Guest post by Jonathan Sandling
In September of this year British Entrepreneur Richard Branson published a book entitled, The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh and Lead. It may come as no surprise to find laughter featured in this elite list of leadership qualities however in many cases humour is far-removed for the unnecessarily serious nature of the workplace. This article aims to explore the concept of laughter in the workplace by highlighting the benefits it can provide and how they influence managerial behaviour. It will also provide tips for incorporating laughter into your working day.
Laughter can invoke a range of positive physiological benefits such as lowering blood pressure and boosting immunity. A reduction in blood pressure can reduce stress levels, improve cardiovascular function and in turn decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. Increased immunity will result in less time off work due to illness and improved performance when at work. This will increase productivity and maximise work potential.
Nodding, smiling and laughing stimulate the release of endorphins which provides a feeling of wellbeing and happiness. This promotes a positive mind-set and reduces feelings of anxiety and fear. From a learning and development perspective laughter has been shown to increase memory potential and facilitate creativity when completing tasks.
Research on primates has concluded that laughter evolved well before sophisticated language. Grunts and short outbursts of laughter have been demonstrated in chimpanzee populations when playful social interaction occurs. If laughter is one of the earliest forms of vocal communication it is no surprise that we still engage with it today. Laughter has an attractive power, it increases social interactions and reduces conflict within groups. It is fundamental to social interaction at every level.
How does laughter influence managerial behaviour?
Managers who laugh regularly throughout the working day have been shown to be more spontaneous and creative in their actions and thoughts. Due to their positivity and increased levels of confidence managers will be less defensive and will exhibit less inhibitions.
While this may mean some managers run the risk of dropping their defence it will also ensure they are more approachable to their staff. In addition, this positive mind-set will ensure that the manager is more resilient to any negative issues that may arise. These changes in behaviour will also be present in the staff improving social cohesion and promoting a productive and innovative approach to work.
How to fill your day with laughter?
Here are four ways in which the manager can encourage laughter in the workplace.
- Invite laughter: rather than asking people how their weekend was, ask them if anything funny happened over the weekend.
- Seek laughter: if you hear laughter seek it out and join in. This will indicate to your staff that laughter it not only acceptable but encouraged.
- Share laughter: tell a colleague about the funny thing a staff member said or did. Maximise the contagious properties of laughter by infecting others.
- Celebrate laughter: provide positive reinforcement by praising and rewarding laughter when it occurs.
It is important to put laughter in perspective. It is not suggested that managers spend all day joking and messing around as this will likely result in little work being accomplished. However, incorporating laughter into your working day and ensuring your staff are happy as they work can significantly improve not only the social cohesion of the team but also the productive and innovative nature of their work. Therefore, don’t just be a ‘good’ manager…be a ‘jolly good’ manager.
Jonathan Sandling is a writer and academic based in the seaside town of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, UK. He is an advocate for responsible leadership and promotes social responsibility in business. Find out more about Jonathan by visiting his website or follow him on Twitter.