Crack a smile to boost the bot­tom line, Me­lanie Burgess writes

The Weekend Post - - Careers -

TEAM ban­ter and funny emails may not ac­tu­ally be a waste of work time, as ex­perts sug­gest hu­mour brings many ben­e­fits to the work­place. Laugh­ter re­lieves stress and bore­dom as well as boost­ing en­gage­ment, well­be­ing, cre­ativ­ity, col­lab­o­ra­tion, an­a­lytic pre­ci­sion and pro­duc­tiv­ity, re­search from Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Whar­ton School, Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Lon­don Busi­ness School re­veals.

Em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence com­pany Jaxzyn co-founder Dou­gal Jack­son says hu­mour can also be used as a key com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool.

“Be­cause it’s of­ten in short sup­ply at work, us­ing hu­mour strate­gi­cally can also help cut through the noise and draw peo­ple’s at­ten­tion to im­por­tant mes­sag­ing,” he says.

“It can make even the most mun­dane topic mem­o­rable.”

Jack­son says lead­ers who use hu­mour au­then­ti­cally are of­ten thought of more highly by staff. They are con­sid­ered like­able and there­fore trust­wor­thy and in­flu­en­tial.

Work­ers should con­sider, how­ever, their joke’s time, place and au­di­ence.

Jack­son ad­vises against hu­mour when talk­ing about a sen­si­tive topic to avoid triv­i­al­is­ing a se­ri­ous situ- ation. Hu­mour can also be sub­jec­tive, con­tex­tual and cul­tur­ally spe­cific.

“If peo­ple can’t re­late to the joke for any one of th­ese rea­sons, they won’t find it funny,” he says. “Worse, if they do re­late to the joke but per­ceive it’s in poor taste or at their ex­pense, they’re likely to take of­fence.

“It’s def­i­nitely chal­leng­ing to find hu­mour that will ap­peal to ev­ery­one … yet the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits make the ef­fort worth­while.”

Hu­mour and ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion can also be used in work­places to soften the blow of neg­a­tive feed­back.

This ben­e­fit was dis­cov­ered by Mi­crosoft while de­sign­ing its new col­lab­o­ra­tion soft­ware, Teams, which in­cludes a chat func­tion equipped with fun vi­su­als such as emo­jis, GIFS, stick­ers and cus­tomis­able memes.

Mi­crosoft cor­po­rate vice-pres­i­dent Brian Mac­Don­ald says Teams aims to help peo­ple en­joy work­ing with each other. “When you have th­ese dif­fer­ent ways to ex­press emo­tion or dis­ap­point­ment, you can kind of dis­arm peo­ple a lit­tle bit,” he says.

Mac­Don­ald gives the ex­am­ple of a worker pitch­ing him a fea­ture idea via group chat that was “re­ally aw­ful”.

In­stead of re­spond­ing “that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard”, he sent a GIF in­stead. “It was a very prissy-look­ing Paris Hil­ton go­ing ‘hmm’ and I said noth­ing,” he says. “It ac­com­plished that per­son know­ing ‘you’d bet­ter stop that idea’ but be­cause it was in a fun way they weren’t pub­licly shamed.

“It’s amaz­ing the im­pact that it has on team cul­ture.”

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