We've all heard that laughter is the best medicine. It makes people happy and links us together. Humor and laughter strengthen our immune system and boost our energy by destroying boredom and keeping stress at bay.
Humor is equally beneficial at work, as it increases creativity, enhances communications, builds morale and minimizes workplace conflicts and tension. People who use humor are generally seen as more approachable.
Humor may also help your company stand out, even when managing and accepting failure. A few years back, JetBlue had a great opportunity to send out such a message to its employees in a way that embraced risk, admitted failure and kept a sense of humor.
According to a story in BusinessWeek titled "How Failure Breeds Success," JetBlue made a decision that seemed like it would have minimal impact on customer satisfaction. But the company was about to find out otherwise.
Eric Brinker, then JetBlue Airways Corp.'s director of brand management and customer experience, decided to change the in-flight snack mix that it served passengers. Brinker had heard that some of JetBlue's customers had been asking for healthier snacks on flights.
So Brinker and his team replaced the Doritos-based snack mix that it served in flight. But something unexpected happened. The junk-food junkies voiced their protest.
The negative reaction grew, and Brinker realized he was going to have to reverse his previous decision.
So, on the company's intranet, Brinker launched his own light-hearted campaign to save the junk-food snack. "Some pinhead in marketing decided to get rid of the Munchie Mix!" he wrote. He asked employees to write poems and stories about why the snack mix should stay. He kept it fun. He reacted intelligently in the face of failure. It's a lesson JetBlue employees aren't likely to forget.
Humor can also help end arguments. According to "Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes," Orson Welles, the well-known film director and actor, had a longstanding feud with studio executive Jack Fier on the film "The Lady From Shanghai." Welles had decided that a certain set in the movie needed repainting on a Saturday, in time for a shoot on the following Monday. When Welles approached Fier about the matter, the director was told that getting the set painted in such short order was impossible.
Welles was determined, however, and over the weekend gathered a group of his friends who volunteered their painting services. The group broke into the studio's paint department and repainted the set themselves, leaving a huge sign that read: "The only thing we have to fear is Fier himself."
Monday brought a new set of issues, when the real set painters arrived and found that the work had been done by non-union labor. They called a strike, and Fier was required to pay a large sum to each member to compensate for the work they lost. In retribution, Fier deducted the money from Welles' fee and had his own sign painted that read: "All's well that ends Welles."
The two men, who had been bitter rivals, then called a truce and in time became good friends.
April is National Humor Month. With that in mind, I think it would be a good idea to introduce a new category on formal performance reviews that says, "Can laugh at themselves." I've always found a sense of humor to be an important skill. I am impressed by employees who can diffuse a difficult situation with a well-timed, respectful jest. I cheer for people who can admit their failings with good humor. I would be a gazillionaire if I could bottle the formula for helping people take themselves less seriously.
I subscribe to the words of one of America's greatest wits, Mark Twain: "Humor is mankind's greatest blessing." May we all be abundantly blessed.
Mackay's Moral: A good sense of humor helps to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected and outlast the unbearable.