We have no control over our politicians, the environment or the deputy commissioner of taxation. Reality is tough. Humour offers a manageable middle ground because it gives us the opportunity to laugh at reality; one Leunig cartoon generally has a more potent message than the entire newspaper.
A manager who uses humour creates a safe environment for discussion, delivering the opportunity for everyone to sift through what feeds his or her anxieties and prejudices. Laughter becomes a drilling device because we laugh before we think.
Using humour connects you to your colleagues, puts everyone at ease and encourages them to talk about what’s really on their mind, rather than what they think the boss wants to hear.
Fear is not a great motivator for human endeavour, laughter is! Research has shown the power of humour in improving alertness, memory and interpersonal responsiveness.
Trust me, it works. I’m a comedian.
Jake Richardson AIMM
Having a sense of humour is a great way to build a memorable connection with all people. It lets you see the humour in your mistakes (we have all made a few!) and the mistakes of your team. Ultimately, it allows you to move on sooner and find a solution to the problem.
Now, I am not saying that every situation presented in my role as a manager should be reacted to without any negativity, but reacting positively is a great place to start any conversation with a staff member.
I have found that when providing feedback on work completed by staff, humour should be avoided. It can distract the staff member or give them the impression that you don’t care about the quality of the work they present. The key is to find the spots appropriate for humour in your particular workplace.
People tend to trust people who share their sense of humour because it helps them come across as more authentic. Humour is a powerful stress buster; it helps people communicate more effectively and is a catalyst for more creative thinking. Humorous people are also seen as better ‘team players’.
Senior leaders need to understand that it’s not a choice between humour or work, but a choice for humour and work. Every organisation I have studied that embraces a high humour culture still has remarkably high expectations for its employees.
Of course, the style of humour matters. Everyone needs to practise what I call ‘safe humour’. Humour that laughs with people, never at them. Humour that supports creative ideas rather than laughing at each other’s suggestions.
It’s not about being a comedian or telling jokes – it’s first and foremost about encouraging people to laugh at themselves and at the things they can’t control.