What does Sponge Square Pants have to do with keeping your sense of humor (and your sanity) in the military?

If you ask Merry from Florida’s Hurlburt Air Force Base, the answer is quite a bit. In this first of a series of three podcasts featuring Merry, she talks about specific ideas, rituals and techniques she has personally used to create humor in the workplace. My favorite aspect of these podcasts is that they speak to the criticism that some workplaces cannot use humor, make jokes, or generally purposefully create laughter because THEIR office is too serious, too professional, too whatever.

If you think that what you and your office does is too important and serious and that you need to be avoid embracing humor and laughter in order to preserve your job and your professionalism… then this is for you.

Merry is the leader of the humor team for a bunch of contracting professionals on an Air Force base during a time of war. They arrange for everything from water to guns to bullets to planes in order to keep the base and their war fighters going. It’s a job of tedious and crucial details, hi stress, and huge results… it’s a “job that counts.” Yet they do their very best to use humor to improve their people,their productivity and their morale. You think you have a serious job? Hmmph.

In this particular podcast Merry talks about two related rituals they have in the office… one of which revolves around a Sponge Bob flyer — a whistling Frisbee sort of toy — and a “Golden Shovel.” The short story is this: when people do something good, they “earn” the Sponge Bob flyer. It goes sailing and whistling over the cubicles to the winner for something they did right. Maybe they did a good job on a contract, solved a problem… anything good. And it lives on their desk as a trophy until the next person earns it. The result is that people WANT the Frisbee, and will work to earn it. And when the Frisbee changes (temporary) owners it creates a break, an “atta-boy,” and generally a sense of fun and accomplishment. Do you think you can say “thank you” enough? Me neither. And isn’t this a great and fun way to do just that?

The opposite of the Sponge Bob Frisbee is the Golden Shovel. This special shovel is passed around the same way as Sponge Bob (though I assume it is actually passed… not thrown) to people who have done something dumb, made a mistake, or generally goofed up.

The result of the shovel is the similar… people work hard to avoid earning this thing, and in fact help each other avoid earning it by checking each other’s work, etc. One of the funny things is that once one person has got the shovel, the whole office bands together to make sure that owner keeps it as long as possible. They will help each other and generally conspire to keep mistakes and goofs to a minimum to assure that the shovel stays where it is.

Can you think of a better way to:
• Decrease the amount of mistakes?
• Create office teamwork?
• Acknowledge mistakes without berating the people who make them?

And again, this is all done on a military base, while we are at war, and doing a difficult job. Cool!

My point: If Merry and her crew can use humor and laughter (and related rituals) to fight stress, raise morale and teamwork, and increase productivity and success, don’t you think you can too? Merry invites you to steal her ideas. Why don’t you? And for more ideas for incorporating more humor in the workplace, bring in a pro speaker to talk about this cool concept. Oh, now there is a good idea.

Check out my humor in the workplace seminars and keynotes here.

Brad Montgomery
Expert on Humor in the Military, Motivational Keynote Speaker, Fan of Hurburt Air Force Base

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