Harnessing Humor: Using Laughter as a Leadership Tool

A boss emails her employee, “Send me one of your funny jokes.”

She replies, “I’m working at the moment, I will send you one later.”

Her boss replies, “That was fantastic, send me another one!”

As somebody’s boss or employee this exchange should have made you cringe. Had this situation been the same, but been between two equal coworkers, it would have been good natured humor. However adding the boss dynamic, even with a good relationship with her people, causes it to backfire. It may sound lighthearted, but the exchange makes the other person think that their boss views them as lazy.

[Image from Pixabay]
You’ve heard so many of the benefits of humor, but did you know that it can lead to increased creativity, memory and problem-solving abilities? Or that humor can reinforce group identity and cohesiveness?

As a leader how can you use humor as a strategic management tool while keeping order and the respect of your employees?

Risk Management

An important concept to consider is how to manage boundaries and clearly differentiate harmless humor from harassment. There is a difference between inviting laughter and searching for America’s top comic.

“It was just a joke!” We’ve all heard it said in defense of a comment made that offended somebody. This is the situation that often occurs as defendants guard themselves in workplace harassment cases.  Creating rules is a way that you can reduce the chance of upsetting or insulting any of your employees. Some examples include:

  • Don’t laugh at others, laugh with them
  • Do not use sarcasm
  • Consider your audience

Using Humor Appropriately

Humor is a leadership skill you can use just like any other management tool. Like confidence and commitment, having a sense of humor always ends up on the list of most important leadership qualities. There are a myriad of ways you can implement humor at work in a productive manner such as the examples presented below.

  • Diffuse tension

A product pitch may not have gone as planned or a disagreement may take place at times. While the core issue must be dealt with constructively, sliding in a bit of humor can help to mellow emotions. This can often help to bring your team back to a more constructive mindset, as well as rejuvenate them for what’s to come.

  • Say what’s on everybody’s mind and don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself

Often there are things that you know everybody is thinking, but won’t say for themselves. Take the hit for the team and you will see relief.

For instance, you are giving the last key speech at a group meeting before lunch. You begin, “Hello all – I know that I am the only thing standing between this meeting and lunch so I’ll try to make this short!”

You know they’re all thinking it – so why not break the ice?

And of course, always consider what would be appropriate for your particular work environment and use humor effectively.

What do you call sad coffee?