Humor at Work: How To Succeed In Business Without Really Frying
“Columbus did not know where he was going. When he got back, he didn’t know where he had been. And he did it all on borrowed money. There’s hope for all of us.”-bumper sticker
TURN IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SKID. In the business world, the wheels of change are burning rubber. Due to rapid changes in technology, and competition, you can’t rely upon the status quo. Virtually all of us will be between jobs or businesses, perhaps frequently, during our work lives. We need to continuously recreate and reinvent ourselves and our skills. It is important to detach our sense of self-worth from transitional circumstances and maintain perspective on who we are by enhancing our sense of “self-mirth.”
FRISKY MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES. Bringing laughter and appropriate play into the workplace is the quickest path to building camaraderie and teamwork. There are numerous ideas for contests that can be implemented. A team at one company had everyone bring in photos of themselves when they were babies, and held a “cutest baby photo” contest. Another company had a “silly hat” contest, while another created a “worst hairdo” day. Pick up some wild props at your local toy store or novelty shop and keep them in your desk. Pull them out when timely to puncture tension and remind others to lighten up.
CIVIL UNREST. If your business happens to get its share of difficult customers, and it is taking a toll on employee morale, you may want to render a version of what I term the “Worst Customer Story of the Week Reward.” A bank was beset by low morale among the tellers, who constantly complained about troublesome customers. So every Friday the teller who had the best (most horrific) story about a difficult customer won a bottle of champagne. It improved morale and increased customer satisfaction because tellers were now seeking out those hard-to-please patrons to win the reward. Customers responded by becoming more civil, as a result of the increased attention, and talked about it with their family, friends and business associates. As a result, the bank experienced a marked increase in their new customer base.
LIFE AFTER DEBT. A lighter touch can increase business success in the most serious of matters, such as collections. In 1992, when the country was mired in a recession, I met a man on a cross-country flight who was the head of a collection agency. I listened to his tales of woe and frustration over the pile of outstanding accounts. I asked him if he could show me a copy of the letter his company sends out for collection. It was typically heavy-handed in substance. I suggested he try forwarding letters with funny relevant quotes or cartoons. He thought I was crazy, and I wasn’t so sure if I was or not, but we had plenty of flight time left so we brainstormed a few ideas. As we parted company I doubted he would use any of them, but three months later I received a surprise call from him, and he was excited. He used some of the quotes and cartoons; collections increased by 15%!
TECHNO-BABBLE. The incessant relearning that results from changing technologies can cause your brain’s hard drive to crash. I remember when I upgraded to my current computer with all the bells and whistles. There was so much to learn it was intimidating, and I approached it with all the confidence of an amateur prize-fighter stepping into the ring with a heavyweight champ. So I gave my computer a name-I called it “Schmegegi” (the Yiddish word for clown). I put little furry creatures on top of it. Create some humor for yourself by personalizing new equipment, putting your favorite toys, props, or cartoons on them.
BIZ LITE. Times have changed. Business used to be strictly about closing deals; now people talk about “nurturing their network.” It’s more like breast-feeding than browbeating. Business has a softer, more fluid aspect to it, with emphasis on building relationships and injecting more fun. A recent study shows that almost 80% of all work-related injuries and illness is stress-related. Companies are starting to acknowledge the need to “lighten up.” Why? It’s healthy, and humor can give you the business!
Terry Braverman is a Los Angeles based author, professional speaker and trainer. This article is excerpted from his book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!” ranked in the top 5% of sales on amazon.com
c 1997 All rights reserved