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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Humour boon to healthy workplace

By Vicky Smith
Sun Media


There is a rare commodity that reaps tremendous rewards.

In our cost-sensitive world, another rarity is it's free.

The therapeutic benefits of generous use are lower blood pressure, reduced stress, increased muscle relaxation and enhanced immune systems.

Universal language

It is a universal language that breaks down barriers and boosts morale, creativity and communication. It offers a diversion from life's serious issues, which bring on fatigue, depression and a lacklustre approach to our days.

This unlimited resource is laughter.

On the website www.howstuffworks.com/laughter6.htm, I discovered I can avoid exercising by "laughing 100 times, which is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.

"Laughing can be a total body workout! Blood pressure is lowered and vascular blood flow and oxygenation of the blood is increased, which further assists healing. Laughter also gives your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout."

Our sense of humour, unfortunately, abandons us when we need it the most --on the tough days.

What stops most of us from seeing humour is we take ourselves too seriously. Every unpleasant event or disappointment becomes a catastrophe and we react to everything -- whether large or small -- as if our world is collapsing.

Children often can teach adults valuable lessons.

It doesn't matter how bad a day a child is having, they laugh on average 300 times a day. An adult is lucky if it's 15, with few of them on the job.

Thomas Leonard, in an article Coaching Tips, listed the following ways to know if you are taking yourself too seriously:
  • You don't see the humour in failure and just can't laugh at how human you are;
  • You ignore your critics, given they are probably correct;
  • You rigidly believe in your beliefs instead of enjoying them as fashion accessories;
  • You can't change on a dime when the truth occurs to you because you have too much invested in the way things are;
  • You think that what you have to say is terribly important.

    Humour can provide tremendous rewards, but when used inappropriately it damages relationships and crumbles self-esteem and confidence. Political correctness, evolved, in part, because inappropriate humour segregated people in the workplace.

    David Granirer, in his article Welcome to the New Reality: Navigating the Quagmire of Humour and Political Correctness (www.granirer.com/ART-0001.htm), defines healthy workplace humour as "acts involving some sort of surprise and/or exaggeration that makes people feel good." He states healthy workplace humour should accomplish four goals:
  • Release tension;
  • Create a sense of acceptance;
  • Convey a sense of unity or support;
  • Restore a healthy perspective on a given situation.

    When one considers politically incorrect humour -- jokes about ethnic groups, blondes, etc. -- it becomes clear how it undermines positive fun and creates a negative atmosphere.

    So what can we laugh at that will not get us into trouble or hurt someone's feelings? One of the most abundant sources of humour is ourselves. When we can laugh at our idiosyncrasies, we break from the serious treadmill in our lives. When we joke about ourselves, others can relate and give us things to laugh about, related to their quirks and dumb mistakes.

    Children see humour in everyday situations, but adults miss it.

    As adults, we have to re-learn how to play and have fun as a child would. We need to be silly and spontaneously laugh at life.

    Wild and crazy ideas

    Many workplaces have social committees. What about calling them humour committees, with a mandate to initiate wild and crazy ideas to get people laughing and socializing?

    I have been involved in crazy hat or wildest tie days, wearing pajamas and slippers to work and having Caribbean days in the winter. Those activities broke down monotony and rejuvenated all of us to go back to work with smiles on our faces and more energy to tackle the next issue.

    What surprise or act of zaniness can you pass on to someone else that follows Granirer's goals of maintaining healthy humour in the workplace?

    Once one person starts, humour becomes contagious.

    -- Vicky Smith is owner of Contact Human Resource Group, which is internationally partnered with Express Personnel Services.

    www.contacthrg.com.




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