Roaring….with laughter

15 07 2011

I am told I have a loud laugh. When I go on holidays, that is what the office notices – it’s suddenly quiet. (I like to flatter myself that they miss other things as well, but somehow this is what is commented on.)

I laugh at lots of things. Often, I laugh at myself. I laugh at my reactions to various things that happen around the office – “wins”, setbacks, frustrations, mistakes and miscommunications. I laugh if something is amusing. I laugh if something takes me by surprise. I laugh in staff meetings when we report back on some of the funny things that happen in our workdays, some of the strange problems I get to deal with (currently I have a sunken boat I need to get raised – so far out of my prior field experience, it seems bizarre to contemplate). I laugh at the differences in perceptions between myself and others – we all come from our own point of view and the difference between those perspectives is often enormous.

All in all, humour works very well for me. I hope the office understands that they can talk to me about pretty much anything. If I explode it will be with laughter, and then we can sit down and work our way through the problem. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say.

I now have a PA who (as well as having an excellent can-do attitude and being very talented) has a very loud laugh and laughs often. We have become a very noisy end of the office. I don’t think that is a bad thing. The sound of laughter, even if you aren’t in on the joke, sets a pleasant tone, cutting through tensions and underlining that you can enjoy your time at work, even when you are under pressure. People want to be here and they want to work here. Why would you want to work somewhere where everyone is miserable?

We use humour in our staff newsletters. As well as valuing incidental humour such as in staff profiles (which they write themselves), we also have jokes and brain-teasers interspersed with the more serious aspects of the newsletter. Hopefully that not only sets the tone for the entire newsletter, but keeps people reading.

I should be clear that none of the laughter is mean. We aren’t laughing at others, and we have an appropriate seriousness with the sad and bad things we sometimes have to deal with in the human services field. We occasionally laugh at our reaction to others and to events, but not at people, clients or staff. The laughter is underpinned by a compassionate view of the world.

And so a study from the University of Kent that found that positive reframing using humour also had beneficial effects on satisfaction comes as no surprise. Positive morale is good for developing a self-motivated cohesive team. But it is also a quality issue. Positive morale is linked to good judgement – decision making.

So maybe one of the most important things I can do at work is develop a positive team morale. As well as making it a more pleasant place for staff, it is so much more enjoyable for me to go to work there as well.