Go Ahead and Laugh – It’s Good for Your Career and Your Business

Success in the workplace is no laughing matter. Or is it? While they need to take their work seriously, research suggests accounting and finance professionals shouldn’t always take themselves that way.

In a survey from our company, roughly four in five (79 percent) chief financial officers said an employee’s sense of humor plays an important role in how well he or she fits in with the company’s corporate culture.

Jim Kwapick, a Robert Half district president, remarked, “We can improve our connection to people via humor.” Maintaining a little levity can help colleagues build rapport, alleviate tension in the office and foster a positive corporate culture.

“Smart leaders – and smart people in general – want to enjoy their work, in addition to producing a good product,” said Josh Warborg, also a Robert Half district president. “Happy people also typically produce better work.”

On the flip side, an environment devoid of humor can lead to higher stress and lower morale. There also can be serious repercussions for businesses that experience a lack of levity. According to Warborg, “A humorless, stressful workplace will ultimately lead to long-term turnover.”

How can you use your sense of humor in your workplace? These three tips can help.

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. “It is always easiest and safest to show humor by poking fun at oneself,” said Kwapick. Without going overboard, be able to laugh at yourself. This will make you more approachable and easier for people to work with.

Avoid trying to be funny if it doesn’t come naturally, though. Having a sense of humor is about maintaining the proper perspective, regardless of the situation, not firing off one-liners.

2. Laugh with your coworkers – but never at them. A hearty group laugh can be very healthy and help foster good working relationships. At the same time, make sure you aren’t targeting others for a chuckle, and watch the sarcasm, which can be interpreted as demeaning and insulting.

3. Keep it appropriate. Hopefully it goes without saying, but it bears repeating: Topics like race, gender, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religion and disabilities are off-limits. Also skip negative humor.

And, no matter how tempting it may be, don’t forward emails containing jokes or “funny” images or videos. You never know what others may be sensitive to or offended by; taking a chance somebody will like something just isn’t worth the risk.

Humor as a Management Tool

While some bosses may be concerned about showing their lighter side, a sense of humor is a valuable asset. “The old adage is that people do not leave a company but rather leave a boss,” said Kwapick. “Humor, appropriately used, diffuses stressful situations, gets folks smiling and creates a positive buzz.”

Your humor and ability to maintain levity will make people want to work for you. They’ll also be more confident coming to you when they need help and in times of crisis. In addition, you’ll be more likely to establish your company as an attractive employer and boost retention.

Lessons From TV Bosses

Fortunately, the world of sitcoms offers a plethora of examples of boss behaviors to emulate and, perhaps more often, avoid. Which fictional manager do you think people can learn the most from, good or bad? Whether it’s Michael ScottLiz LemonMr. Burns or someone else, let us know in the comments section below.

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