In this podcast we talk about the difference between comedy (and being funny) verses having a sense of humor, and how this affects you in your job and in your life.
For this episode, we interview corporate comedian and humorist Mark Mayfield, from Kansas City, Missouri. Mark defines humor as “surprise that evokes good feeling.” What it isn’t, according to Mark, is your ability to tell a joke, be the life of the party, or generally be funny. Having a sense of humor is NOT just what we can do on stage, it’s having a healthy sense of perspective.
The second part, “Evokes good feeing” is important. Surprise is not enough… it has to be good surprise with a nice result. (Brad’s note: this component it why so many practical jokes in the workplace go wrong.)
And having a great set of comedy skills does not mean you have a sense of humor. “I know a lot of comics who are great on stage and are manic depressive off stage. They have no sense of humor, even though they are very funny in front of an audience.”
So what’s the point? The point is that if you want to increase and improve your sense of humor (and you should,) then the good news is that you don’t have to even consider making yourself funny. You can leave the clown noses, the loud neckties, and the goofy mustache and glasses at home if you want. Put the whoopee cushion away (ok, leave that one out…. what can I say? I’m still a 14 year old boy on the inside) and concentrate on having a better sense of perspective.
People will love us (and do business with us) if we have a sense of humor, whether or not we make them laugh
Ok, let me explain. I’m on a plane headed back from an event in Tallahassee, Florida where I got to be a motivational speaker and humorist of the State Government, Department of Revenue.
It was a tax collectors’ school…. a multi-day training where the good folks representing the many counties of Florida came to learn the latest about collecting taxes (and all of the ins and outs that this might entail. Mostly outs, from what I gather.)
I have worked for these good people before, and was flattered to be invited back. Very flattered. But best of all, we did something new for them, and by the looks of it, we did well.
Not only did I present a program on using humor as a tool in the workplace — and at home — but we also spent a good deal of time getting those tax collectors to play. Yes… you read it right: play.
And then we went over five different techniques they could use to IMPLEMENT more humor at their work starting this Monday. Ideas they could use. Ideas they will use.
It’s one thing for me — a comedian speaker — to tell ’em how to use humor at work. But what we did on Thursday was to get them to brainstorm their own ideas about how they can create and maintain a more “fun” work environment, and for them to leave with an actual to-do list of stuff they can (and want to) incorporate into their workplace culture immediately.
OK Florida DOR: here they are! Here are the promised ideas (that you generated):
Brad’s FIver Top Tips for Leading the Way to Creating a More Humor Filled Work Place (Details thanks to of Florida DOR!)
Model An Appreciation of Humor
• Use Code Words (which can make communicating in front of customers fun.)
• Laugh at yourself. (Often.)
• Smile (A personal favorite)
• Pass out candy / chocolate
• Give out free hugs. (Note from Brad: Warning! This will work will for many of you. But beware.)
• Ask the question: “Has anything funny happened to you today?”
• Share funny stories with customers and co-workers
Institutionalize Humor in Your Workplace
• Create theme days (Hat days, costume days, dress up days, dress down days)
• Celebrate co-workers anniversaries of working with the organization. (Make the celebrants wear signs proclaiming the number of years they’ve worked there. And “bill” every co-worker $1 to give them enough money to go out to a lunch. (Brad’s note: if you work in the government, you’re gonna get a NICE lunch.):)
• Schedule regular lunches with co-workers. Agree not to discuss work at lunch.
• Create a “negative comment jar” into which any co-worker who has a negative comment must contribute a quarter. Use the funds for a party, lunch, snacks… etc.
Create Humor Rituals At Work
• Sing Happy Birthday to Customers. (Brad’s note: Florida DOR are often working with people renewing their driver’s license. And their renewal date is on their on their… birthday. So… this technique might not work so great if you work at a gas station.)
• Goof with customers. At the DOR, they like to give “hunters” licenses to people ordering Breast Cancer Awareness plates. Or fans ordering a plate from one college get plates from a different college. The customers “get” the joke, and everybody keeps the humor up.
• Give the most recently hired employee a Holiday Gift: some horrible gag gift. (The person who contributed this idea works in an office where they give out HUGE underwear.) Wrap the gift up nicely, and surprise the newest hire with the gift. Then… this person is required to give this SAME gift the following holiday season to that year’s most recent hire.
Create Playful People
• Be playful yourself! (Model playfulness)
• (This tip is for Supervisors) Create a policy of “Red Light / Green Light.” When the office is devoid of customers, this supervisor leans out her door and shouts, “Green Light!” At these words, the staff knows that they can relax, joke more, smile more, laugh more, and generally be louder. It’s like saying “At Ease!” And then, when the customers are back, a quiet “Red Light” gets the professional tone back in a jiffy.
