You would probably recognize it. You open your mailbox in the morning and you are shocked when you see those countless unanswered e-mails that you still have to deal with. With a slight reluctance and a bit of sleep shortage, you get to work and make it until your first break for coffee, still feeling a bit miserable.
During coffee you happen to talk to that one colleague who is able to put things into perspective with his dry humor. You exchange opinions between each other and life immediately looks a bit more rosy. With a cheerful feeling you continue the work that now suddenly looks a bit less stressful than you had expected in the morning. This is one of the powers of humor in life. So, how important is humor at the workplace? And what if you cannot find a happy workplace?
The power of laughter
Humor is contagious. In fact: it can be very contagious. When you are working in an environment where people laugh, chances are that you will easily go along with this. The sense that humor arouses people is the same feeling that someone gets when he is rewarded. In short, humor and fun in the workplace should be spearheads for every company.
Humor provides a relaxed working atmosphere. Humor causes an initially big issue to become a minor one. When someone dreads having to perform a duty, it is often made larger than it actually is. With a good joke this can be nuanced, making it feel lighter. Seeing things in perspective is also a good breeding ground for creativity and offers the opportunity to find efficient solutions for apparently large and complex problems.
In the same line, humor lowers stress and is an important foundation for bringing innovative insights. In meetings, too, a good joke to kick off is a good icebreaker to give people the feeling that they are free to share thoughts and thus lower the threshold for providing input. This will benefit the effect of a meeting.
Humor distinguishes us from robots, increases sales
With the advent of artificial intelligence and the construction of robots, there is a fear that some activities can be taken over by robots. I can understand this fear, but for certain activities the distinctive human capacities such as humor come in handy. Can you imagine it: a robot conducting a sales conversation? Not me. With humor we create a bond with colleagues and customers. We could make ourselves vulnerable with some self-mockery. Humor is one of the distinguishing capacities with which you can differentiate between humans from robots.
A relationship of trust is needed to win over a customer. Humor is a great tool to realize this bond. A joke creates a relaxed atmosphere that is needed to work on this (trust) bond and to attract a potential customer. That is why I dare to state that humor increases the chance of a sale.
What are the pitfalls?
The danger of humor is that you make a joke that harms some other person. A joke can often express a dangerous and sarcastic message that another can perceive as an attack. It is good to realize that one person can appreciate heavier humor where the other prefers to keep it dry and superficial.
A smile has the same positive consequences for everyone, but a joke can also turn out wrong. The standard jokes about family members who suddenly appear to have died recently. The otherwise-be-fired joke between employees when someone has just been told by his supervisor that his contract is not being renewed. A good comedian is dependent on the right timing.
A practical example
You will see this on many dating sites: a lot of women write in their profile “I think humor is incredibly important as well as depth!” And now suppose: you have two applicants. They are both good at their job, one is slightly more accurate than the other, but has no humor. Any funny intended remark in the job interview on your part falls dead. The other, you can really laugh with. She might also be an asset to the Friday afternoon drink! Who do you choose? I know what I would do, however, a lot of chefs are different. So, for all of you chefs, here is a summary of the benefits of humor (in the workplace):
1. Humor produces good feelings
It is a well-known fact that when people are shaking with laughter, dopamine and endorphins (partly responsible for our feelings of happiness) are released and people could get on a high about this.
You get a good feeling, it takes away pain. Various studies have shown that laughter removes stress, strengthens the immune system and lowers blood pressure. Laughter seems to be just as healthy as jogging!
2. Humor takes away stress.
Humor puts things into perspective and helps to forget the daily troubles. Laughter relaxes you mentally and physically. You have to work hard, but also laugh a lot. In other words, you work hard and play hard. This usually happens among colleagues, but bosses should recognize this as a good and productive working atmosphere. Some might even join in occasionally.
3. Humor puts matters into perspective.
What I have observed in companies: almost everyone reacts a bit stressed. There are deadlines, the standard for performance is high. And we all have the idea that someone else does it easily. In such a case, we are making ourselves and each other crazy. Share your discomfort, be a little bit funny and you will soon feel the relief.
4. Humor breaks the ice
The role of humor in social interaction varies according to the specific social interaction, but in the case of healthy mutual relationships it should have a place, otherwise something will be wrong.
Try to imagine: you meet each other in the ward to stop laughing for a day. Then you sit in a meeting with each other and you express it deliberately: we won’t laugh one day tomorrow. Everyone agrees. And then a silence falls. And then a smile. It does not work! I have heard that even during intensive operations there is laughter in the operating room. Humor is the binder in social interaction.
5. Humor is the perfect grease
The biggest problem in the functioning of companies is a lack of feeling secure and therefore openness. Humor is a perfect way to make things negotiable. It could be your personal fun to help people to be a little more themselves. By making jokes about the clumsiness, the fear of failure, people know: oh, I’m not alone.
6. Humor can be a comfort
Humor in the form of self-mockery can work wonders. Self-mockery shows you that you can’t do everything and that gives other people a different and better view: oh, yes, of course, we are all people. You can fail and stand up. By the way, be aware that self-mockery without compassion quickly becomes self-hatred and that is of course not so funny at all.
The “everything for a smile” slogan of internet company Coolblue is not that bad. The value of humor in business is essential and should not be underestimated.
On the other hand, timing is very important. A misplaced joke can do a lot of damage.
I myself was very careful with making jokes, always testing the waters first. I would say something funny and closely watch the reactions and when things looked very serious indeed, I would immediately back-off. You have to bear in mind that not everybody has the same keen sense of humor or sense for the same type of humor.
And then there are bosses who never show any humor, they are too stressed or simply think that if you are using humor, you are not taking the business seriously. Believe me, I have seen this happen many times.
What to do when happiness is a far cry?
So, you have tried and did not find a happy workplace, something that happens to many of us. What do you do? Going to look for another job and run the chance of being stressed again? Or are you going to free yourself from the bonds of the corporate jungle?
There is of course a perfect way out of all this, as we all have the chance to start for ourselves. The internet gives us these opportunities. Here is my suggestion: keep your job for the time being, but start your own business in your free time. You will be having your own website (s) and exploiting your passions or hobbies. You will form part of a community of well over 1.4 million members, who will help you day and night. Guaranteed scam free and reasonably priced.
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