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Humor makes the top of the list when hiring new employees. Why do we want employees with a sense of humor? When did we relegate humor to the level of our other senses—smell, sight, touch, hearing, and taste? When interviewing, we don’t ask employees if they have a sense of smell or if they taste, why then is it important to discern if they have humor?

Humor, the joy of jocularity, has benefits that are actually measurable. The University of Southern California tested subjects both before and after a thorough laugh session and found that laughing lowers the blood pressure, releases natural pain killers (endorphins), and boosts the immune system. Not bad for having fun! (Culberson)

The value of humor is specifically demonstrated when workers find themselves in one of two situations, either of which is very possible within the foster care industry: The first is being placed in no-win situations. These include being expected to do a job but not having the necessary resources in terms of time, money, policies or people power. It can also include having to serve a difficult or overly demanding client base or boss, or having to enforce unpopular rules or regulations.

The second is the presence of unpredictable or uncontrollable stressors. These can take the form of regularly arising but unpredictable situations that adversely affect stress, workloads, or scheduling. They can also include decisions made at other levels of the organization or government that affect your job but into which you have little or no input. (David Granirer)

In the midst of these challenges there are some correlations on the relaxing power of laughter:
100 laughs = 10 minutes of aerobic benefits from a rowing machine
15 minutes of laughter = relaxing effect of meditating for 8 hours.
10 minutes of laughter = relaxing effect of 2 hours sleep (Craft, 1997).

Humor can help to manage stress, increase staff retention, decrease staff sick time, and overall improve the work environment. What role does humor play in the workplace? Studies show that people in work environments where humor is encouraged show more enthusiasm for their jobs. (Gliner, 2001)

Does your picture of humor include clown noses, rubber chickens and jokes of the day? If that isn’t you, how can you implement humor? There are many ways to bring humor into the workplace such as cartoons on doors, desks or bulletin boards. Or you might want to have humor breaks during staff meetings. You may want to consider zoning for humor, create areas where humor and fun are the norm and not the exception. Humor can be the active pursuit of fun activities such as coloring during staff meetings, having toys readily available, and providing fun awards to employees or volunteers.

Consider adding a section of each meeting to humor, even two or three minutes. As humor becomes more a part of your business, it will be perceived as acceptable and seen

as a time to look forward to. Humor, as a natural part of communication, also helps break the ice, allows people to feel more at ease, and tends to lead to a higher level of agreement. We also believe that by having humor become an integral part of work, your employees start associating work with fun. So, start today. If you focus on looking for fun and laughter, then you’ll achieve it–and its advantages. (Craft, 1997).

Today, budget cuts and the seriousness of our profession requires us to keep our balance. Without humor, this balance is very tentative. Some people say, “I’ll play when I feel better.” Why not say, “You’ll feel better when you play!”

The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Add Humor to Your Workplace:

1. Take a Smile Time-Out. Take a deep breath, smile, exhale, and say “Aaah” while visualizing all your muscles and cells smiling. Then add to that a memory of a time you felt really good and laughed and laughed. Remember, even when you fake a smile or laugh, you get the same physiological benefits as when it’s the real thing, because your mind is smart, but your body is stupid and can’t tell the difference!

2. An office bulletin board loaded with cartoons, one liners, jokes, pictures, etc. is one way to invite humor into the workplace. A few moments of humor at work can lead to increased productivity as the newly energized employee returns to his or her task.

3. Create a FUN work environment. As a leader, you have influence over your work environment. Try adding humor and fun in these mediums:

  • Presentations
  • Public places like bulletin boards, cubicles and doors
  • Meetings
  • Memos, newsletters and emails
  • Parties, recognition events

4. Have a humor “Sit Down”. In the HBO series “The Sopranos,” when the heads of families have a beef with one another, they have a “sit down” to discuss the issue and find a solution that everyone can live with (or not!). I believe you will find similar success if you discuss humor with others.

5. Include an item on humor as part of your staff performance evaluations – now is that progressive or what?

6. Have rotating staff members be responsible for a joke for the day.

7. Have a joy committee.

8. Have a blooper log.

9. Give an employee a citation for something funny they’ve done—like the employee who dropped their pager in the port-a-potty. Give them a stinker award.

10. And last, but not least, pick up the phone on an imaginary phone call and just begin laughing. Pause and laugh some more. If nothing else, others will laugh or wonder what you’re up to.


(Craft, Brian & Kelly Craft, Humor in the Workplace, #274 Innovative Leader Volume 6, Number 5, May 1997).

Culberson, Ronald P. Humor Resources: Managing to Make Work FUN

Granirer, David. Laughing Your Way to Organizational Health:
A Lighter Approach to Workplace Wellness.

Gliner, Art. 2001. Humor in the Workplace.

Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D. Humor Matters.

Debi Grebenik, Ph.D., LCSW is the Executive Director of Maple Star Colorado. Her greatest claim to fame is that she is clumsy and likely to trip and fall whenever walking onto stages or stairs. Be sure to watch for her death-defying trips.