LAUGHTER AT WORK? But I Don’t Want to Look Foolish!

Most comedians traffic in foolishness. It’s woven so tightly into the fabric of what we do we don’t think twice about it. When one of the touchstones of your art form is slipping on a banana peel, a body losing control unexpectedly with arms akimbo, looking foolish is part of the job description. We’re game for anything if it will bring a smile to your face. Given this unique character trait, we often hang out together, which means we can lose any sense that this is an unusual way to go through life. As Laughter On Call has expanded around the world working with all kinds of companies and healthcare communities we have learned that what is all in a day’s work for us can be terrifying to civilians. If you’re a comedy layperson and find the idea of bringing laughter to the office scarier than doing a TED talk naked, allow me to spend a few minutes putting your mind at ease. Here are the top three myths about introducing laughter at work and how to bust them. 
• “Making jokes at work will make me look foolish and lower my status!”
On the contrary, in an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work Brad Bitterly and Alison Wood Brooks report that “Humor not only helps individuals ascend to positions of authority but also helps them lead more effectively once they are there.” Theirs and other studies have proven that people who use appropriate humor are perceived as more confident and competent, not less!
• “Making jokes is wasting time.”
Wasting time…or creating connection? Much has been reported this past year about people starving for human interaction. In a virtual world, all the “weak ties” of office life, the water cooler moments, have been stripped away taking a toll on employees’ mental health and feelings of belonging. Allowing for a few extra minutes to share a joke or a personal foible with a sense of humor is worth everyone’s time because it reminds us we’re human beings. As the great comedian Victor Borge is often quoted, “The shortest distance between two people is laughter.” Even on ZOOM. Or Microsoft Teams. Or Blue Jeans. 
• “I’d make jokes, but I don’t want to offend someone.”
A legitimate concern to which my first response is, yes, no sex jokes at the office. Save the double entendres with innuendo for your dating profile. In terms of avoiding other offenses, at Laughter On Call we’re big on “affiliative humor,” an unfortunately not funny phrase.  But using it does make people laugh and helps bring people together. It’s non-confrontational kind of joking, so no sarcasm no controversial subjects. Or as I often joke, nothing Seth MacFarland would say. Another inoffensive way to bring levity to a situation with no harm to others is by using self-deprecation. The key to this in business is to apply it in moderation and never in reference to the skill you’re being paid to do!


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