NOTHING LIKE A GOOD GIGGLE
Crack a smile to boost the bottom line, Melanie Burgess writes
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.”