Saturday Morning Chit Chat, Laugh it up…at work

Laugh it work

I like to laugh. I like to laugh a lot, and I have one of those laughs that you can hear down the street.  I’ve been told it is infectious. Actually, my husband was once told by new neighbours that they loved his wife’s laugh.  They could hear it through their closed windows in the winter.

My laughter is an intrinsic part of me. I can’t express myself without it showing up sooner or later. So you can imagine that when I’m at work, that laughter is still in play. It’s what helps me get closer to people, it helps me to engage. Not surprisingly, it’s easier to know someone when you laugh with them. Yeah, I can focus.  I’ve been known to start the first conversation of the day by asking about a project and then remembering to say good morning and take off my coat, but I always go back to laughing.  One of my old bosses claimed he could hear me laughing at the building’s entrance, down the corridor, four floors below. He was unimpressed, I think he underestimated the echo effect of elevator shafts.

Sometimes, when laughter makes it’s way into conversations about work there is the impression that a professional atmosphere doesn’t include a sense of humour. I always wonder why. Are you working with humans? Humans don’t wear one emotion indefinitely and we spend more time at work than we do in almost any other endeavour.  I’m not suggesting becoming the office goof or showing disrespect, just that you need to have a release valve at work, the same way that you do anywhere. Arguably, the more stressful your job, the more often you should look for humour as a release.  That pent up energy has to go somewhere and too often anger is the outcome.

I work for an amazing home care organization.  We have thousands of nurses, personal support workers and volunteers moving in and out of private homes all day long, every day.  You can imagine that with that much interaction, I periodically get called in because situations have escalated into potential media problems. They aren’t always funny, in fact, they rarely are and they can ratchet up the tension quickly.  So calm and humour are often the tools that I use to diffuse a situation. Again, because it bares repeating, appropriate humour.

There are other times when the situation is so strange or silly that the only thing you can do is laugh.  A while back one of our sites contacted me when the son of a client threatened to go to the media because our nurse refused to visit his mother. She refused because every time she went, the son, a man in his thirties, would be dressed in nothing but his underwear.  Eventually the nurse was so unnerved by the man’s near nudity (remember, he’s not the client) that she finally put her foot down and refused to go unless he put on some pants during her visits.

When the site contacted me to share this problem there was an awkward silence. I was on the line with a very concerned district executive director and an equally serious director of risk. Eventually I burst out laughing, then said, “Let him go to the media. It will be the best coverage we’ve ever had.  The public will get a chance to see how difficult the job of our front line workers is.”

My reaction was unanticipated by my colleagues, but it diffused the tension that was building and gave a little perspective. Not all situations are worth a laugh, but sometimes you have to relax and release. The Wall Street Journal recently carried a great article on the value of humour at a work. In it they not only suggest it’s a good idea but share some of the science behind why.  Notably, being funny makes you seem smarter, employers like people with a sense of humour, it builds rapport and when you laugh it stimulates the same part of your brain that reacts when you get a big bonus check.  Not bad for a giggle, so laugh it up.


0 responses to “Saturday Morning Chit Chat, Laugh it up…at work

  • Loved how you handled the near nudity situation. That man was certainly trying to manipulate the situation and you saw right though it. I am approaching a situation that I’m dreading – I think today I’ll take a moment to try and find the humor in it and perhaps when it comes there will be less tension. Thanks.

    • Sometimes people back themselves into corners and then come out swinging, I think that’s what happened to that situation. The toughest part of those kinds of situations is stepping back enough to see the other person’s perspective. Generally speaking, whenever I do that I can see the humour.

      I hope your situation resolved itself better than you anticipated or at worst you will eventually be able to laugh over it.

  • That’s what I miss the most about having a “real” work place. Working from home does see the humor factor take a tumble. It’s much easier to lighten-up and put on a happy face when around people. Working alone makes me more prone to pensiveness.

