Years ago, I had an opportunity to work with Joan Rivers — the one and only — as she was in our studios to record an audiobook. This was a woman who made a career out of making people laugh, and that day was no exception — she had me doubled over within minutes of talking with her. I remember it so clearly and how infectious her laugh was. I knew I would never be a comedian or host a show devoted to the questionable wardrobe choices of celebrities, but what I did know was that I wanted to bring that type of lighthearted approach into my own career.
Laughter at work is imperative. It creates a collaborative spirit and can immediately defuse a stressful situation. Here are some useful tips to help lighten the mood and get you laughing at work.
1. Don't take yourself so seriously.
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes the laughs need to come at your own expense. The best thing we can do to add laughter into the workplace is to learn to laugh at ourselves. A great sense of humor is an essential quality for a leader, as it helps to keep the mood light and the spirits lifted. Particularly if you manage a team of people, let them laugh with you, let them laugh at you.
Several years ago, after the birth of my son, I had returned to work and, like most working mothers, was navigating my way through pumping at the office. Already mortified to strip down from the waist up and hook myself to a contraption, I never expected someone might walk in on me during the whole process. But it happened. While I was embarrassed in the moment, I decided to approach it with humor. The next day I hung a "Got Milk" sign on my office door and figured anyone who stopped in front of it when the door was closed would quickly get the point. I certainly could have reacted negatively and made the situation more awkward for everyone, but instead I allowed myself to laugh about it. Moments like these can make all the difference for surviving in the workplace, as it allows people the freedom to laugh. For good measure — and good humor — the sign stayed up for nearly six years.
2. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
The key to allowing yourself to laugh at work is to do so with like-minded people. There will always be those in your workplace whom you relate to better and with whom you feel more connected. Surround yourself with people you enjoy being around and who make laughing at work easy.
In my previous role, there was a group of us who would search for ridiculous clips from YouTube. The day we pulled old Miss America videos from the 1970s and reenacted our own version of the talent competition, my stomach hurt from laughing so much. I left feeling like I had been at the gym doing crunches.
It is possible to laugh and still get your work done. Find your tribe of people in the office and learn to lean on one another, learn to laugh. You will all be happier and more productive because of it.
3. Find humor in the little things.
The server is down yet again. Another deadline dropped onto your desk at the last minute. The coffee machine is broken. Small things happen every day, and you have a choice to let them get the best of you or to find the humor in them. Sometimes it just takes a different approach.
Someone on our team was notorious for leaving dirty dishes stacked up in the kitchen for weeks on end. Everyone was frustrated. Finally, one of my colleagues sent an email to the entire team with the subject line: "For the Love of God!" We all had a good laugh, and soon enough, the dishes were gone. From that point forward, anytime an email came through with that subject line, we all knew it must be the dishes again!
Much like having a positive attitude, choosing to embrace laughter at work is intentional. Be the solution to those stressful situations. Laugh with others at situations, at yourself. The grind will start to feel a lot less taxing and much more enjoyable. For as much time as we all spend at our jobs, shouldn't we have a little fun? Go ahead — allow yourself to laugh.