Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It Shouldn't Hurt When We Laugh


I can tell the amount of trust in an organization by the amount of laughter I hear in the hallways. Offices where people trust are more joyful and people aren’t afraid to share their humor.​

There are times when it takes me a long time to get the words out of my head and onto paper. Part of the reason is I start along a particular path and then an off ramp takes me in another direction.

This is what I was thinking when I decided to write about humor and trust. My good friend Michael Kerr is a humorist and has done a lot of research around effective companies, humor and trust. Effective humor at work improves office morale and increases trust. Michael’s humor is uplifting and never cruel.

Now here is my off-ramp...

Years ago I worked for a major telecommunications company in Canada. One of the managers had a second job as a standup comic and was less than a year away from giving up his full time, solid pension and good benefit job to host a TV show. He was that good! His morning meetings were well attended because he would deliver the information in a way that had all of us laughing and listening. There was also a very dark side to him. He was a bully who used humor as a blunt instrument to punish anyone he disagreed with or who had the temerity to hold an opposing opinion. I knew more than a few people who were eviscerated by his sarcasm and humor. I was never a victim but a few friends who were had a difficult time while they were the objects of his dark humor.

I’m getting back on the humor highway now since I know - and studies show - humor helps us trust more if it is used in a trustworthy way. It can be a powerful form of communication that can bring people together and increase community. In his book, The Humor Advantage - Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way To The Bank, Michael Kerr writes about practicing safe workplace humor. Kerr says that reframing stressful events in a funny way has been shown to help people cope more effectively with stress.

If you want to create a positive trusting environment, allow the funny bone to do some of the heavy emotional lifting. As Michael suggests, create a code of humor conduct to remind staff to keep their humor positive. The same rules for a healthy workplace apply to the humor rules: no sexist, racist, political, ethnic, or put-downs.

When people laugh together it helps us overcome difficulties and builds trust. Be sincere. Be authentic. Be kind and don’t be afraid to laugh.

More trust means more success at work and in our personal relationships. I can help build the trust in your organization. If it's your time to tackle this difficult issue, I'm here to help. Get in touch.