Humor in the Workplace 2009 LSCLS/MSCLS Annual Meeting Alexandria, LA Cheryl R. Caskey, MA, CLS, CLSpIH, CLCP(NCA) Compliance Officer Omega Diagnostics, L.L.C. Shreveport, LA OBJECTIVES At the end of the session, the participant will be able to: • Define humor • Explain the health benefits of humor • Explain the benefits of humor in the workplace The most utterly lost of all days is that in which you have not once laughed. Chamfort Humor Definitions • The ability of people, objects, situations or words to evoke feelings of amusement or happiness in people • That quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous • Something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing • Amusing quality or element in something Theories of Humor • Plato ° Something to be avoided • Aristotle ° Basic social skill, but thought people laughed too much • Middle Ages ° Laughter & play not compatible with Christian values Theories of Humor • Pilgrims ° Disdained it, allowing it only when it taught a moral lesson • 13th. Century Surgeon de Mandeville ° Advocated friends, relatives telling jokes to patients ° Believed humor should regulate whole regimen of patient’s life for joy, happiness Superiority Theories • Oldest, most widespread theory • Laughter is expression of superiority over others • Put-downs • Ethnic jokes Relief Theories (Spencer) • Release of energy • Relieves nervous tension • Different kinds of energy turn into laughter • Provides release of negative emotion in difficult times or situations Incongruity Theories • Focus is on cognitive demands of humor • If order is disrupted by inconsistent occurrence with own experience: ° We laugh Berk Study (1989) • Humor increases natural killer cell activity • Immune system, nerve cells ° Share same chemical message receptors ° Decrease physical effects of stress * Produce hormone-like substance Berk Study (cont’d) • Releases adrenaline, endorphins, enkephalins ° Natural pain killers ° Reduce physical effects of pain ° Endorphins have 5x pain-reducing effect of morphine Berk Study (cont’d) • Increase heart rate ° Oxygenates blood ° Relaxes muscles, works out internal organs • Good exercise ° 100 good belly laughs=10 minutes on rowing machine ° Reduces stress, muscle tension ° Increases relaxation * May last up to 45 minutes after laughter Cousins, Stone, Dillon, Minchoff, Baber • 10 minute hearty laugh ° Patients can sleep without pain • IgA in secretions ° Inhibit adherence of coated microorganisms to mucosal cell surface ° Positive mood=higher IgA concentration ° Increases after laughter=increased immunity ° Increases T cell activity ° Important to natural defense system Communicative Function • Breaks down barriers between people • Makes people feel good ° Brings them together ° Establishes rapport • Neutralizes emotionally charged interpersonal events Psychological Function • Anxiety is common source of discomfort ° Prompts use of humor ° Anxiousness * Narrow focus * Less creative * Easily angered ° Psychotherapeutic use of humor * Releases stress, tension, anxiety Psychological Function • Allows cognitive reframing of situation (Karen Buxman) ° View from difference perspective ° Enables alternative solutions • Ability to laugh, use humor ° Indicator of mental maturity and health ° Demonstrates coping capacity Humor as Coping Skill • Control ° Integral to defining self, behaviors ° Want it & fear losing it • Give up some immediate control ° Step back ° Laugh at self Humor as Coping Skill • Recognize absurdity of situation ° Can step back ° Gain fresh perspective on situation • Empowers ° Get back in touch with self ° Re-engage with renewed sense of self Humor as Coping Skill • Allows one to flow with cycles of life • Puts one in touch with feelings by addressing them • Helps deal with chaos, crises in a healthy way Humor and Health • Many die annually from stress-related conditions ° 86% of those have heart muscle lesions * Stress causes excess adrenaline production * Stress creates pressure cookers w/no safety valves ° Good laugh * Produces slight increase in heart rate, blood pressure followed by immediate recoil - Muscles relax, blood pressure drops below pre-laughter level - More oxygen goes to brain - Helps cope with heart stressful situation ° Cheapest type of medicine In the Workplace • Humor facilitates communication ° Provides non-threatening medium for communication w/o intensifying emotions • Humor builds relationships ° Facilitates development of staff cohesion • Humor reduces stress ° Makes us feel good ° Can’t feel good and stress at the same time In the Workplace • Humor reduces stress (cont’d) ° Humor, laughter activate physiological systems and we feel physically better ° Feel more relaxed ° Involves incongruity, mismatches ° Increases creativity-is a catalyst for it • Humor provides perspective In the Workplace • Humor promotes attending, energizes ° Wakes us up, increases our attentiveness ° Increases productivity ° Laughing at self lightens our load • Humor reduces boredom ° Many people do not enjoy their work or it is very routine ° Can develop wisdom, provides optimism In the Workplace • Brings extra happiness to work • Makes problems easier to solve when viewed w/sense of humor • Keeps you balanced • Helps manage change--makes less frightening and stressful • Powerful motivator and morale booster • Builds strong teams In the Workplace • Humor in meetings ° Encourages participation ° Minimizes conflict ° Helps people retain information ° Opens up dialogue ° Sparks creativity In the Workplace • Facilitates open communication ° Powerful way to connect at human level and build rapport • Improves customer service ° Business is about people, relationships • Can improve the bottom line ° We do our best when we enjoy doing • May decrease tardiness, absenteeism--look forward to work Incorporating Humor in the Workplace • Must be done carefully & strategically • Lab must be kept professional--must be clean & non-offensive • Must not ridicule: ° Person’s characteristics ° Politics ° Religion ° Ethnicity ° Gender ° Sexual orientation Incorporating Humor in the Workplace • Give people chance to laugh together, enjoy each other • Great when people feel overwhelmed • Helps if management initiates • Burnout symptom of lack of balance between too much work, not enough joy ° Failure to balance guarantees burnout ° Burnt out associates cannot make unique, valuable contributions ° “Play breaks” boost spirit, morale--provide a rest Incorporating Humor in the Workplace • In no control situations ° You can only control YOUR reaction ° Laugh at self situation-relieves tension ° Helps gain perspective ° Provides physical energy, resilience • In no win situations ° Job w/necessary resources, no power/input ° Difficult client base or boss Workplace Humor Guidelines • Politically correct, not offensive • Not disruptive or hurtful • Indicators humor needed ° No win, high stress situation ° Need way to cope ° Helps accept what cannot change Humor-Benefit Measurement • Absenteeism, tardiness, turnover rates • Employee satisfaction results • Conflict reduction • Boredom, burnout reduction • Substance abuse reduction Humor and Success • Children know how to laugh ° Average child laughs 300 x/day ° Number daily for adults unknown • Executives laughing at self, with associates ° Can connect, form bonds ° Benefits organization ° Improves problem-solving ° Allows togetherness Humor and Success • Enhanced productivity, problem- solving ° Generates ideas outside the box • Effective weapon ° Hardness yields ° Irritations, resentments reduced ° Better associate dispositions Summary • Physiologic response to humor ° Increases IgA & creates more positive mood ° Increases heart rate ° Oxygenates blood ° Relaxes muscles ° Increases immunity • In the workplace ° Reduces stress ° Increases productivity ° Decreases boredom, absenteeism, tardiness ° Improves communication Summary • Must be politically correct, not hurtful • Improves problem-solving • Good if management initiates it in workplace • Improves creativity • Humor is good for each of us!!