97 percent of employees believe that it's important for managers to have a sense of humour, according to an HR study by consulting firm Robert Half International.
* The other 3 percent were probably fired by managers and aren’t going to be swayed by humour.
Laughing and smiling helps to alter our mood and perspective. It decreases stress hormones, provides a full-scale workout for your muscles and increases our immune systems and blood flow. A sense of humour demonstrates self-awareness, that you know your flaws and are therefore possibly empathetic to others.
Taking yourself too seriously limits your perspective, learning and can create stressful situations or make you unpleasant to be around. (Basically like every dodgy world leader.)
Be the first to laugh
Showing vulnerability is key. A good strategy to overcome a mistake or a social faux pas is to not be afraid to own the moment and the laugh space. Take the gaff gap, get there first.
Putting yourself on a pedestal is setting yourself up for a fall
Don’t be too proud or too tough. Learning to accept one’s weaknesses is a way to bring other people to help you – to compliment your skills and to help you in the areas where you are not strong. As with marriage or business, we all work better in teams.
To get through the tougher times we need to laugh more, and that starts with ourselves. Although don’t spend too much time laughing on your own, it sends out a strange signal.
Here is a compelling read that offers some further insight: Why It’s Incredibly Important To Learn To Laugh At Yourself.
We’re not saying, ‘don’t be professional’
Obviously it’s a problem if others don’t take you seriously, there’s a fine line. Be upbeat and fun, but avoid being the office clown.
Sometimes you’ve got to be a bit formal. Not everyone needs to hear jokes when you’re pitching them engineering solutions for the Hadron collider. (Although why not?)
Also when dealing with angry clients, admit failure or that you've made a schmuck move... but then provide the solution and make it up to them. After lightheartedness, deliver professionalism.
Take a more playful attitude to how you portray yourself and how you interact with others. Playfulness and humility humanises you.
Avoid laughing at other people’s expense, especially those working in lower divisions. That’s not being funny, it's being a bully.
Laugh at your expense. When you’ve made a mistake, go so far as offering someone a handful of coins and saying, “Now you can laugh at my expense.”
Take other things seriously, not yourself.
Even in tough times, try to create a smile. A wry quote or thought can help to lighten the mood.
“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” - Randy Pausch
“Every time you find some humour in difficult situation, you win.” - Snoopy via Charles M. Schulz
There is an expression, “In 10 years we’ll sit back and just laugh.” Why not add, “Can we fast track that and be laughing by lunchtime tomorrow?”
If Shakespeare were alive today he may also enjoy this: Prince Charles' Shakespeare cameo.
Keep it clean
Unless you work for Andrew Dice Clay, be aware that every subject can be construed as sensitive. So actually, don’t joke, unless it’s a good one, especially about yourself. Just never about your prowess in the bedroom.
The world has become very politically correct and over-sensitive. Spare a thought for the social media managers who represent brands online. With this in mind, know that humour is a risk. Not everyone will like your style, but it’s a risk you should take. Try to make it natural, don't force it. We’ve all seen an unconvincing comedian forcing out jokes to a deathly quiet room, or someone alienating clients with a bad approach. Beware.
Check out this TED talk on humour in the workplace – this is very good food for thought and a strong talking point.
Humour and laughing at one’s self is an art. You can work on it like public speaking or crocheting sweaters for your cat. Learn from your failures and have some fun doing it.
Don’t only go on about how awesome you are. Ego can destroy communication and real connections with others.
If not wanting to be lighthearted about yourself is caused by insecurity, then you may have some work to do. See a psychologist or mentor, or sit in the front row at standup comedy shows - get your skin a little thicker.
Then take sense of humour into promoting your product or brand. Even if your product category is serious, it will help you stand out and capture attention.
Be vulnerable. Remember that humour elicits emotion. If you appeal to colleagues or clients on an emotional level, you’ll have a much better chance of long-term engagement.
Use it in a real, human way - not in a way to divert issues or to bamboozle others. Be remembered for creating uplifting emotion, not robotic self-promotion. Laughter is the best medicine, and the greatest icebreaker.
And remember, if you can’t laugh at yourself in the workplace, then someone else will.
To end off, here is a an old classic joke about, well, laughing at yourself … enjoy.