For many of us, work has become a place where things aren't very funny. Often the first thing to go when the pressure is on is the very thing that helps us last the distance: humor!
What is it about humor that makes life easier to live? What is the connection between humor and health, vitality and the ability to keep on truckin'? And most importantly, how good are you at noticing the things in your life - right now! - that are worthy of a good laugh!?
We know that creativity and innovation are not driven by the process of the intellect. They are not linear and structured; they move in bursts and waves, not unlike the way a laugh moves through the body: bursts and waves. In order for humor to be present in the workplace, there has to be a sense of safety and acceptance: that it's OK to say what's on my mind; to say things that fly in the face of the status quo; to question the dogma and to challenge the rules; and that it's not about authority, it's about creating and contributing and making a difference. But humor is distinctly absent from the chain of command today.
Given that we continue to structure organizations that rely on the parent-child model, A natural fall-out is a preoccupation with the notion of control. In our family systems, the parents were in charge and the kids weren't. At work, the boss (parent) is in charge and the employee (child) isn't. If the employee questions the views of the boss, or the direction that the boss is taking, that's like the children challenging the parents' right to control. The children are growing up and are frequently far better educated and informed than the parents.
To put humor back into our workplaces would mean that we would have to put it back into our personal lives. To bring back to the workplace the capacity to laugh out loud and relax into those burst and waves would require that we relinquish our intense need for predictability and control, and make way for the uncertainty that precedes our greatest discoveries. As Ilya Prigogine once said: "The future is uncertain... but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity".
In today's environments, it's not just money that keeps people at work. More and more, companies are being forced to offer workplace conditions and contexts that support life overall: not just on the job, but in the area of personal wellness and quality of life. Employees are becoming much better educated and informed about what ties them down and what doesn't; and our old ways of doing business are falling away and being replaced by a recognition that the contribution itself is what matters; and you can contribute and have fun at the same time! We are learning that we do not need to do serious things, seriously. That work can be play, and that play can be extremely productive.
If you want to create work environments that support and sustain life, start by being aware of what's going on inside of you. What makes you laugh? Or what stops you from laughing? Are your efforts at humor open and inclusive, or are they behind closed doors and dismissive of the people you work with?
Pay attention to what goes on inside your own body; when your guts tighten and your lips form a tight, straight line. And pay particular attention to how frequently the things that annoy you at work – and/or the people that annoy you at work – rob you of your capacity for ease, comfort, openness and humor. Search through what's inside you to find the match with what's going on outside of you, and notice how frequently old patterns and old habits have a way of just showing up.
Laughter is a sign of life. What kind of signals are you sending out to the people around you?
Steps to bringing humor back into the chain of command:
- Lighten up! Today's effective executives / managers / supervisors are the ones who recognize that they are facilitators, not controllers. Managers manage environments; people manage themselves.
- At your next staff meeting, ask people: What's it like for you to work here? What's it like when you wake up on Monday morning, and know that it's time to come back to work? And then listen, not only with your ears, but with your heart and soul and spirit. Sometimes, there's nothing else to do. Listening at those multiple levels is often what's missing to make life better at work. In our experience in working in organizational systems, what we have often found is that people feel unseen and unheard; feel invisible and dismissed.
- Find the things at work that drive you crazy and notice where else they happen in your life. The next time those buttons get pushed, instead of bracing against them and pushing them back, breathe right into them and let them move: like bursts and waves in the body. We now know from science that what we call an emotion or a feeling is actually movement of information and energy through the body; a transfer of information and intelligence through bio-chemical and electrochemical impulses. That movement is a sign of life. by Louise LeBrun, Managing Partner of Partners in Renewal Inc Canada. (Edited by Gaia Grant)
- Deliver outstanding presentations which will have a significant impact
- Organise ideas and form clear and logical arguments
- Gain a greater control of themselves and the situation
- Become more flexible and persuasive with different audiences
- Our professional comedians can work with you to help you find a style of humor that could work for you.
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