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4 functions for humor at the working place

Utilizing humor strategically organisations could benefit a lot




In the employee-to-employee communication humor has got 4 functions: 1. As facilitator for onboarding procedures when new colleagues are connecting with the existing team and culture. 2. As mark of a group when departments are differentiating themselves from each other by specific humor. 3. As instrument of power when humor is applied for pushing through and convincing fellow campaigners 4. As method for de-escalation to relieve awkward situations and defuse conflicts. These are the conclusions of a meta-study conducted by the British Lancaster University having analysed 23 relevant academic papers. Additionally humor is capable to connect between hierarchies and contexts within any organization.

That given the researchers consider humor at the working place as an option for further impact far beyond the “Having-fun” aspect. Managers, they continue, should acknowledge, foster und utilize humor in his various functions selective and targeted to the benefit of the company.

Taylor/Simpson/Hardy,  „The Use of Humor in Employee-to-Employee Workplace Communication: A Systematic Review With Thematic Synthesis”, in: International Journal of Business Communication, 1 – 25, 2022.



From the practice:

Humor is simply great. But: humor can be tricky – that´s what we all have to be aware of (also privately): 1 Humor can hurt since mockery is often more insulting than tough criticism.

  1. Humor never should come across manufactured or artificial. Spontaneity and unaffectedness do pay off when you want to be humorous AND credible. So what can managers basically do in order to allow humor to flow while still trusting in the ambition and efforts of their teams? Humor is not easy for everyone after all. My suggestion to clients is: don´t try to be funny, go for personal friendliness. That´s doable for men and women, old and young, pioneers and conservatives alike. And from friendliness humor develops often pretty quickly.

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