Laughter, the best medicine in the office



    Aug 23, 2016

    Laughter, the best medicine in the office

    GOOD leadership is all about getting people to do their best to make the organisation succeed.

    Some leaders prefer the stick - motivate people by threatening them. Others try the "carrot" route, cajole or bribe them. Almost all think they are convincing only when they are serious.

    What is often overlooked is the value of laughter at the workplace.

    The benefits of laughter are many. Laughter releases endorphins, relieving stress and allows you to feel happier.

    It helps promote creativity and encourages co-workers to form stronger bonds with each other.

    Happier, more creative teams are also healthier employees taking fewer days of medical leave.

    A friendly work environment leads to more motivated employees, a better work culture, improved employee retention and increased productivity.

    One of the desirable traits in a successful leader is a good sense of humour.

    Leaders that are able to find the funny side of a difficult situation are often effective in encouraging the team to do their best in resolving the problem.

    I remember once there was a crisis at work - during heavy rains, our basement office started flooding.

    High value transactions were taking place and our systems were at risk. It was a tense time, everyone was preoccupied and stressed.

    The boss came in and gathered us together to discuss contingency measures.

    She ended the meeting with a joke about always wanting an office closer to the seaside.

    It was far from the best joke we had heard but our laughter was genuine. It lightened the atmosphere, helped us refocus and approach the problem more cohesively.

    Despite the obvious value of laughter, some people are hesitant to express a sense of humour at work.

    This could be because of the culture of the organisation, fear of offending someone or not being taken seriously, or just a lack of confidence.

    Tasteful humour at work is definitely a key to success but it is hard to do it well - and easy to do badly - if you are not comfortable with it.

    Inappropriate humour can backfire and create the very problems you were hoping to solve.

    Ultimately, the most natural way to bring laughter into the workplace is by being yourself and getting to know your team better.

    In one of the smaller companies I worked, we would regularly have lunch together with the managing director.

    He would invariably start off a fun, free-flowing conversation by discussing a funny movie, antics of his dog or even a hilarious e-mail from a client.

    If you can creatively see what makes each member of your staff who they are, what kind of conversation would create a positive environment and let your gentler, more social side guide you through, you will get some genuine smiles, if not chuckles, soon enough.

    As author Mark Twain said: "Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."

    The writer is a mentor at

    Terrific Mentors International,

    an organisation that provides

    mentoring, coaching and training.

    A quick guide on what to do - and not to do - when it comes to incorporating laughter in the workplace.


    Share universal humour - something that is light and

    likely to be funny for everyone

    Indulge in good-natured teasing, as long as you are positive that it will be taken in the right spirit, will help

    the person loosen up, and

    is not derogatory or demeaning

    in any way.

    Make fun of yourself. Smart leaders know the best punchline is often themselves. Don't be self-deprecating too often, though, as it could backfire.

    Use laughter to lift people up, not to put them down.


    Tell jokes that are racist, sexist, or show any category

    of people or any particular

    person in a poor light.

    Laugh at people. Instead,

    you should laugh with them.

    Force it - the best laughter comes from honest light-heartedness and a

    genuine regard for people.

    Use e-mail messages and written communication to tell

    a joke. It is better to share

    a joke in person and observe others' reaction to make sure

    it has the right effect.