Organisational Change Management Volume 2

25. Humour

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. In an organisational context, humour is most useful when it moves beyond jokes, riddles, gags, kidding, clowning, mimicking, smiles and laughter

In addition to relieving stress and boredom, humour (laughter) can boost engagement, well-being, spur creativity, collaboration and improve analytic precision and productivity. Babies laugh on average 400 times a day; people over 35, only 15. We laugh more on the weekends than weekdays.
Remember, humour is subjective: what one person finds hilarious, others may not.
There is some suggestion that there is a formula for what makes people laugh. It is claimed that humour rests on a "benign violation". Laughter can be provoked when something is "wrong, unsettling or threatening" but also seems "okay, acceptable or safe".
It is easier to fail with humour than succeed as comedy is context-dependent, ie a "delicate operation built on layers of shared knowledge and innuendo"

"...we laugh when we find that something we momentarily believed to be the case isn't in fact true and at others in the same predicament, and that stories about such situations, especially if they are linked to pleasure or other kinds, such as insight......superiority, or sexual titillation. The simplest examples are puns and pranks..."
Alison Beard, 2014

When using humour, need to be honest and authentic; don't be afraid to chuckle at yourself; laughter can be disarming; poking fun at issues that everyone is worried about or take too seriously, etc can be powerful

. In transforming AMP from a "cot case to a success story", ex CEO Andrew Mohl found humour of powerful tonic

. Humour can encompass anything that supposedly enhances well-being, such as gestures, music, rituals and recognition. Sometimes humour is manifested as light heartedness of spirit rather than a constant comic display. It can mean that an organisation does not take itself too seriously

. Humour needs to strategically fit with the organisational culture, ie the way things happen around here. Humour can be ad hoc and/or institutionalised

. The humour needs to be appropriate, such as

- socially acceptable

- well timed and tied to the task at hand

- staff have a strong relationship with the person being humorous

- person aims humour at himself/herself

- used to poke fun at a situation, not at any person or group

- staff have established work ethic and competence to handle the job before humour is used

. Humour is not appropriate if

- it's crude, rude, physically dangerous or counterproductive

- other people are the butt of the joke or it is used to harm others

- jokes or puns are made at the expense of gender/ethnic/religious/national/racial/cultural groups

- it assumes everyone has a similar sense of humour

- it is used as an exclusory tactic

- it is used to challenge authority or subvert corporate goals

- it frustrates someone who is eager to have a serious conversation or address an issue of concern

- it suggests that the initiator is important

. Humour can increase organisational cohesion. It lubricates social relationships and reduces barriers to status and individual differences. Humans need to be affiliative, which focuses on creating and maintaining group cohesion instead of employing ostracising humour, which demeans or isolates group members. Humour is a double-edged sword!!!!!!!!

. In an organisational sense, humour can be used:

- as a coping mechanism

- to facilitate negotiations

- as a communication instrument

- as a cognitive tool

- as a motivation tool

- as a creativity aid

- as a stress diffuser

- as a learning aid

- as a change agent

- to improve job satisfaction

- to reduce stress

- to improve productivity

- as a tool to provide a competitive advantage, eg it helps to retain staff, as they like to work in an organisation that they enjoy

Six fundamentals of humour

i) instead of being serious, you should strive to be good at your job, ie very competent

Establish your work ethic (including values to guide decision-making so that you convey integrity and command respect from others) and competence to do the task or role allocated before using humour

ii) use humour to add balance to the stress of your life

By creating an "emotional distance or barrier"between you and the stress, humour can allow you to take a break from adversity while you regroup and regain your composure

iii) humour by its nature creates a new perspective

A new perspective can be an asset when you are faced with challenges and problems

iv) you connect with one another through laughter

Research has shown that people like to be around others who have a sense of humour. Furthermore, laughter is a universal language but we need to be aware of sensitivities, such as cultural ones

v) humour can enhance the recall and retention of information

It provides balance to serious information, it creates a new way of understanding the material being presented and it establishes a memorable link to the point being made

vi) humour makes work more bearable

Humour has the potential to make work more enjoyable without sacrificing productivity or the integrity of the work being performed. It can create an enjoyable environment that attracts staff and encourages them to contribute

Four main types of humour

i) affiliative humour (joking around with friends to bond as a team)

ii) self-enhancing humour (recounting personal misadventures to cope with stress

iii) self-defeating humour (self-ridicule to close status gaps)

iv) aggressive humour (victimising others to raise personal standing)

NB The first 3 are positive types of humour while the last one is negative and can be destructive

. Need to realize that humour is most effective in the right environment. It needs guidelines to handle what types of humour is acceptable and unacceptable types of humour. Of the latter, aggressive and personal offensive or degrading humour should not be allowed. Once the guidelines are established, staff will create the type of humour most suitable.

(sources: Vivienne Anthon, 2004; Katherine Hudson, 2001; Eric Romero et al, 2006; Kevin Ryan, 2006;Narelle Hooper, 2007c)


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