Managing Change With Humor

Humor can turn a mountain into a mole hill.
Humor can turn a mountain into a mole hill. (Image: molehill humor sign image by robert mobley from <a href=''></a>)

The world of business continues to change at a dizzying speed. The ability of both companies and people to successfully navigate change can often depend upon taking things less, not more, seriously. History demonstrates that the use of humor in times of great change not only helps manage stress and improves morale, but also boosts communication between departments and stimulates creativity.

Things You'll Need

  • Quotation books
  • Joke/humor story collections

Soften Hard News with a Poke in the Collective Ribs

Change within companies often involves expectations that people work smarter, faster, and better–with less. When delivering serious news, insert a lighter tone into the situation to lift the mood and balance the weight of the message. This allows people the space to accept what they are being told.

Prepare your remarks, making sure humor is respectful; never mocking, offensive or divisive.

If any fun is poked, poke it at yourself, which allows for a shared sense of the situation. Humorist and motivational speaker Lois McElravy offers a rueful observation of her own experience with downsized companies: "Multi-tasking is not a valuable skill; it is really a disguise for the opportunity to mess up several things at once."

Help People Understand Change

Hearing news of change and actually understanding why it is happening can be two different things. Tell personal humorous stories or experiences that highlight how you handle change, to help your staff look at their response and begin to envision their own solutions.

Use humor to acknowledge that life is not always fair, and that things don't always make sense. This can take the sting out of the changes your staff is facing and help them see that you share what they are feeling.

Use humor to generate enthusiasm for change. Good humor is infectious and so is a positive attitude. Use both to generate, if not enthusiasm for the changes with which you are dealing, at least support for what must be done. Because laughter energizes groups and connects individuals, it works like a magnet, uniting people to a common purpose and behind shared strategies. Often it creates an expanded appreciation for each other's strengths as human beings. Comparing a complex process to “herding cats” is an example of the humor that can be used.

Relieve High Stress via the "Giggle Factor”

If your workplace suffers from "terminal seriousness," give your staff something to laugh about, even ruefully, to diffuse gloomy thoughts and stubborn attitudes. Laughter--from giggles to deep guffaws--feels good because it actually produces brain chemicals that lift moods. Humor touches people in every aspect of their being: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Recognize that when people laugh, they relax, and use this knowledge to de-stress the workplace. Post a joke-a-day on your office door. Award a weekly prize for the best cartoon discovered by one of your staff. Buy a pop-up inflatable, hold a contest to name it something despicable and display it in a prominent place to be punched when stress levels rise.

Use Humor as a Life Tool. Develop humor as a coping tool to deal with life's difficulties, and use it to empower yourself and others. Life is change, and humor not only diffuses fear, it provides emotional balance and priceless perspective, allowing you to see many sides of a situation. Choose to see the challenges of life with an eye to the humor that may be below the surface. Life can be funny, and learning to use humor can improve both your professional and personal life.

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