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Funny Business

Author(s):

Suzanne Honeycutt
Suzanne Honeycutt, President, FUNdamentals, Berwyn, Pennsylvania 19312, 610/647-2453.

82nd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1997 

Business in the 90s is: high tech, downsized, re-engineered, and full speed ahead...but is it funny? It better be if we are going to survive and thrive in this ego eating environment.

In a recent survey conducted by Accountemps, more than 80% of the CEOs questioned said they believe that a good sense of humor is "important" to "very important" in moving up in their company.

Leaders who exercise humor in their work place create an environment where employees are free to approach the challenges with a more creative mindset. The success of Southwest Airlines demonstrates the public's response to a company that plays while taking care of business. Safety announcements set to Rap, uniforms of shorts and sneakers, and the ability of any employee to handle a problem on the spot attest that the words, "We've always done it like that," probably are not spoken in that progressive company.

Humor is the capability to look at something from a surprising perspective. Often a different vantage point is what it takes to see our way through a roadblock.

Have you ever sat at a table in a restaurant where the hearty laughter from another corner makes you want to pack up your Caesar salad and sit at that table? That is what happens in corporate divisions where fun is integrated into the culture. A reputation for not taking things so seriously solicits workers who want to invest in the projects. The work gets done and just like 'ole Tom Sawyer you can watch the proverbial fence get painted by a group of folks who are happy to perform.

When we understand that levity can improve the climate in the workplace the question arises - can it go too far? The answer is yes. We've all been annoyed by the office constant clown. Humor is not appropriate in many circumstances. It is interesting to note that when clinical studies were conducted, the physiological benefits of laughter were not evident if sarcasm or off color humor was used. These attempts at joking are neither politically correct or positive.

Appropriate humor is a safety net of Grace that assures workers that if you make a mistake the world won't stop. People perform more efficiently and effectively when that net is in place.

The same way the office coffee pot provides a boost of energy when we hit a slump - laughter stimulates adrenaline production giving us renewed energy to hang in with our task. When we laugh, gusts of oxygen fill our lungs, our blood pressure lowers, our muscles relax, and enzymes called endorphins are released in our system leaving us with a sense of positive well-being.

Are you sold? "But, I've never been a funny person ...for the life of me I can't remember jokes" you say? Well humor in the workplace is a strategy not a skill. Here are some suggestions on ways to integrate a lighter approach to the daily grind:

  • Open your meeting with an icebreaker
  • Send your memo on neon colored paper
  • Include a cartoon in your memo
  • Serve Cracker Jacks at your next meeting. They are low fat and everyone gets a lovely prize
  • Hit the card shop and keep a stash of funny, encouraging cards to send to staff
  • Keep a poster that makes you laugh inside your cabinet door
  • Wear outrageous underwear to a super serious meeting (Only you will know)
  • Open your meeting with a skit
  • Keep a photo of a famous person on your desk. Autograph it - then confess

We may not have total control over the destiny of our position or company but we can determine to create the best TODAY possible. We can choose to share that grace with the people we live with Monday through Friday. Assuredly in the pressure cooker 90s it's time for Funny Business!


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