The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Humor in the Workplace

I asked my chiropractor today about the snapping noises I heard in my neck. Maybe it was a good sign, since I had done a lot of stretching exercises for my neck.But, she said, “It could be either good or bad.” What?”It could be a good sign, in that things are moving in the neck area. But it could also be a sign that the joints above or below are locked and not moving properly.” (That is a paraphrase; after I heard that it could be bad, I stopped listening to many more details.)So it is with humor. (And yes, I know that on this blog, most everything is like humor.) It can also be either good or bad.The Good:* Humor can expose our blind spots.If your workplace offers a light-hearted atmosphere, people will feel freer to joke about anything. And most humor starts with truth.* Humor can improve morale.Especially when people start by putting the joke on themselves. As a leader, you can be a role model of taking yourself and your mistakes lightly. Then others will feel more free to risk, experiment, and be creative.* Humor can alleviate stress that builds up during the day.Humor offers us a physiological release of tension. We gain lots of healthful benefits from laughing, and from just thinking about funny things (without the accompanying loud guffaws).The Bad:* Humor can be a license to let our negative feelings run amok.Sarcasm is a brilliant cover for some of our baser attitudes. Make sure you recognize your motives before speaking sarcastically.* Humor may let us get carried away.You may mis-read the leeway you have been given. Maybe your humor reveals some inside information you weren’t supposed to expose. The fun environment that humor engenders can be a very drastic change from our mundane existence. We may not adequately evaluate our responses.* Humor can be like those locked joints on either side, putting pressure, pain, and unpleasantness on the person who’s not “in” on the joke.Better to use situational humor so that everyone can have fun laughing at a shared circumstance.By realizing our motives, we can better assess and capitalize on our humor abilities. With better humor-mobility, everyone can become healthier, happier, and can, “Get Your SHINE Together!”