Turkeys actually do make me laugh. They do silly things like stop traffic, fly into trees to sleep (very funny) and occasionally they help to cut the tension in business meetings. Witness this example from my wife’s past…
You’re in the middle of a senior executive presentation; there’s tension in the air. Amidst discussion about production targets and external threats, there comes a loud tapping at the full length windows behind you. The tapping stops, discussion continues and then at a particularly sensitive moment, the tapping resumes with a vengeance; and it doesn't stop!
With apologies to your audience you excuse yourself and retract the curtains. The laughter grows to a crescendo as tears roll down the faces of the attendees. There, stands a very large and very proud male turkey. The windows are glazed so he can’t see you, but you know he sees himself. When the laughter dies down (and thankfully the tapping as well), the mood in the room is decidedly more cordial. It’s almost as if someone opened a pressure-relief valve. In a way that’s just what happened. LAUGHTER has a profound impact on us, yes even in the workplace.
Did you know that laughter…
- Reduces stress? Laughter has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine, while at the same time increasing levels of ‘feel good’ endorphins.
- Enhances the immune system? The number of antibody producing cells is increased as a result of laughing and the effectiveness of T-cells (natural killer cells that destroy viruses and cancer cells) is enhanced.
- Improves creativity and productivity? Studies have shown that laughter expands our vision and opens us up to new ideas and potential.
- Improves communication and rapport? Hey, just take a look at the boardroom example above.
- Feels really good? Yeah, that’s a no-brainer but I had to throw it in.
With all these benefits I’ve got to wonder why I don’t see more laughter in the work-places I visit. I’ve heard a lot of excuses- if we’re laughing how can we expect anyone to take us seriously? Lightness and laughter are not consistent with the serious nature of running a business; the list goes on. Sound familiar? Is there something you can do about it? You bet there is!
Lead by Example
That's right, let your staff know that laughter in the workplace is OK. Our society has a history of equating work with seriousness and many managers and executives make a point of perpetuating the notion. Unless you’re adamant that laughter is not appropriate in your work-place make a point of letting people know that it’s OK to be light. After all, you know the benefits.
The only thing more contagious than the common cold is laughter. If it feels good let it show. The example you set leads the way for others to be more spontaneous and genuine in their day to day actions. Let your staff know that it’s OK to enjoy themselves while they’re working. If everyone adopts a similar position it won’t take long for the effort to have a major and quite positive impact.
Incorporate Laughter into Meetings.
It’s too bad we don’t all have turkeys flying around our offices. But even setting the mood can be beneficial. Why not set aside a few moments in your next meeting for a bit of joke telling, a funny story or something else to lighten the mood? I know, it sounds totally weird; but why is that? Because you never did it before?
Why not try to loosen it up a bit? Imagine what you have to gain; let’s see, your colleagues are experiencing reduced stress, feeling more creative and productive and have improved communication and rapport. Oh did I mention they’re feeling good as well? Wow, this sounds like my kind of meeting! What are you waiting for?
Above All, Keep It Real!
One final tidbit- laughter is a valuable work-place addition but it’s a serious matter too. That is, laughter is great when it’s heart-felt but meaningless when it’s contrived. Real laughter comes from deep inside; watching others laugh might lighten our grip on the restraints but genuine laughter is a spontaneous response- we permit something to move us to giddiness. Permit yourself to be moved and you will move others.
The benefits of laughter in the workplace are real. Let your laughter be felt and heard!