Q. I work in a job where my team can be deadly serious. Everybody gets stressed, curt and hostile. The other day I said something funny in a meeting and the whole mood lightened. Will I still be taken seriously if I cut the heavy mood with humor occasionally?
A. Yes, you'll not just be taken seriously but also be seriously respected. Professionals who can take themselves lightly when the going gets tough lighten the burden of everyone's stress.
Obviously, there are times when being the class clown or making a joke would be inappropriate and not helpful. However, a well-placed joke at our own foibles, our shared stress, or the difficulties of dealing with people can give your coworkers a new perspective.
Laughter is genuinely good medicine. When we laugh, our brain releases chemicals that make us feel better. When we feel better, we can think better. When we can think better, we can problem solve and workplace issues get resolved.
If your coworkers (and management) notice that people function better when you're around, you can bet your bippy you'll get promoted. In contrast, people who are deadly serious make people around them more uptight and make it difficult to get work done.
Laughter also creates rapport and connection between people. You can often make humorous observations that create change instead of saying the same thing seriously and generating defensiveness.
When we're at work, and often when we get home, many of us spend a lot of time focusing on the tragedies we experienced at work. If you think about it, tragedy and comedy both contain hard truths. The difference is we laugh about our suffering with comedy and cry about our suffering with tragedy.
Suffering is one of the most powerful experiences we share with the people with whom we work and live. When we use humor effectively, we're acknowledging our shared human experience, which strengthens relationships.
Next time your team becomes bogged down with serious stress, don't be afraid to take a walk on the funny side. Levity may be just the leverage you need to get the work done!
The last word(s)
Q. I've noticed I can rarely count on people in my organization to keep their promises. My coworkers tell me I'm just a pessimist. Are they right?
A. No -- you're a realist. Always have a plan B and be delightfully surprised when Plan A goes through.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)