Posted by: healingtheworkplace | March 29, 2008

Healing the Workplace with Humour

I used to think that organizations with a sense of humour were healthier…that is until I read this month’s (March/April, 2008) issue of Utne Reader. I still think humour is good for the workplace but there is a dark side too.

The article in Utne Reader was written by a fellow named Matt Labash and is called, “Are We Having FUN Yet?” The sub-title for the article is…”the infantilization of corporate America”. Matt provides this partial list of fun activities. These are suggested ways of getting a laugh at work and promoted as ways to increase productivity in the workplace:

  • koosh balls
  • office-chair relay races
  • marshmallow fights
  • job interviews conducted in Groucho glasses
  • wacky Olympics
  • memos by Frisbee
  • bunny teeth
  • etc, etc, etc.

But don’t assume that everyone shares the same sense of humour or that everyone will benefit in the same way.  Introducing humour into the workplace is NOT a quick fix and could do more harm than good.

But I must digress. A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending the Humour in the Workplace Awards in Vancouver. These awards were created and hosted by an organization called Rock Paper Scissors a “corporate entertainment and training company that specializes in evaluation, conflict resolution, creativity training and comedy”.

Rock Paper Scissors (RPS) has been “learning how to make the workplace healthier and happier through humour” for about 15 years. They not only organzed the Vancouver Humour in the Workplace Awards but they have been on the receiving end of the Canadian Comedy Awards.

 RPS believes that to successfully incorporate humour into your workplace you must….

  • encourage laughing with and not at your fellow co-workers
  • include, not exclude people
  • fit with your organization’s culture

They believe that humour can be used to “inspire innovation, increase cooperation, build stronger and more effective teams and generally help people feel more engaged at work”.

So, if we agree that laughter and humour is important and we don’t want to embarass ourselves with silly, juvenille pranks…what else can we do? 

Well, we can stop imposing things and let the people decide. Now how democratic is that???

Laughter clubs are a great way to start incorporating humour in the workplace.

“Laughter clubs are groups of people who meet at a regular appointed time in a designated place to take part in laughter exercises and workouts, and other activities that encourage playfulness, fun and mental balance.”

” Members enjoy the social as well as phycial experince. There are discussions  of the benefits of laughter and its physical impacct. A laughter club session can take as little as five or ten minutes, as a workplace break, for example, or at the start of a shift or workday.” 

Most workplaces are far too serious.  Laughter is a great stress reliever and when you laugh you are even exercising your internal organs. Organizing fun events brings people together and facilitates teamwork.

Why not start a laughter club at work?



  1. Very nice and intriguing article! I totally agreed with you that we should bring fun back to our workplace.

    The challenge will be how to find the “common” thing that can be shared and understood among people from totally different cultures.

    As RPS rightfully pointed out, a humor should “include” not “exclude” people. Joke usually requires some culture contexts to understand and to bring out the laughters. If you have been sitting in a crowd and they were laughing loudly while you simply didn’t understand what’s so funny about it. You would feel “excluded” instead of “included”.

    Finding the right humor to unite colleagues from different culture together is a good chanllenge. But the reward will be more understandings, a shared culture and improved trust level. That’s really worth the efforts.

    Thanks for sharing this good article!

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