  • Hi, Debra- This makes me think of two things: The first is Yoga. It’ll be so quiet while everyone is working on holding a pose, and the instructor will say something to lighten the mood and you can’t help but laugh out loud . (Warning: book recommendation here) I even read about starting out the day specifically with Yoga where laughing is incorporated. The book was “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink…My other thought is Mary Poppins and the line from the song (at least, the way I remember it) “I love to laugh…ah ha ha ha…long and loud and clear.” Lol 🙂

    • I have wanted to take a laughter yoga class since I first heard about them, but have missed the opportunity. Having said that, I laugh in my regular yoga classes all the time. It’s impossible for me not to see the humour of sweating when all I appear to be doing is moving slowly or keeping still. 🙂 I have a Whole New Mind and was about half way through when you distracted me with Quite by Susan Cain. 🙂

      • LOL! I read “A Whole New Mind” as a book choice for a class last year. And yes, it is definitely funny how much me can sweat in Yoga. One instructor calls it “hot Yoga.” It only is because of the sweat. 🙂

  • winnercat says:
    August 25, 2013 @ 07:57 am

    Agree with you completely, Debra. Besides having fun and play makes us much more creative and innovative. Being too serious, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect:-)

  • Oh I laugh a lot and rather loudly too. I manage a nursing and care home and it is a monster of hard work to keep things functioning as you would expect it to. But we all share great humour to keep the atmosphere lively and happy. Plus laughter has a good effect on your body too…lol

    • Running a nursing home would require physical work, as well as, a significant amount of mental dexterity too. I can’t imagine doing work that taxing without a sense of humour. I love that something that feels so good is also good for you.

  • I seem to have the penchant for inappropriate humor. It is really bad when you consider I have a loud booming laugh too. People have actually moved away from us in movie theaters. When the Bare Naked Ladies sang about the kinda guy that laughs at a funeral, they were talking about me.

    • Hahahahahaahahahahahaha…I was once at a conference in Vancouver where they have a two or three story rotunda area for receptions. It was the opening reception for a conference my organization was hosting and as the Senior Director for External Relations I was in the middle of it all greeting people. One of my colleagues needed to get a hold of me but in the crush of people she couldn’t find me. She said that she closed her eyes and listened…she found me within two minutes. I have on occasion laughed where I shouldn’t and its no soft twitter. 🙂

  • I totally agree that humor can diffuse a difficult situation and make people feel good. What’s wrong with feeling good?! The sad part is that more and more people are working virtually. They sit alone at their desks and communicate with their colleagues by emails and conference calls. There is no substitute for the humor and social connection in conversations around the water cooler. Alas, those days are disappearing.

    • Jeanette I was once on a national conference call where I had to deliver safety tips. I was travelling at the time so I was alone when I delivered the tips over the phone. Generally the safety tips portion of our national call was a bit dry and so I made sure to include lots of humour in mine. Absolute silence greeted my delivery and I felt a bit awkward. It was only after we had moved on to the next agenda item that I noticed my emails. Apparently the national office had been in hysterics over my presentation, but because the phone was muted, I couldn’t hear their response.

      Although the technology is easily available and I tease by email and phone all the time, I do think it’s different from being present. Often it’s the unexpected, unplanned encounters in the hall or staff kitchen that bring out the humour in our days.

  • Aw, Debra I love the way you think. I had imagined you as someone who would laugh a full and unabashed laugh. Aside from this story, I bet you have some great stories to tell about your work. To me, laugher is an elixir for the soul. I helps to dissipate our worries and what ever ails us. I could just see your mind working when the problem was presented and thought your recommendation was brilliant. Did the complainers go the media?

    • Susan hundreds of people can attest, I have a big and unabashed laugh. 🙂 As for the stories, there are so many of them that I know I’ve been very, very fortunate in my career. I have yet to find a job where laughter didn’t help to make things better or at least provide a little patience to put up with what was making me crazy. As for the pantsless gentleman, he thought better of going to the media to express his right to wear underwear in front of the nurse. 🙂

  • First, I think I need to declare my relationship with Debra! I worked with Debra at the amazing home care organization for almost 4 years. I miss your laughs Debra! I love the creative power of your laugh unleashed on the Team! I found I was at my most creative when I was laughing with you! If I could getting you going, I knew I was on to something great or so stupid it was laughable!

    Who do you want to tell you your idea is stupid? The ‘Yeah, but…’ person on your team? Or the woman with the infectious laugh?

    I would pick you every time Debra!

    • Bonnie you’re a sweetheart. It was a fun team and I miss it too. I think you’re absolutely right about how creative we are when we are laughing. Our inhibitions are lowered along with our guards and then there is plenty of room to imagine, explore and develop ideas. I’m always looking for ways to bring that into work otherwise its a pretty uninspiring way to spend your time.

  • I like to laugh, too. Then again, don’t we all? I just wish there were more funny things to laugh at each day. I’ve always been a serious person, though, so sometimes I don’t know how to lighten up.

    • Its funny how social media can can alter perceptions. I would never have thought you were someone who didn’t know how to lighten up. You generally give off a very positive and happy persona in all of your online dealings. Perhaps you’ve changed without noticing.

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