The Dilbert Syndrome
seems to have taken over America's workplace. Fulfillment once found
in work has been replaced with dread (at best) and not a little cynicism.
More and more workers burn out and many go "postal." Workers are exhausted
and tired of feeling under, if not totally unappreciated.
The bookstores and
managers' bookshelves are filling up with books like Jim Harris' Getting
Employees to Fall in Love with Your company, or Bob Nelson's, 1001 Ways
to Reward Employees and 1001 Ways to Energize Employees. These books
are in response to management's desire to help employees while maintaining
or improving the bottom line.
One vital ingredient
is to create an environment or culture which promotes enthusiasm, energy
and fun, i.e., we need to encourage "positism" and humor at work.
"Positism" is a
term I coined that refers to looking at life through optimistic lenses,
seeing the silver lining and squirting back when life gives you lemons.
Humor comes from the root word, "umor", which means to be fluid or flexible.
Both a positive attitude and the ability to be flexible are important
in times of change.
In a Hall and Associates
survey of Personnel Executives, 84% said that workers with a sense of
humor do a better job.1 They are more valued in the workplace.
Other benefits of humor include fewer sick or mental health days, fewer
accidents, thus lower workers' comp cases and increased creativity.
Look how the list below stacks up in favor of fun.
system - improves health
value at work
lungs, cardiovascular system
points out minor annoyances
things in perspective
To get the full benefits from
humor it needs to become a habit. Concentrations of IgA increase just
from watching a 1-hour humorous video, but the enhancement effects are
We need to cultivate a sense
of joy continuously. Read over the following lists. Consider which activities
would bring you joy, which ones are appropriate in your workplace and
family life. Make your own list of things that make you laugh or incidents
from the past that still bring a chuckle.
In the Car:
- Look around you--read the bumper stickers.
- Keep a clown nose or better yet clown hair in the car. When traffic
and people are "snarly," put one or both on. Believe me, they are
more likely to smile at you than shoot you! And they may even let
you in the lane.
- Listen to humorous or affirmation tapes or upbeat music. Don't
forget to sing along.
- Read a joke or positive-saying book
while stopped in traffic.
- Use a stress squeeze ball to work out
the pressures of the day-but only when stopped in traffic. May be
hazardous if done while driving!
In the office:
Keep a stress
squeeze ball in your desk. This is especially handy to use when on
long phone calls.
Have a joy jar
on your desk. Fill it with positive, success-oriented sayings, appropriate
jokes and candy.
Use a daily joke
or positive calendar instead of a plain one and READ it!!
Use a nerf bat
and ball to work out frustrations.
copy rooms or other communal spots:
- Put up a
Humor/Rumor Board. Make certain everyone knows what appropriate
humor is first.
- Name the
office equipment. Talk to it.
- Keep bubbles,
coloring books and crayons and other childhood toys available
for play while copies are being run.
- Copy someone's
hand using the copier. Type on it: "Need a pat on the back? Stand
here." Tack the sign on a wall where everyone can lean against
it for their "pat on the back."
- In rest rooms,
put up signs that say "Looking Good!" Post either on the mirrors
or backs of stall doors.
- Wear or provide for the group funny hats, deely-boppers, masks,
- Place tent cards on tables with positive sayings, words of wisdom
from famous people.
- Provide bubble gum or lollipops. It's hard to be negative when folks
are blowing bubbles at each other or licking lollipops. When available,
provide ice cream cones or frozen yogurt. When people are licking
in an up and down motion, it is difficult to be in a negative mode.
- Place cans of silly string or water-filled squirt guns in the center
of the table--just see what joy erupts!
- Give each participant a small can of silly putty to work out their
frustrations during the meeting. It's often fun to inquire what the
meaning of their handiwork is at the meeting's conclusion.
- Make a magic wand that you can use to emphasize how you'd fix things
if you could.
- Play music or funny audio or video tapes before the meeting starts.
- Have small jars of bubbles at each place and allow everyone to
As with communication and leadership styles, each person, each organization
has it's own humor style. This is a combination of what is funny to
the individual and what is appropriate for the setting.
Individuals and corporation that lighten up also light up the bottom
line. Humor is serious business. It is time business took humor seriously.
For higher productivity and profits, try laughing all the way to the
1Green, L. (1993). Making sense of humor.
Manchester, Connecticut: KIT, 117.
K.M., et al. (1985). Positive emotional states and enhancement of the
immune system. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine,
Lefcourt, H., et al. (1990). Humor
and immune system functioning. International Journal of Humor Research,
Berk, L.S., et al. (1991). Immune system changes during humor associated
with laughter. Clinical Research, 39, 124A.
McClelland, D.C., et al. (1985). The Effect of an academic examination
on salivary norepinephrine and immunoglobulin levels. Journal of
Human Stress, 11, 52-59.
© 2000. This material is copyrighted. Reproduction or
transmittal in any form without the written permission of the author,
Sandra Jones Campbell, Ph.D. is prohibited.