Laughing Your Way Through Work

Laughing Your Way Through Work

by Dr. Joseph Michelli

It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe that there are two kinds of people and those who do not. Certainly when it comes to humor in the workplace there two different sorts – those who use it and those who don’t. Our jobs offer so many opportunities to test our humor and play skills. I believe that our families were given to us as children to learn to live with people we would have never chosen as friends. Similarly, the workplace is offered to us as a place where we can refine our ability to cope with strangers who we have randomly come to know. Be they co-workers, managers or customers, people make humor and playfulness worthwhile. Add to the recipe of workplace stress, changes in healthcaredelivery systems, staff reduction, larger and remote management structures and you have all the ingredients to make humor a matter of workplace survival.

Although an advocate of humor in the workplace, I don’t believe that it will cure all the ill’s of corporate healthcare in the 90’s. A true humor master knows that it works better as a set of springs to cushion the bumpy ride of life and does not serve as a bulldozer to clear way adversity. Respecting the importance of moderation, timing, rapport and relationship necessary to use humor effectively, while encouraging a playful work environment actually increases productivity, decreases work injuries and enhances workplace solidarity. More importantly it softens the pressure of the workplace and enables time to distance ourselves from the craziness that came sweep through a work area. In the spirit of encouraging more humor, laughter and play in your work area, I offer the following suggestions.

1. Convene a humor committee to assure that the workplace is playful. Goodness knows we have committees for everything else, why not have one that enhances the emotional well-being and mirth of all who work in an area.

2. Conduct weekly quizzes. Even if the only prize is posting the name of the weekly trivia quiz winner in a prominent spot, the joy of conjuring up totally useless information for the purpose of winning a contest increases the general playfulness of a work area.

3. Put cartoons on your memos or in your work area. Warning: not every one has a sense of humor. To decrease risk of inappropriate humor content, avoid materials which produce a laugh at the expense of others and look for cartoons that bring people together in their shared experience. I have a cartoon near my desk which depicts a hospital staff person wheeling a two story gurney with patient’s on both levels. The caption merely states “staff

4. Have a no work discussion lunch or break. The first time people at my office tried to meet and not discuss work, we had nothing to say. Don’t worry it gets better with time. We have even found that by consciously resisting the urge to talk about all the terrible things that might happen at work, we come back from break more refreshed, revitalized and emotionally more connected to our co-workers.

5. Keep a disposable camera available for all to use in the work area. This enables you to capture those “Kodak moments” when you and your colleagues are at your best or worst. A picture is worth a thousand words and a picture of a laughing work group may be worth a thousand stress coping responses.

6. Develop your comic vision. Use your amuse system to see the humor around you. Steve Allen once said that “the funniest things in life are the unintended humor of reality”. Be a spotter and appreciator of the unintended humor of yourself and your workplace.

I strongly believe that work groups that laugh – last. May you and your co-workers be around laughingly for a long, long time.


Copyright 2005 by Dr. Joseph Mitchelli. Reprinted with permission. Joseph is a professional (and funny) motivational speaker based in Colorado. You can reach Joseph at



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