By Phillip M. Perry If business is no laughing matter, then why are so many managers dis- covering that lighthearted play in the workplace can actually boost the bot- tom line? cHumor is a great management tool, d says Jeff Slutsky, president of Street Fighter Marketing in Colum- bus, Ohio.
cIt 9s a critical technique for increasing employee morale, pro- ductivity, and effectiveness in commu- nication. d For starters, laughter can de- fuse tense or sensitive situations. It can also relieve the stress that often drains energy and restrains efDciency. Slutsky believes people will feel less threatened about sharing ideas, thus invigorating the creative process.
cIt 9s been proven in studies that when a teacher uses humor four to Dve times in one hour, the students like the teacher more, retain that knowledge longer, and are willing to do as they are told, d states Allen Klein, president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (aath.org) in Princeton, New Jersey. cNow translate that to the workplace. The fact is that laughter helps people think more clearly and do better work, d he asserts.
It is especially useful in reaching those who might not re- spond to more standard approaches. Fun ... more. less.
and Games Some individuals may feel uncom- fortable by any overt attempt to intro- duce humor into the ofDce environ- ment. cPeople get very nervous about the potential for politically incorrect, racist, and sexist jokes, d warns Stuart Robertshaw, professor emeritus of psychology and education at the Uni- versity of Wisconsin-La Crosse.<br><br> Not only that, but the abstract concept of humor can be difDcult to understand and cultivate in practical ways. Suppose your company has more gloom and doom than laughter and light. How can you get employees to lighten up?<br><br> One approach that Robertshaw advises is to encourage your staff to engage in fun behaviors. cFocus on laughter and happiness. I tell supervisors to put employees into small groups and ask one simple question: 8What activities would you suggest to increase laughter at work? 9 d Conversely, ask them to identify what parts of their jobs make their experiences less than positive.<br><br> Then Dnd ways to use humor to lessen the negative impact. Encouraging this kind of collec- tive thinking is smart for several rea- sons. First, people will develop more effective ideas by brainstorming to- gether.<br><br> Second, individuals will gain the courage to introduce outrageous views when they have peer support. By laughing as a group, an impor- tant lesson is learned: Humor is very of- ten less about the jokes and more about social interaction. Improving employee relationships and communication is one of the most beneDcial results.<br><br> Rob- ertshaw suggests two exercises: Create a Ha-Ha Board. Sometimes it 9s the little things that help people smile and lighten up during the day. Establish a communal bulletin board where funny thoughts, humorous newspaper clippings, comics, and oth- er miscellaneous items can be posted.<br><br> Host a Cartoon Competition . Post a captionless cartoon on the communal bulletin board every Monday morn- business savvy CAN HAVING FUN AT WORK INCREASE YOUR PROFITS? PATINAS FOR BRASS & COPPER PATINAS FOR STEEL & WROUGHT IRON Patinas for Brass, Copper, Bronze, Steel, Aluminum, Solder, Zinc, Pewter & Galvanized Steel SERVING THE LIGHT FIXTURE INDUSTRY FOR 24 YEARS " Solvent Based & Water Based Exterior/Interior Lacquers for All Metals " Metallic & Other Paints for Metals " 8, 6 oz.<br><br> Bottles Sample Kit - $69.00 Metal Finishing Chemical Products 1530 Spence Street " Los Angeles, CA 90023 Ph:323-262-8108 " Outside CA :1-800-282-3533 Fax:323-264-7734 " Website:www.patinausa.com WE KNOW YOUR PROBLEMS & THEIR SOLUTIONS! DISTRIBUTOR INQUIRIES FROM ANYWHERE, ANY STATE OR COUNTRY WELCOME! " Patina Panel Book - $160.00 190 /July 2005 HOME LIGHTING & ACCESSORIES CAN HAVING FUN AT WORK INCREASE YOUR PROFITS?<br><br> ing. Throughout the week, people should add their own captions in teams or individually. On Friday, every- one reviews the entries and chooses a weekly winner (who receives a small prize, such as a gift certiDcate).<br><br> Don 9t Go Overboard Laughter is great, as long as it 9s in good taste. cEarly on, I make sure ev- eryone knows the rules or guidelines for what is not allowed, d Slutsky cau- tions. cYou can 9t encourage people to use humor and reprimand them when it goes too far, yet still expect them to put an effort forward. d Be prudent; too much light-heart- edness can backDre.<br><br> cThere are many serious parts of business, d Slutsky notes. cA manager who relies on hu- mor all the time will eventually not be taken seriously. It works best when you pick and choose the most appro- priate times to use it. d Furthermore, keep it positive.<br><br> cEven if someone is laughing on the outside, you still might have hurt feelings, d Slutsky says. Don 9t use others as a target. c You should be the brunt of your jokes, not co-workers or customers. d Bosses Set the Mood When it comes to job performance, employees often take the cue from the boss.<br><br> Indeed, sourpuss supervi- sors are very often the cause of poor employee attitudes. cThe shame is that managers usually do not like laughter, d explains Steve Rizzo, a Wading River, N.Y.-based speaker and consultant who helps business organizations promote workplace humor. cThey believe that employees who are laughing are not getting their work done 3 and that 9s far from true. d Set an example for your staff by being someone who uses non-threat- ening humor.<br><br> Klein recommends starting a meeting with a joke or a cartoon, but avoid pressuring reluc- tant personnel to hop on the band- wagon. cMandatory policies generally fail, d Robertshaw adds. cDon 9t make any fun activity a job requirement. d The good news is that those who re- sist often come around over time.<br><br> Employees Are More Productive The greatest beneDt of humor is that your staff will work together enthusi- astically, deal on a more professional level with customers, and develop creative solutions to problems. Finally, consider this bonus: Hu- mor will help you and your employ- ees manage the inevitable crises that occur. cThe most important thing in the workplace is how you cope with challenge, d Klein notes.<br><br> cIf you can Dnd something to laugh about in a situation, you get a different perspec- tive and do your job better. Humor can help you maintain balance when the going gets tough. d Laugh Lines To obtain more information on how to use humor in the workplace, con- sider these books: c Becoming a Humor Being: The Power to Choose a Better Way , d by Steve Rizzo. (steverizzo.com) Full Circle Publishing Company (2000).<br><br> $19.95. c Humor at Work , d by Esther Blu- menfeld, Lynne Alpern. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers (1993).<br><br> $16.95. c Laughing Nine to Five: The Quest for Humor in the Workplace , d by Clyde Fahlman. Portland, Oregon: Steel- head Press (1997).<br><br> $12.71. 192 /July 2005 HOME LIGHTING & ACCESSORIES