.

Do the other teams at my client not "have fun?"

Or is it because my team delivers human and equity-centered design training and the other projects have heavier topics to work with?

But even the teams we work with are working on heavy topics like homelessness, trauma and food insecurity. And yet, we have fun throughout the program with the participants working on tough issues.

It got me thinking about humor in the workplace.

Let me ask. As a baseline, do you think work is "serious?"

It is of course, "serious" at some level. Gotta innovate! Gotta get the work done! Big workload, stay focused. Customer emergency. Urgent deadlines. This is serious shit, man!

Yet work today primarily exists within a social environment. A place we communicate and coordinate with each other to get something done.

Do you really want to be around others that are "serious" all the time?

Not me! Where's the humanity?

We need humor. Even when things get serious.

In the 30 minutes of internet search I did to confirm my hypothesis, I found that humor (and laughing):

  • improves productivity
  • builds relationships
  • opens learning pathways in the brain
  • reduces stress and the physical symptoms it causes
  • releases endorphins
  • improves circulation
  • improves the immune system
  • and many others...

Seems like a miracle drug!

Don't believe me?

Those findings come from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Business School -- two very SERIOUS organizations.

So why doesn't the workplace take advantage of humor more?

  • Business has cultivated an air of seriousness
  • People don't think it is appropriate
  • People think their boss or colleagues won't approve
  • People don't consider themselves "funny"

But this isn't about a standup comedy performance that needs to kill.

It's about bringing your full self to the workplace. Sharing the irony you see in things. Having ways you can lift a team up by deprecating yourself. Catching people off guard by answering the opposite of what is expected.

There are lots of ways to have a laugh.

And you can always encourage your colleagues who let their humor slip out every once in a while to do it more often.

So, before you help me start the National Center for Humor in the Workplace to study and promote humor more, I'd like to encourage you to cultivate it in your work and with your colleagues.

If you're shy and wondering how you might be a little more funny, think about the times you make others laugh in your personal life.

What do you do? In what kinds of situations do you come alive with with and surprise that make people laugh?

Take time to notice the conditions after something funny happens.

Now look for more opportunities at work. You can always share something that is already funny and laugh together.

Let me know about your thoughts about work, seriousness and humor. Share something you've read or watched related to this topic.

I'd love for the work world to become a funnier place.

Have a great week!