Should humor be encouraged in the workplace?
Workplaces have been generally seen as serious places where people pursue their career and earn money for their daily lives. Being paid salary to produce profit for their organizations, employees are supposed to take their jobs very seriously and can not underestimate their responsibilities. Therefore, it is reasonable that employees are not allowed to make jokes or have fun in the workplace. However, this serious working environment seems to cause many problems for companies, such as employee turnover, absenteeism, etc. Therefore, a series of different arguments about this issue have been presented.
This essay will argue that humor, a very efficient managerial tool to solve those problems, should be encouraged in the workplace. In this essay, there points related to humor in the workplace will be discussed. Firstly, the definition of humor will be introduced. Secondly, this essay will explore the benefits of using humor in the office and give some suggestions about avoiding using inappropriate humor. Thirdly, the reason why people can not make jokes will be explained, and the possibility of injecting humor in the workplace will be evaluated.
First of all, before exploring other aspects about humor in the workplace, it is necessary to understand clearly what humor is. Different people might give different definitions of humor. Fry (Shearer, 1998) explains that humor is composed of situational jokes. It is an ongoing interpersonal process. In addition, Malone (1980), in reporting Chapman’s study, states, “humor is a process initiated by a humorous stimulus, such as a joke or cartoon, and terminating with some response indicative of experienced pleasure, such as laughter”.
According to Shearer (1998), the most significant point about humor is that it can make people take their life less seriously. Secondly, a survey shows a stressful working environment costs the North American economy 100 billion dollars each year. Since a serious working environment wastes companies a lot of money, humor should be injected into workplaces (Shearer, 1998). Not only employees but also organizations can gain many benefits from using humor in the workplace. The most significant advantage of using humor in the workplace is to make employees healthy.
Some people argue that humor just can make people laugh. After laughing, people can gain nothing. However, Shermen (Roth, 2002) states that “… numerous benefits of humor to the human body and found it to be a positive coping tool for stress, illness and pain”. It has been proved that using humor can release employees’ stress and anxiety. According to Shearer (1998), a scientific study shows that laughter can enable our body to produce positive chemical and physiological changes. Braverman (1993) explains that humor is similar to jogging, which can make people healthy.
The difference is that humor is “internal jogging”. When people are laughing, their heart rate and blood circulation are increased and more oxygen is absorbed. Moreover, when people stop laughing, one kind of chemistry called endorphins, which can lead to physical relaxation, will be released in the brain. It is has been argued that humor can be an obstacle of the communication between colleagues. Chapman (Malone, 1980) states, “humor has often been characterized as base and degenerate, fit only for the ignorant and foolish”.
Moreover, using humor in the workplace often leads to sexual harassment, racial discrimination, etc. However, humor can be an efficient way to build relationship with other colleagues. According to Baughman (2001), he mentions that Borge, the great humorist pianist states, “A smile is the shortest distance between two people”. Nowadays, as teamwork is becoming more and more essential in any organization, employees have to communicate with other people frequently. Using humor in the conversation can have a positive impact in building understanding between different people.
Moreover, humor can make other people feel they are important, for example, when a manager uses humor to make his subordinators laugh, they will feel valued and respected (Shearer, 1998). Lastly, Buxman (2001) notes, “Sharing a laugh helps co-workers establish a bond and develop rapport”. According to Crain (1995), a director of a major university gave one hundred fund-raising presentations to the audiences. He only used humor in his fifty speeches; on the other hand, he did not use humor in other fifty speeches.
The result was that the presentations in which he used humor raised more money than the presentations in which he did not use humor. Sometimes, humor might result into miscommunication between employees. However, if they can avoid using inappropriate humor in their offices, humor can be a very useful tool to improve camaraderie in the workplace. Shearer (1998) states “laughing with other people is healthy and liberating, but laughing at another person is unhealthy”. When people laugh together, they share a humorous situation. Both the humorist and the recipient will feel happy.
However, when people laugh at another person, only the humorist will be happy, the recipient will not be happy. According to Belker (1997), “laugh at” humor is funny, but it is based on other people’s expense. This kind of humor usually offends other people, sometimes even makes an enemy. Therefore, Tulin (1998) explains that the key to distinguish whether this humor is appropriate or inappropriate depends on the effect of our jokes on the recipient and others in the workplace. Consequently, people should think very carefully before they make jokes.
They should keep asking themselves whether their joke might offend anyone of my colleagues or make anybody unhappy. It is claimed that if humor is injected in the workplace, the profit of organizations will be decreased. For this reason, humor can increase the frequency of employee errors, etc (Ford, 2003). On the other hand, According to Braverman (1993), humor can improve employee’s productivity. For example, the Southwest Airlines has been making a profit every year since humor was injected into the workplace.
Buxman (2001) notes that when people have to do their boring jobs again and again, their productivity will be destroyed. Humor can enable people to concentrate on their jobs for a long time by making the work become more interesting. Moreover, Ford (2000) notes that humor, which is related to organization’s productivity, can bring a lot of positive impacts to organizations, such as, attraction of new employees, reduction of employee turnover and absenteeism rate and growth of the customer’s satisfaction. In addition, humor also can be a very powerful motivator.
The increased morale can make employees become more productive (Baughman, 2001). William Hodge (cited in Braverman, 1993), a management consultant, has done a survey on 329 company executives, which shows that 97 percent strongly believe humor is worthwhile. Another research conducted by Burke (cited in Braverman, 1993) tells us that 84 percent of human resource managers think a sense of humor can make employees do their job better. Lastly, in order to evaluate the possibility of injecting humor in the workplace, it is necessary to analyze the reasons why employees can not express their humorous side while they are working.