Funny Business: How to Strengthen Your Amuse System

Business.com / Last Modified: February 10, 2017

What does a singing gorilla have to do with the bottom line? Plenty ??? if it helps your team lighten up!

"Humor me." It's usually an entreaty to go along with another person's agenda ??? sometimes with anything but good humor. However, smart business owners know that the appropriate use of humor in the workplace makes for a more enjoyable, productive atmosphere.

Of course, the key word here is appropriate. "Jocularity" doesn't mean telling jock jokes! Yet being funny isn't limited to joke telling. Often it's simply a matter of stretching our awareness to see the naturally amusing all around us.

Professional speaker and trainer Jim Pelley, owner of Laughter Works Seminars, flies frequently on business. His favorite story concerns the time he was traveling with a German shepherd. It was a bright day; he had sunglasses on. He tells business audiences, "I'm wearing dark glasses and I have a dog with me as I board the car rental bus. What do people assume? That I'm blind. Think about this: I'm on a car rental bus." He pantomimes directing the dog's head to observe traffic patterns: "Look!"

Or consider Tom Mahon (a pseudonym), who in midlife made a career change from the printing industry to psychology. Always a humorous fellow in both business and personal life, Mahon brought this same joie de vivre to his therapy practice. His supervisor observed with surprise, "It isn't often that we hear clients laughing from outside the therapy room, but that's a sign you're effective!"

Humor can even be a lifesaver. A trio of colleagues rented a sailboat one weekend afternoon, unaware that one of the boat's twin hulls was cracked and slowly filling with water. When they attempted a sharp turn at high speed, the boat capsized.

The least experienced sailor was starting to panic, when his business partner suddenly said, "You know, I've been on five different ships and sailed the seven seas...and with all that experience, I'd have to say this is the single worst accident at sea I've ever witnessed!" At that all three began laughing. This emotional buoyancy aided their physical buoyancy, and they were able to float calmly until the rescue boat arrived.

A survey by the staffing firm Robert Half International confirms that 65 percent of workers say having a sense of humor is "very important" for a manager or business owner.

What can you do to help your team become the punchlines? Try these ideas:

  • "Disguise" the limit. After decades of formal business attire, everyone sighed with relief when casual dress days were introduced in the corporate world. How about adding an entrepreneurial edge, and dressing in costume ??? when it's not Halloween? Think outside the holiday. Wouldn't it be fun to take a theme ??? especially if you know some staff members are wild about a certain video, for example ??? and dress the parts for a day? Invite team members to contribute ideas about how the theme can tie in with the company vision or goals.
  • X "Marx" the spot. If your business is going through a difficult transition or people just need to lighten up, buy Groucho glasses for everyone and suggest they wear them throughout the day (except, perhaps, when meeting with clients). It's difficult to be disheartened when you're staring at those trademark bushy brows and distinctive nose.
  • Color outside the lines. Restaurants do it ??? and adults have at least as much fun as the kids for whom the crayons are intended. When you're planning a brainstorming session, distribute crayons and drawing pads to your team beforehand and encourage them to make their thoughts visual, if they're so inclined. For the super-inspired, bring play-dough.
  • Monkey around with milestones. In a congenial business environment, workers might expect a greeting card or two on their birthday. But they won't anticipate a singing telegram, which is what one entrepreneur sent to a star employee to honor five years of service. The performer arrived garbed in a gorilla costume ??? on a sweltering summer day. This was funny enough, but the improvised song sent everyone within earshot into gales of laughter. Team members began adapting this idea for other occasions, such as completing a difficult project ahead of schedule. From then on, no one knew when an oddly dressed stranger might appear among them and start to serenade. There are companies that specialize in creating unusual celebrations that can be customized for any occasion or business.

The benefits of all this lightheartedness? Employees who strengthen their "amuse system" at work are likely to:

  • be more productive
  • take fewer sick days
  • have higher morale
  • stay with the company longer.

So even if jokes aren't your strong suit, you can develop a lighthearted workplace that's certain to keep tension in check, and your team geared up for having a good time while achieving grand goals.

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