New research shows light humor among employees is actually good for business (note: putting all your coworker's desk supplies into the vending machine does not qualify as light humor). The study, "The Case for Developing New Research on Humor and Culture in Organizations: Toward a Higher Grade of Manure," takes its title from an Ernest Hemingway quote:
"It always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure."Researcher Chris Robert, a psychologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia, notes that laughter has "meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers." He goes on to say the ability to laugh at others and make others laugh "actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded."
The difficulty seems to be in translating humor across cultures. It may be pretty funny in America to do an impression of your boss, but a Chinese business partner may find it a little offensive if you pull out your best Mr. Wang -- complete with accent -- when the meeting comes to a close. Robert and colleague Wan Yan suggest finding common ground (which also applies to public speaking for cross-cultural audiences.)
One other issue for managers may be knowing where to draw the line. For example, last year Southwest Airlines took a prank a little too far and found itself in court. Joking may not seem quite as fun when there are guidelines to follow, but whenever you assume all adults have sound judgment, there's potential for disaster.
Resolving to surprise her husband, an executive's wife stopped by his office. She found him with his secretary sitting in his lap.Other Funny Office Jokes
Without hesitating, he dictated, "...and in conclusion, gentlemen, shortage or no shortage, I cannot continue to operate this office with just one chair.
(Office Prank image courtesy of oxtopus, cc 2.0)