As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. But did you know that it is also a key ingredient in leadership? Laughter is a powerful tool. It can help create a better work environment, promote teamwork, and grow productivity. In this blog post in our leadership series, we will talk about the benefits of laughter in leadership.
Using humour to create a better spaces at work
As leaders, we all strive to create the best spaces we can in order to keep our teams happy, healthy, and able to do the work at hand. This is essential to ensure our team feels both at ease and motivated. Laughter helps to create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that encourages both creativity and productivity. A workplace that lacks laughter can feel tense and stressful. This can negatively affect employees’ mental health and well-being. But, leaders who incorporate humor into their leadership style can create a positive work environment that drives employee satisfaction.
Productivity grows with laughter at work
Contrary to popular belief, laughter does not distract from productivity. In fact, it can enhance it.
A study conducted by Wharton School of Business* found that when employees were exposed to humor in the workplace, they reported feeling more energized and productive. Additionally, a study by the University of Warwick† found that happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy employees.
Incorporating humor into the workplace doesn’t mean that the workplace is less professional or less productive. Humor can be used as a tool to relieve stress, which can add to a more productive and efficient workplace. Laughter can help employees feel more relaxed, which can lead to increased focus and creativity.
A tool for team culture
Laughter can also play a significant role in building a strong team culture. When teams laugh together, they build a shared sense of humor, which can lead to improved communication, collaboration, and team cohesion. A study by the Journal of Managerial Psychology‡ found that team building activities that involve humor can lead to increased trust and more positive relationships among team members.
Laughter can also help build a more positive work environment for you and your team. When employees are happy, they are more likely to enjoy coming to work, which can lead to more job satisfaction and reduced turnover. A study by the University of Pennsylvania§ found that positive emotions in the workplace were linked with lower turnover rates.
It isn’t just turnover either. There have been several studies that show teams with improved culture also drive a reduction in lost time and wages due to illness. When people feel better about their work space, they want to show up and be there. It becomes a positive experience to come to work every day, and they are much more likely to do just that.
Laughter and the brain
Laughter also has a positive effect on the brain. When we laugh, our brains release feel-good chemicals like endorphins, which can help reduce stress and improve mood. This can lead to increased creativity, better problem-solving abilities, and improved decision-making skills.
A study by the University of Maryland¶ found that humor activates the same parts of the brain as other pleasurable experiences like music and food. This suggests that laughter can have similar effects on the brain as other pleasurable experiences.
How to add humour to your style
As we’ve learned, humour can be a powerful tool. Even still, it’s one we often shy away from. One of the fears most leaders have when it comes to adding laughter at work is how to do it right. It’s not always easy to add it into your leadership style, and finding the best time, place and content can be tricky. And of course, let’s face it… not everyone is a comedian (and frankly, some who think they are… aren’t).
So then, how do we turn up the laughter? Research suggests that anyone can learn to be more humorous with practice and by following some guidelines.
Authenticity is crucial when it comes to humor. But you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to make your team laugh. Of course, it’s essential to find your own style of humor that feels natural to you. Being true to yourself and your sense of humor will make your humor more effective.
Use appropriate humor
It’s important to use the right humor in the workplace. What’s funny to one person may not be funny to another, so it’s crucial to be aware of the sensitivities of your team. Research has shown that self-deprecating humor is generally well-received in the workplace and can even increase likability and credibility.
Timing is everything
Timing is everything when it comes to humor. You don’t want to interrupt a serious meeting with a joke, but a well-placed quip can help diffuse tension and create a more relaxed space for all. Research has shown that humor is best when used to relieve stress, so look for those chances to use humor in stressful or high-pressure moments.
Practice, practice, practice
Like any skill, humor takes practice. Watch comedians or funny shows, and try to incorporate what you learn into your own humor. Keep a record of jokes that have worked in the past and use them when appropriate. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become with using humor in the workplace.
Putting it all together
Laughter is an essential ingredient in leadership. It can help to create a positive workplace, drive team culture, grow productivity, and improve comms. Leaders who add humor into their style help to create more welcoming space for their teams. They see an improvements in creativity, psychological safety, wellness, and more. So, the next time you’re in a meeting or leading a team, try to add some light humor to the mix. Your team will thank you for it!
- *Wharton School of Business study: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256015603_Getting_a_Laugh_Productivity_Humor_and_Newspaper_Cartoons
- †University of Warwick study: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/
- ‡Journal of Managerial Psychology study: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JMP-07-2018-0291/full/html
- §University of Pennsylvania study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3263297/
- ¶University of Maryland study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6123777/
J.P. is a multi-certified coach, project and program manager, podcast host and entrepreneur.