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Work Is No Laughing Matter

Forward-thinking leaders, like my strategic alliance colleague, Ben-Jamin Toy, promote the power of gamification in building cohesive teams. For them, laughing at work does matter. Gaming often involves the use of humor and invokes the sounds of laughter in the workplace.

Infusing cohesive principles within teams through gaming, humor, and laughter produces safe workspaces where people have a sense of belonging (inclusion), find meaningful work (value), and collaborate in shared mutual commitments.

This dynamic approach not only boosts morale but also strengthens the bonds between team members. Laughing becomes the common language that transcends job titles and departmental divisions, uniting everyone in a shared experience of enjoyment. In such an environment, employees are not just colleagues; they become teammates in the pursuit of common goals, driving productivity and creating a culture where both work and laughter thrive.

To keep this topic in perspective, there are a few important rules to keep in mind when exercising humor to build a cohesion unit:

  1. Humor is never used at the expense of someone else. No longer is it acceptable to promote cultural differences as the subject of a joke or remarks that suggest shaming. Instead, humor should aim to uplift, connect, and create a positive atmosphere.
  2. Humor does not trump content. Leaders who want to deliver critical corporate communication should refrain from excessively using humor, especially when its outcome distracts from the main message. While humor can be a powerful tool for engagement and team building, there are times when the gravity of a message takes precedence. Ultimately, the key lies in discernment – knowing when to infuse humor and when to maintain a straightforward and serious tone. This thoughtful approach to communication allows leaders to connect with their teams on both a personal and professional level, fostering an environment where laughing and content can coexist harmoniously, all while ensuring that important messages are heard and understood.
  3. Humor should not be used in place of a structured, formal conversation to convey negative behaviors needing to be addressed with staff. For instance, if leaders want to address tardiness, then making a joke of the person’s arrival may be funny, but it diminishes the importance of timely attendance. Plus, joking about it may send a mixed signal that it’s okay to be late. When addressing behavioral issues, it’s crucial to employ clear, direct, and respectful communication. A structured conversation allows for an open dialogue where both parties can express concerns, understand expectations, and work together to find solutions. By treating these discussions with the seriousness they deserve, leaders demonstrate their commitment to maintaining a professional and accountable workplace. When humor is used inappropriately, it can undermine the message, hinder problem-solving, and inadvertently condone the very behaviors that need correction.
  4. Not everyone is a stand-up comedian. Be natural. Be authentic. Be yourself. When it comes to using humor in the workplace, authenticity is key. You don’t need to transform into a comedian to create a positive, light-hearted atmosphere. In fact, trying too hard to be funny can come across as insincere and forced. Instead, let your own personality shine through. Share anecdotes, stories, or light-hearted moments that genuinely reflect your character. Authenticity in your humor allows your team to connect with you on a personal level, fostering trust and genuine camaraderie. Remember, the best workplace humor is often the kind that effortlessly flows from who you are, making it a powerful tool for building a cohesive and happy team.
  5. Make laughter count. When used in moderation and effectively in the workspace, humor produces light-hearted laughter that can positively influence the impact of cohesion, which in turn positively affects productivity and engagement within the work environment. Laughing often serves as a powerful stress-reliever, enabling employees to better cope with challenges and maintain a positive outlook. A workplace where humor is thoughtfully integrated can be a more pleasant and innovative space, ultimately contributing to improved productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall success. So, make laughter a meaningful part of your workplace culture, and watch the positive effects ripple throughout your organization.

According to a report from the Mayo Clinic:

“Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.”

Laughing activates endorphins and relieves stress.

The U.S. Department of Labor released these statics that dramatize the negative impact stress has on the American worker:

  • Workplace stress has been reported to cause 120,000 deaths in the US each year.
  • Approximately 65% of U.S. workers surveyed have characterized work as being a very significant or somewhat significant source of stress in each year from 2019-2021.
  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • 54% of workers report that work stress affects their home life.

As I have worked with organizations around the globe, one of my first assignments for clients is to have leaders assess the type of and amount of humor within their four walls. Why? Because the presence of light-hearted laughter is an audible sign of a healthy culture primed in its efforts to retain talent.


Over the past several decades, articles about laughing, humor, and stress-free related activities, like gaming, reinforce these benefits:

  1. Reduces stress and boredom.
  2. Boosts healthy mental well-being.
  3. Enhances relationship building.
  4. Retains top talent.

When handled properly, gaming, humor, and laughter support the aspects of belonging, value, and commitment found in cohesion-infused work cultures.

People relate to humor, and let’s not forget … laughter is contagious.

Laughing As Much As Possible

Here is my updated helpful acronym to the how and why humor should be a paramount element in the workplace.

L – Learn the art of using humor to create productive work environments where folks feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.

A – Agree to use gaming and humor to promote a relaxed persona and an intentional work ethic to foster creativity and productivity.

U – Understand even a good belly laugh may hurt the cheekbones, YET it is worth the effort. People who laugh together tend to like each other and enjoy where they work. It’s part of having meaningful work that is enjoyable. Researchers claim 87% of employees would rather work for a little less pay to have a job they love than receive more money and dislike the environment, people, and workload.

G – Go for the gusto. Good-natured fun takes the edge off, especially when the work is high pressured, requires hours of intense concentration, or is mundane and minutiae-filled. Taking a fun break improves focus and effort when the individual returns to the task at hand.

H – Heal the soul. Focus efforts to emotionally connect with others at work. People who feel included and appreciated, actively participate in creating cohesively infused cultures where people are productive, engaged, and willing to stay.

How does your workplace take the time to focus on using humor to increase productivity and retention? How are you working to deepen the relationships in the workplace? Please share your stories and tips with Dr. Troy!

For more insight on this topic, please refer to these blog posts:

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