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The Power of Humour to Change Workplace Culture

The Power of Humour to Change Workplace Culture

After working in a “a soul-sucking, fun-sucking, Dilbert-like work environment” and seeing its impact on people’s lives, Michael Kerr went on a mission to research, write, and speak about the critical role workplace culture plays in not only cultivating happy work environments but also in driving success. He is now one of North America’s leading authorities on fostering innovative and inspiring workplace cultures.

He was recently interviewed by Calgary’s Business on the powerful effect humour has on workplace culture and how any organization and/or leader can harness it to create more effective teams and raise productivity.

CB: Why is it important to have humour in a workplace?

Kerr: There’s a chicken and egg relationship when it comes to humour at work: humour is both a driver of results and it’s the end result of working in a successful, productive workplace.

I’ve just returned from an International Society of Humor Studies conference in Estonia, where I met with senior leaders from several award-winning companies, and it’s amazing to see how different companies around the world use humour in different ways to drive success. Some use humour as a branding tool to help ‘humanize’ their image and make them more likable, while others embrace humour in their advertising, promotions, and customer service to help them stand out from the herd.

And the research shows overwhelmingly that when humour is intentionally injected into a workplace culture, employee turnover and absenteeism rates drop, productivity increases, stress levels drop, communication improves, and creativity and innovation thrive. So, there are a myriad of benefits.

CB: How can workplaces implement strategies to improve their culture and environment?

Kerr: The first step is to recognize that great workplace cultures don’t happen by accident. Every leader on the planet talks a good game about the importance of workplace culture, but few companies back up those words with meaningful action.

You need to be intentional about your workplace culture, which means hiring for a culture fit, training your new employees on your culture, and living your culture values in outrageously loud ways so they aren’t meaningless slogans that create cynicism amongst employees.

Companies need to always consider their culture when making decisions, getting into the habit of always asking the questions: How will this decision help create the kind of culture we want, and does it reflect the culture we want?

A few key things that businesses need to focus on to build a stronger culture:

  1. Invest in training, especially leadership training focused on culture.
  2. Get your meetings right. Meetings are the number one place to foster your culture and your meetings should reflect the culture you want. I’m a huge fan of short (five-to-10-minute) daily team huddles (no chairs or they become a meeting) to help build culture.
  3. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. You can’t have a great culture without investing relentlessly in your communication.
  4. Reward and recognize employees – celebrating small wins and linking rewards and recognition to your culture goals is critical.
  5. Create rituals and traditions to build culture. Every inspiring workplace I’ve studied around the world is a huge believer in the power of rituals and traditions – they create a sense of shared history and identity that strengthens culture, and they give employees something to look forward to and something to reminisce about.
  6. Inject the fun everywhere you can, whether it’s by celebrating offbeat theme days, creating a humour library, opening meetings with a fun icebreaker, or giving out fun, wacky rewards, look for opportunities to inject some humour everywhere you can.

CB: Can you still have humour in a workplace that has managers who have the opposite personalities?

Kerr: Absolutely. I always stress that having a sense of humour at work isn’t about being an extrovert or the office clown. It’s not even about being funny in the traditional sense (although that can obviously help).

It’s about being more authentic, having a healthy sense of perspective, and being able to find the funny and laugh at the things you have no control over at work and, especially, it’s about learning to laugh at ourselves. Is it not a truism, after all, that the more seriously a person takes themselves, the less seriously we tend to take that person? This is triply so when it comes to being a manager.

Read the whole article here.

Michael is called “The Workplace Energizer”. An award-winning international business speaker, he delivers relevant, practical programs with his memorable brand of clean, high-energy humour.

Interested in learning more about Michael and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected]

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