Humor and Employee Engagement

Last week I delivered my keynote address, Lighten Up & Lead! to the Utah Healthcare Association. While preparing for it, I ran across this very compelling argument for introducing humor into your workplace:

A study conducted at Canadian financial institutions found that managers who most frequently used humor also had the highest level of employee performance which translates into employee engagement.

Please note that this study was done at financial institutions—often the most serious of workplaces. And yet, facts are facts.

Stress Cycle Fotolia_63781283What usually happens when employee performance is not up to the needs of the organization is that things get very serious very quickly. That is completely under-standable and yet, increased stress rarely produces the desired results. If anything, employees become less productive beginning a never-ending cycle of, “Produce more!” → “We can’t; we’re too stressed.”

What might happen if these same organizations introduced humor into the equation? If we were to believe the Canadian study, then employee performance would increase.

But wait! There’s more! Studies show that laughter has numerous benefits:

  • Engages the whole brain making us sharper
  • Lightens the load
  • Fosters a positive work environment
  • Helps workers re-charge
  • Makes people happy at work
  • Reduces stress
  • Connects people building trust and resulting in better customer service and team spirit

A Wharton study found that laughter promotes creativity and greater analytical precision. So, not only are your employees inspired to perform, they actually perform better.

This is the start of a series of blogs devoted to humor in the workplace. In future offerings, I will outline ways to introduce it in your organization. As a beginning, you may want to consider posting a new funny sign in the employee lounge or, lacking a lounge, post one by the coffee pot. It would be preferable to change it every day but at the very least, once a week. There are many places you can find these funny items:

  • Readers Digest
  • Do an Internet search for “funny quotes.” This should give you an endless supply.
  • Assign the task to a different employee or department for the week or month.

You may from time to time hear someone say during a stressful time, “Some day we’ll laugh about this.” I say – why wait? Introduce laughter into your workplace and watch what happens to your productivity levels.