04 Mar How a Little Humor Can Improve Your Work Life
via the Greater Good by Jessica Lindsey
Why do we laugh at movies like Office Space or shows like The Office? What’s so funny about work?
For one student in the GGSC’s online Foundations of Happiness at Work course, humor is found in everyday faux pas. Steve from California shared, “During a meeting, my boss complimented our colleague…saying how handsome he is. The team felt awkwardly surprised, until our boss corrected, ‘No—it’s great how hands-on he is!’ Everyone laughed, easing the tension from the meeting. ‘Well, he is handsome, too!’ I defended jokingly, and we all laughed again.”
Work may seem like a serious place. But, according to research, introducing some laughter into work life can contribute to our well-being and productivity. In fact, finding humor is one of the practices we teach students in our online course. The funny stories they shared remind us that a little playfulness goes a long way toward a more enjoyable work life.
The benefits of humor at work
Humor creates an atmosphere of levity and a sense of perspective that can dissolve tension and, in turn, protect us from stress at work and even benefit our health. Moreover, research suggests that people who engage in more conversational humor with colleagues feel happier and have higher job satisfaction.
Laughter serves to create and strengthen social bonds in humans—as well as in our chimp ancestors. One evolutionary theory claims that laughter first emerged in these ancestors as a response to signal safety and relief to others after something unexpected occurs. This has implications in modern times, and it may explain why colleagues who laugh more together tend to enjoy a more safe or comfortable environment and a greater sense of cohesion among teams.
“When friends laugh . . . in unison, their fight-flight response (e.g., increased blood pressure) is calmed and mirror neurons fire,” explains Dacher Keltner. “Shared laughter becomes a collective experience, one of coordinated action, cooperative physiology, and the establishing of common ground.”
Feeling comfortable in our work environment can empower us to think openly and take risks—a foundation for finding creative solutions at work, contributing to our productivity. In one study, leaders who used humor at work were more likely to reach their unit’s target goals, and to receive a higher performance rating from their direct supervisor, one year later.
What’s more, when supervisors integrate humor into their leadership style, they become more likeable, while maintaining respect and influence. One survey study found that employees who say that their manager “makes us laugh at ourselves when we are too serious” or “uses humor to take the edge off during stressful periods” were more likely to trust their manager, and feel a sense of belonging and contentedness at work.
A hint of self-deprecating humor can also be a useful tool for leaders and other employees to make themselves more approachable. One study revealed that when leaders and employees share this style of self-effacing banter, employees tend to gain even more professional respect for leaders—a counterintuitive finding for leaders who are afraid to show weakness.
Still, there are some types of humor that can be counterproductive, namely condescending humor that belittles people’s worth or status. This is different from gentle teasing, which can bond colleagues together and help us to not take ourselves too seriously. As our student Malika from Saudi Arabia shared, “My coworker did a funny impression of me, and it really made me laugh. It made me feel more included and that they know me really well.”
… keep reading the full & original article HERE