Laughter does a lot for us — not only does it have many health benefits, it goes a long way toward making boring or tedious tasks fly by. Encouraging a positive, lighthearted atmosphere in your store will help you and your employees be more productive, and will also keep your customers coming back.
"Humor," Edward De Bono says, "is by far the most significant dimension of the human brain." It gets us to think asymmetrically, enhances creativity and energizes us. Studies show that humor in the workplace can boost employee productivity, and even enhance performance. Laughter is also one of the best stress management tools. As the Mayo Clinic reports, laughter increases the release of feel-good chemicals, reduces tension and helps us connect with others.
Management consultant Tom Peters has long advocated the importance of humor for encouraging a team spirit and as a constructive way of dealing with mistakes in the workplace. In his book, The Pursuit of Wow! Every Person's Guide to Topsy-Turvy Times, Peters exhorts us to have "a collegial, supportive, yeasty, zany, laughter-filled environment where folks support one another and politics is as absent as it can be in a human (i.e. imperfect) enterprise."
But humor in the workplace is no laughing matter—there's no doubt it works and should be a part of a company's culture plan. How can you harness the power of humor to bring out the best in your people?
1. Lead With a Smile
People often watch their boss's expressions to see which way the wind is blowing. Lighten up your approach with employees—humor helps put people at ease by generating trust and making you more approachable. A sense of humor is a desirable quality in any leader; it's an important part of getting along with others and getting things done.
But that doesn't mean you have to go around cracking jokes. Just being aware of your habitual facial expressions, smiling at people, not approaching all issues with the same grim intensity, and not being heavy-handed when people make the inevitable mistake goes a long way toward lightening the mood and fostering well-being in your office. Humor is a key tool for strong leaders. It's worth paying attention to this.
2. Assess your humor style
Four ways people express humor:
1. Affiliative. This is a highly positive, non-hostile, non-competitive type of humor used to reduce social tensions, smooth relationships and promote cohesion in a group. It involves spontaneous jokes and witty banter that we can safely laugh at.
2. Aggressive. This type of humor establishes dominance in social situations. It involves sarcasm, teasing or disparaging others.
3. Self-enhancing. This type of humor serves as a proactive way to cope with stress. It's related to taking things lightly, being amused by various events in our lives and having a generally humorous outlook on things.
4. Self-defeating. This is self-deprecating humor; it's about being open to, or encouraging, jokes at our own expense.
Studies show that a leader's self-enhancing humor has a positive effect on employees. As well, a little self-deprecating humor is usually a good way to lighten the mood in many situations.
3. Introduce Some Fun Initiatives
There's a myriad no- or low-cost initiatives you can implement that can inject some fun into your business. Here are a few to consider (choose the ones that best fit your culture and would be well-received by staff):
Take a few minutes at the start of a staff meeting while everyone's grabbing coffee to include a brief ice breaker. For example, have everyone join in solving a brain game such as Word Puzzle Wednesday.
Set up a "Take Your Kids to Work Day," "Take Your Dog to Work Day" or "Bring Your Parents to Work Day" (considered the new "millennial workplace perk").
Have your employees submit their favorite family recipe. Compile them in a company recipe book, and provide each employee with a copy. You could even have a potluck where each employee makes and brings in their favorite dish.
4. Respect Comic Diversity
Any initiatives to introduce fun in the workplace need to take into account the different personalities in the office. Not every employee is comfortable partaking in fun activities at work. So don't force people to join in organized frivolity if it's not a good fit for them. Respect their wishes, and give them the autonomy to opt out—whether that's the Christmas party, the annual picnic or the hallway golf tournament.
5. Include Humor in Your Ads
Studies show that ads with humor are at least 25 percent more effective than those without—humor increases the odds that potential customers will take action. That's because funny ads attract our attention and are more likely to be memorable. Almost everyone enjoys watching funny ads, such as this Berlitz language ad. This can even be incorporated as part of your brand—a workplace that values humor.