Lakeside

Non-Profit Leadership: The Use of Humor in the Workplace

Happy business people sitting around the table at the meeting

I remember a number of years ago I took a two-week vacation. I returned to work on a Monday and some of my staff and I were talking. They started talking about what they missed about me not being at work. I wondered what they would come up with? Was it my wisdom, expertise, perspective or compassion? To my surprise they said, “We missed your laugh!”

“Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.” 

This quote reflects some of the benefits of a good sense of humor as we go about our lives in our varied spheres of our influence:

Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.

Grenville Kleiser

When I think of what has happened to us during COVID-19 as we have experienced COVID brain as well as the anxiety and depression so many have felt, I wonder if our constancy of dealing with this pandemic and the isolation of not being in relationship in our workplaces has diminished our capacity to laugh. There have been so many serious consequences of being apart and little opportunity to enjoy life together.

Group of young business people having a meeting in the office, having fun together and laughing,

Using humor means that we are in the cognitive part of the brain. It is a calm, complex and intact brain state that helps us see life through a lens that is not in high alert. It means our perspective can be more objective where we can see the irony, the ridiculousness and the light-hearted aspects of situations that may seem serious at first blush but also have a humorous side. It diffuses tensions. It keeps us regulated and gives us a way to look at life optimistically.

Using humor appropriately and carefully is important. It can make a difference in how people learn how to function together effectively. I love being close to the people around me who laugh easy at situations and at themselves. Leaders who can laugh with others are seen as approachable and pleasurable to be around. Also, humor is a great diffuser of stress in the workplace and gives us all a way to enjoy even some of our most difficult moments.

As we build our non-profit organizations where our valued coworkers are often under significant stress, humor can be a way to keep everyone from being victim to toxic stress and work through difficult problems with a sense of positivity. It can make the difference between a day of tension and a perspective that keeps us all in healthy brain equilibrium. Make sure you use humor as a regular part of building a regulated and enjoyable workplace environment. It can make a huge difference.

The comedian Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation!” I think we need those humor breaks to help us all enjoy our non-profit workplaces.

Gerry Vassar

President/CEO

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