• (Again, a tip for supervisors) Have occasional drawings for dismissal time. Here’s how it works: there are as many pieces of paper in the “hat” as there are employees. Each piece of paper has a different time of day written on it. (For example 4:30, or 3:55, or 4:59.) Most of the pieces of paper have 5:00 on them. Then everybody draws a “time” and is allowed to go home at the time given. (Brad’s note: I LOVE this idea. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it is affordable. Depending on how you feel, you could give many people lots of time off. Or, if budget is an issue, give most people regular dismissal times, a few 4:55’s tossed in, a few 4:59’s tossed it — because that is funny! — and then maybe let one lucky winner go home at 3:30. Not much of a concession, but I guarantee that it would be fun, and your staff would love you for this game.)
• Create and Exploit Hidden Surprises For example, on especially busy days, soften huge piles of paperwork by hiding a few treats within the pile. Perhaps lottery tickets, or gift cards to Starbucks, or….? When workers find one treat, it will make going through the rest of the pile way more fun. And, as I understand it, other co-workers will pitch in to help when there is a chance for a free lunch!
Be Playful Yourself!
• Consider writing a single message on a Post-It Note reminding a co-worker of something banal. Put the Post-It in their office. Now repeat. And repeat again. And again. Put up a hundred notes, and paper the office with your reminder.
• Create your own personal “word of the day.” Let me explain: suppose you pick the word “terrific.” When ever anybody says this word — and you hear them do it — you give them a pat on the back, a piece of candy, whatever. (Brad’s Note: I love this one too. It proves the point that when we are playful, we have fun with or without the help of the people around us. The “winners” who speak your word of the day may or may not care that they won. But who cares? You’ve done YOUR part ot make your day better.)
•Put an Easy Button on the counter. When your clients’ (or co-workers’) problems are solved you hit the “Easy Button” and everybody gets a smile.
• Bring your toys to work! Stress balls, Legos, Nerf Toys…
• Post Daily Trivial Pursuit games. You can post a question-of-the-day at your desk, on your service counter, or pretty much anywhere in your workplace. Then invite your co-workers to answer the trivia for a prize — or perhaps just for the pride of a job well done.
A suburban Chicago area school superintendent finds himself in hot water after a huge Humor In the Workplace fiasco that never should have happened. Bremen High School District Superindenent Rich Mitchell interviewed new teachers, taped it, and without their knowledge put the teachers’ real answers and edited in fake questions. All of this with him holding a martini glass. The result is that the interviewees talk about love of killing, alcohol and drug use… you get the idea.
It was supposed to be funny.
It wasn’t; and now it looks like he’ll lose his job.
But his bonehead mistakes are even wors. Get this for irony: He first aired the video for a back-to-school staff seminar (I do a ton of these!) where there was a discussion about how to inject humor and laughter into the workplace. Clearly, Superintendent Rich Mitchell should have attended a few more seminars before he tried to lead one. :)
He offended pretty much everybody, and now a few days from a job hunt.
What’s my point? Humor in the workplace is a good thing. A great thing. But what this goofball missed was that what he did wasn’t humor; it was offensive.
The concept of a fake edit has been used successfully by Carson, Letterman, Leno and a ton of others, but they have done it right. But this Chicago educator broke nearly every rule in the book; even the obvious ones.
What could he have done better? How could he have still used humor and kept his job? Glad you asked!
Brad’s Tips for Making Sure YOUR Workplace Humor is Appropriate (and actually funny):
•Don’t come near “the line.” What I mean is that in the workplace we need to make sure that we haven’t “crossed the line.” The best way, in my fairly extensive experience, to avoid crossing the line is to avoid coming anywhere near the line. Want to avoid crossing the line? Run the other way. There are a million topics that can make people laugh without coming anywhere near sex, drugs, racism, etc. Just don’t bother; it isn’t worth it. And it isn’t necessary. And, as this guy learned, it isn’t funny.
•Avoid sensitive topics. Leaving behind jokes about substance abuse, violence, etc would have been just a teensy bit smarter, don’t you think?
•Use self deprecating humor. If he would have gone after himself (as opposed to his new employees) he would have been on safer ground. And it would have been easier to get the laughs.
•Don’t pick on people; laugh at situations. If he would have made a video about situations (with students, with teachers, with text books, with lunch duty, ….) that his staff have in common would have been way more funny, and way safer.
•Run it by a humor buddy. If I were to create a video for an event like this, I’d run it by a few of my corporate comedian pals and humorist buddies to make sure that I wasn’t crossing the line. He clearly should have asked a few pals if they thought the video was funny BEFORE he put it up.
Need some workplace humor and want to keep your job? Book one of my humor seminars or keynotes. (I wish this Bremen High School Superindent would have hired a professional speaker. And I know now that he wishes he would have too.)
It’s of a killer musician and general clever man named Chris Hudson. This song is one of many on his new music CD called Modern Earl. I love it, and think you will too.
Chris Hudson and the his entire Hudson family grew up with my family. The Montgomerys and Hudsons went camping, had Christmas Dinner, and generally grew up together. And now he keeps the laughter going with music.
It’s good music with a huge dose of humor from an old friend.
Soon, you’ll find this music video featured on Frontier Airlines. How cool is that?!
I love it…. what do you think?
Just call me Modern Brad
Motivational Speaker, Comedian, Fan of Modern Earl
PS. You can get his CD at CDBABY.