“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people,of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
“We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, by being professional, or by being institutional.” – Paul Hawken
As evidenced by the above quotes, a sense of humor and the ability to have fun in the workplace are two of the most undervalued human resources that managers have at their disposal. However, according to a William M. Mercer survey, only 29% of employers encourage humor as part of their organizational culture, and only 8% have a policy of using fun to decrease stress. Additional research has shown that people who have fun at work are more creative, more productive, work better with others, and call in sick less often. Companies such as Southwest Airlines and Zappos are well aware of these statistics and have worked to shift their culture to being more employee-friendly and fun.
Here are a few guidelines to help increase happiness within your organization:
- Don’t be so serious. Learn to take yourself lightly, while still taking your job seriously. When you laugh at yourself, you encourage others to do the same.
- Be sincere. Make sure to be yourself and only do what feels comfortable for you.
- Know your team. Spend time with your employees in order to understand them. This may result in mutual respect and admiration.
- Recognize hard work. If you show people you are appreciative when they work hard, they are more likely to enjoy the process.
- Encourage friendships. People who have friends at work are more likely to stay in the job, feel happy and be creative. The more employees hang out with each other, the more they may find ways to like each other.
- Practice relevant and safe humor. If you celebrate humor specific to your team or company, it is more meaningful. However, make sure it is always appropriate and never hurtful.
- Find out why people resign. Employees usually leave a company because they are not happy. Discover the reason and if you can, resolve their concern.
- Set the example. Managers who are interested in maintaining a happy and productive environment do this by setting the tone, especially in how they handle stress and frustrations.
Here are some examples of ways to increase fun in your workplace:
- Laugh at yourself.
- Celebrate personal and professional milestones.
- Have a dress-up day.
- Ask your co-workers for their best impersonation.
- Have a paper airplane contest.
- Bring in a board game and play it during lunch.
- Create a company song.
- Ask everyone what their favorite animal is and why.
- Have an exercise break for the whole office.
- Wear different colored socks.
- Give a copy of your favorite book to a coworker.
- Have a coloring contest.
- Create a “show and tell” every week.
- Have a child paint the office a picture.
- Laugh at yourself (I realize it was the first suggestion on this list, but it warrants saying it twice!).
Injecting fun and humor into the workplace is not about employees standing around cracking jokes and exchanging one-liners. Instead, it is about using it in situations to manage stress and creatively problem-solve. It is about celebrating work, not marginalizing it.
“I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.” – Frank A. Clark
What are your thoughts? Do you have any personal stories you are willing to share? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
- Humor and Fun in the Workplace
- Video channel for Michael Kerr, author of “Humor at Work”
- What You Can Learn from Southwest Airlines’ Culture
Jeremy S. joined Empathia in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Development. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of managerial/leadership roles at another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music and spending time with his wife and daughters.