Tuesday, 19 January 2016

At Work, LOL!

It was a new job, loads to learn and fast. I was constantly juggling multiple tasks and fighting deadlines; needless to say trying to fit into the system and getting my head around the very many ‘processes’, if you catch my drift. This was serious stuff and had no room for error. The result, all work with no time to catch my breath, constant meetups, many MOMs, and countless tasks to follow up on.

During one such meeting, my manager concluded a serious discussion with the punchline,
“…it’s like making a vampire the caretaker of a blood bank…”
You may think I have a warped sense of humour, but this cracked me up. A gale of laughter erupted, and the tension about the whole issue dissipated. After a few giggles, we both got back to work with relatively more ease than ever before.

Having a good sense of humour is a quality that is always underrated, or rather, is never articulated when it comes to developing managerial skills. No business school has ever dedicated a course or part of it to developing a sense of humour in their curricula. For some people, there’s no grey area when it comes to a good sense of humour; you either have it or you don’t.

There is no universal definition for humour either. It is culture specific; what may seem hilarious to an American may be considered impudent in Japan. And, it is context specific. The type of jokes that would appeal to a marketer and a financial advisor are different. The Humour Code deals with this subjectivity of humour at length. A catch phrase would be considered funny when it’s wrong yet okay, unsettling yet acceptable, and threatening yet safe. If this principle in particular is ignored, there is a far greater probability for attempts at humour to go awry or in certain cases, horribly wrong. So, is it possible for managers to use humour in order to manage better? If so, why?
1.   Trust
Applying this principle gives an impression that the manager is not oblivious to the employee’s plight. Hence, is a very good way of earning the team’s/subordinate’s trust.

2.   Engage easily
Managers who use this strategy coupled with an understanding of the counterpart’s psychology engage easily and are adept at creating and maintaining transparency among the team.

3.   Creates a jovial organisational climate
Humour is essential merely because it make people laugh and connect; workplace happiness is a very essential element in employee satisfaction and therefore, retention.

4.   Are more emotionally intelligent
Managers who can successfully do this are deemed emotionally intelligent which is the building block of people management.

The good news is that a sense of humour can be developed, although it requires a little effort in seeing things with a new perspective. A lot of books probe into it, focussing on jokes and what kind of humour makes people laugh. Unfortunately, they fall short in offering an insight into how these can be employed in today’s global workplace. That will only come with a lot of interpersonal communication, experience, and numerous failed attempts at humour. In short, epigrammatic (peers, subordinates), highbrow (like-minded), self-deprecating (peers), or deadpan (superiors, peers, subordinates) are all acceptable at a workplace provided they be executed with extreme caution in order to avoid going overboard with them. On the other hand, aggressive humour is best left alone.

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