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Is Laughter the Best Medicine? How Humour Can Help in Management

Is Laughter the Best Medicine? How Humour Can Help in Management

Is Laughter the Best Medicine? How Humour Can Help in Management

Leadership, clear communication and honesty - these are the qualities every good leader should possess, and now you can throw humour into the mix.

New research from the University of Queensland shows that managers who engage in humour create a more enjoyable workplace, reduce stress, build better teams and improve productivity. The use of humour and laughter in the workplace is being pursued in the management of many large U.S and Canadian companies, including airlines and insurance companies.

Humour is constructive to employee wellbeing and overall workplace performance. It can also be used as a buffer for negative events experienced by employees in the workplace. For example, if a customer service representative is dealing with an angry or aggressive customer, the use of humour after the event may reduce negative emotions and speed recovery.

However, the use of humour in the workplace does pose risks. It’s important to understand how, when and why to use humour. The type of humour and the tone being used is important, and it’s riskier if trust hasn’t yet been developed in the group.

Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Development at the University of Queensland, Charmine Hartel says trust between a manager and employees is key. “As long as the team leader has already created a group or team environment where there is trust, then humour has very positive impacts,” Hartel says.

In a survey of around 400 people, Hartel and her group of researchers found managers who had trusting relationships with employees secured positive outcomes for their employees, both short and long term, when using positive humour. In the short term, employees experienced positive emotions. In the long term, humour aided positive self development through improved psychological capital. Psychological capital consists of hope, optimism, resilience and self-esteem.

In addition to the benefits of using positive humour in a trusting workplace environment, undesirable emotions typically experienced by negative humour are also decreased. Employees still experienced some negative emotions, but those with high trust were more resilient to this. This is because in a trusting relationship we trust the intensions behind the humour were positive and in our best interest. Having trust can minimise the negative effects of negative humour, and knowing your team members as individuals will help you understand some of the things your employees find funny.

Even without a high trust relationship, managers can still benefit from using positive humour in the workplace. And if you’re not a naturally funny person? Humour doesn’t require one to be a stand up comedian. It can be as simple as finding a funny video or meme and sharing it with your team. To use humour successfully, it’s important to know your team members on an individual level. This will help to understand individual humour types, and develop trust and strong relationships within your team.

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