Effective team management need not always be serious business. Humor, used appropriately, can do wonders for driving team engagement.
Humor, perhaps, is one of the most effective and yet under-appreciated tactics of communication. While most managers continue to investigate ways of how to build more engaged teams, they view (if not overlook) humor as a trifling appendage to a large and complicated engagement model. In the absence of factual analysis and survey data, there are no real studies that establish the impact of humor on team engagement. Many engagement experts, however, reveal that teams managed by a manager with a funny bone are typically more engaged and productive.
Studies reveal that humor has two key attributes that can help a manager drive engagement and productivity within the team― reduce stress and develop an emotional connect. In the stress-loaded working environment that characterize today’s job conditions, experts recommend that an employees need to de-stress at regular intervals to avoid burnouts. Corporate health consulting firm, Helpguide, recommends humor as an essential component of manager training to deal with workplace stress.
Present day working conditions are also characterized by the shift from an industrialized ecosystem to a knowledge-based ecosystem. In a knowledge-based ecosystem, collaboration has become the key to efficient execution, thereby making effective communication critical for success. Communication experts have proven that the most effective communications are characterized by the ability to trigger an emotional connect with the recipient. Humor is a proven tactic that good communicators employ to build an emotional connect with their audience. Social media expert, Mark Ivey, remarks, “Some of the most popular brands on social media platforms are ones that have effectively created messages that are funny or offbeat. After all, who can resist a clever or a funny tweet or conversation starter?”
Anirban Roy who works as a senior planner in one of the largest global advertising firms reveals that stressful situations and long working hours are common aspects of his everyday job. He admits that humor aids in maintaining high spirits and team morale on difficult days. As Anirban puts it, “My current manager has a brilliant sense of humor: I have nick named him, the laughing buddha. He just keeps at it even when the going gets tough. It tells the team that despite all the deadlines and deathbeds in the workplace, there is room for humor and that work is never boring.”
Many managers, however, feel that being funny at the workplace comes at the cost of credibility and thus choose to avoid it. In the absence of gold standards, it is difficult to strike the fine balance between humor and credence. It is easy for team members to perceive a manager as less credible if s/he uses humor inappropriately. Apurva Chiranewala, who works in the strategy team of an online commerce firm says, “I think a witty and light hearted manager is always good to work with provided he/she uses his/her wit at appropriate times.” Many managers curb their light-heartedness at the workplace to maintain their professional image as a firm and credible leader. Deepten Chatterjee, Project Manager in an infrastructure advisory firm reveals, “a lot of senior level managers would perhaps prefer not to open up or show their lighter side to their teams in a formal, office-like environment (maybe there’s a feeling that if your juniors see you joking too much, they might end up not respecting you). However, such managers are also seen to be openly displaying their fun side in informal parties, and where there’s lesser risk of being perceived as being an over-the-top comedian.”
It is no secret that humor is serious business. Here is my take on when and how a manager can start off a laugh riot.