It’s OK, CEOs are allowed to laugh too

Humor can be a powerful management tool. Humor reminds us of our collective humanity and renders even the worst decision tolerable. Although humor can manifest itself in widely different ways, humor is a trait shared across all cultures, ages and genders.

Humor facilitates humility; humility disrupts our fear of failure. If we want to promote creativity in the workplace, we have to foster humor. In turn, we will increase our sense of team trust, resist the fear of failing during ideation and navigate a negative situation more quickly and strategically.

Humor creates trust

When we laugh with our co-workers, we show a level of vulnerability and humanity that is too often subsumed by organizational priorities.

The positive effects of humor can have a significant impact on culture by allowing employees to de-stress and showcase their individuality. Humor can connect us to organizational goals in a way that no other incentive plan does. No matter how banal the task or complex the project, humor can bind a team together toward the best possible outcome.

Humor helps us manage our emotions

Too often, negative emotions in the workplace are poorly managed leading to a loss of productivity and an inability to work well in teams.

Instead of immediately responding to a disappointing situation with anger or irritation, make an attempt to laugh. Humor can provide an emotional break that is often needed in our fast-paced workplaces.

Humor facilitates effective ideation

Innovative work cultures value the ability to fail and then recover from that failure. Humor supports a willingness to test ideas and refine them until something sticks. When I explore with my team the programs or investments we have attempted without success, I try to approach the lesson with levity.

I address the issue directly and thoroughly, but humor can help me pivot from the negative delivery that precludes improvement to a positive, solution-seeking position.

We can use humor to laugh together and learn from the idea that was not such a great idea or the plan that did not go according to plan. Too often, it is easy to personalize or demonize mistakes — neglecting the fact that implementation is not a science. With more humor comes openness to failure, which allows ideas to be tested without judgment.

Humor allows us to navigate failure without ruining team morale and to recognize failure as an area for growth or as a gap that needs to be filled or addressed. Laughing at one’s self allows us to acknowledge and identify mistakes, as well as opportunities for improvement.

We remind ourselves of the basic principle that nobody is perfect. Dwelling on an error is futile. By allowing employees to express their humor, we create a work environment that is uplifting, as opposed to dehumanizing.

This environment promotes the free exchange of ideas, one of which may be the next best-seller or market maker, a creative breakthrough that just may be attributed to the power and presence of humor. ●