A laugh a day keeps the doctor away. It’s a well-worn phrase. But like any such popular adages, there is a world of wisdom within it. Its deployment is often just restricted to the pub or the Comedy Store. This is a mistake and a missed opportunity for organisations.
Humour can motivate people in ways that companies often forget. Most people are preoccupied with their professional identity, regarding it as a serious matter. It’s risky to tell a joke. It’s context dependent and sometimes, they just don’t work. We’ve all had the experience of a flat joke!
As a result, HR and Communications managers often neglect to ensure that they injected a degree of appropriate humour into the culture just as much as they incorporate with other positive emotions like pride and awe.
But on balance, the benefits can outweigh the risks - mostly, when you know your audience!
Take Motley Fool, although a very serious investment business, its brand name suggests that perhaps don’t take themselves so seriously. But on closer examination, this is a character who had the ability to speak when others couldn’t.
Humour Makes Your Message Memorable
Messages can be delivered using humour to make them more salient and memorable. What better way to deliver a message to employees than through something with a degree of humour? Advertisers do it all the time.
Humour Makes you More Likable
According to Naomi Bagdonas, lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the ability of people between the age of 23 and 70 years old to laugh declines in a phenomenon known as the “Humour Cliff”. Apparently, we’ve all fallen off it. In an interview with Nir Eyal, Naomi states that the average 4-year-old laughs up to 300 times a day while it takes the average 40-year old over 2.5 months to match that rate as they laugh just 4 times a day.
Humour Makes you More Respected
Naomi’s research with colleague, Dr. Jennifer Aaker shows that a sense of humour makes managers 23% more respected and 25% more pleasant to work with. That’s no surprise. It also catches more dates.
Humour Makes you Seem More Competent
It feels counter-intuitive but Professor Alison Wood Brooks has found that cracking jokes at work can make you seem more competent. So the benefits multiple.
Humour Makes you More Influential
In a professional environment, careers are no laughing matter. Or maybe they are? Those above you want your brain but science shows how much more powerful likability is - more influential than credibility. If humour is the key to likability, you can give yourself licence to relax just that little bit more.
Humour Makes You Less Stressed
Laughter fixes many ills. Problems seem less intense, more controllable and you feel better about your ability to solve the issue. It’s like when someone teases you and holds up a mirror to your actions, you see the hilarity in how you sound or what you’ve been doing. It’s an instant de-stresser.
In times of mental health stress, laughter is also a great way to diffuse tension and even conflict within teams. During negotiations, it is an easy way to break the emotional wall of fear and make each party relax. As a result, performance, relationships and outcomes inevitably improve.
Humour Makes You Happier
You don’t need to read this article to tell you that! The neuroscientists will of course relate laughter to the release of oxytocin and dopamine.
Taking yourself too seriously is only something we realise we are doing in hindsight. It’s easy to talk about it and far harder to do.
But the punch line is worth it!