How to encourage humour in the workplace

By Robert Half on 21 June 2015

There’s a time and a place for everything, especially in the company of your colleagues. As for making people laugh, there are productive ways to do this in your office. Use these tips to encourage a belly laugh now and then.

Set the stage

Whether you’re a senior manager or part of the team, if you feel it’s important to lighten the mood or boost morale, lead by example. Do it yourself and others will follow. Go ahead and bring up the fact that humour is a beneficial workplace tool in a weekly WIP or staff catch-up.

Know your audience

Be sensitive to the crowd around you. If you are telling jokes or engaging in repartee, remember to refrain from using offensive language or references to religion, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

Don’t force it

People can see through overzealous attempts to get a laugh. If you’re trying too hard to be funny, your humour will fall on deaf ears, and you’ll hurt your reputation. If you’ve seen the TV series The Office, you already know what not to do.

Ease tense situations

When you use it well, humour can potentially diffuse an argument, alleviate discord between co-workers and prompt employees to relax and see the lighter side of the situation.

Be self-deprecating

Workers love it when bosses or more senior team members take the mickey out of themselves. It’s a win-win situation. Your team gets a laugh and they also feel like you’ve brought yourself down to their level by mocking your own self-importance.

Apply humour to situations, not people

Even if you’re sure your team has a shared foe, it’s never wise to mock that person just to get a laugh. First, you never really know what people think of others, and second, six degrees of separation are more like three degrees in the working world, especially within close-knit industries. Finally, do you really want co-workers to perceive you as the type of person to mock others? Use humour to lift people up, not put them down. This rule applies whether or not that person is in the room.

Be a leader, not a comedian

As a leader, your position on the ladder virtually guarantees a laugh. But you need to know when to stop. Even if it seems like everyone loves your work, don’t confuse being a leader with being a comedian. Your primary role is to lead the team, and part of that role is to create a happy, relaxed work environment in which humour has a time and a place.

While there are many times when the office needs to be a place of serious business, humour in the workplace is vital to lift spirits, increase staff motivation and keep your troops happy.

What tips do you have for encouraging humour in your workplace?

This article originally appeared as How to encourage humour in the workplace on the Robert Half Australia blog.

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