Find a Spot for Humor in the Workplace

By Dr. Larry Pfaff

At a recent professional conference I heard local humorist/psychologist Dane Wysocki make a presentation about humor in the workplace. His presentation was very enlightening and interesting. In subsequent conversations with him I have learned a great deal about humor and its possible impact on the workplace. Following are a few things that you may be interested in knowing.

Why is humor so important in the workplace today? According to Wysocki, a survey of Fortune 500 executives revealed that one of the top traits they look for in a manager is a sense of humor. The reasons most cited include: 1) A sense of humor implies character, social skills, and an ability to laugh at oneself. 2) A sense of humor in the workplace can be seen as an integral quality to success, or perhaps a necessary survival skill. 3) A lack of a sense of humor may suggest someone disconnected from the trials in life, or someone incapable of tapping into laughter. These are all things that make more resilient, effective managers. It would seem that these same traits would be valuable to employees at all levels of an organization.

It seems that as children we are more prone to humor. So, how can adults become more like children again? Becoming more child-like is frowned on in our culture, but reconnecting with our youth can be quite easy. Think of the last time you played hide and seek, Red Rover or even Marco Polo. Think of the last time you hopped and skipped and didn't pull a muscle. Think of what made you shine in grade school or high school. Try to recall why doing those activities was so much fun. Often, it was the attitude you had about the events. It was the sheer enjoyment of doing for the sake of doing. Take that attitude into your current work setting. You may never regain the innocence, but the simplicity and joy of youth may be closer than you think. And it just may brighten the day for you or the people around you.

From an organizational standpoint what can be done to put more humor in the workplace? Organizations can congratulate employees, recognize achievements and create a lively corporate culture. Activities can include company picnics, family inclusion and a sense of belonging. These practices can result in the company having an easier time recruiting top talent, and perhaps retaining it. Employees' sense of job satisfaction may come initially in the form of a paycheck, but it ultimately comes from the interconnectedness with coworkers. The coworkers with whom they laugh and share their work experience. Every organization has people who are quite skilled at organizing social events and rallying people to a single cause. These people should be given the support to create an atmosphere of fun endorsed from the top down. Having fun then becomes a sincere corporate expectation, not just mere talk. Unfortunately, today we often define ourselves by our professions. It seems to many that it is our title that matters and not what is in our hearts. Those that succeed in work and in life seem to maintain a balance that can only come from perspective, the kind of perspective that makes you step back and appreciate the opportunities afforded you and your loved ones. This sense of perspective can only come from wisdom, and wisdom is gained through experience. We must experience adversity before we can ever appreciate joy, begin to understand hope or begin to believe in miracles. Children believe in miracles. Perhaps that is why they approach life with such joy and energy.

Humor in the workplace is an attainable goal. We just need to take the initiative, be able to laugh at ourselves along the way, and be willing to act a little like a kid again.

Please send any comments, questions or suggestions to Dr. Pfaff at

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