If you are one of those people who thinks work is no place for a little levity now and then, well, you can slink back into your cube and stare at Excel. Work is a social construct with unreasonably un-human standards of behavior sometimes (do we really have to be so serious, and on conference call all the time?) and if you don’t realize charm and self-deprecation can go a long way in demonstrating your ability to lead and motivate. Here are three ways that humor can actually help you get ahead in your chosen profession.
If you are a manager, humor humanizes you
Managers get a bad rap. Managers are people too, who just happen to be accountable for what a business (i.e. YOU) needs to be accomplish on a day-to-day basis. Because of the pressure to perform, managers can “act like jerks” and “be unreasonable,” but 80% of the time, there is a purpose to their madness. Humor is a wonderful humanizing agent, especially if you are a manager of a team. Introduce your softer side by engaging in non-awkward banter once in a while to demonstrate that there is a human being somewhere inside you, one who can empathize with employees. And if you are a non-manager, certainly applying humor when something may have not gone your business’ way can show that despite your best efforts, you are not perfect and everyone around your desk just needs to relax.
Humor is a great stress relief
Working late into the night is arguably the greatest pestilence that exists on the isle of Manhattan, and too many 2am forays leaves many-an-analyst or associate ill-equipped to see the bright side of an unending situation where another turn of the deck (which means of course TEN more turns) are three more production hours away. Humor in this situation lies in recognizing the futility of your efforts to be efficient in an inefficient world, where every color on your PowerPoint deck must be scrutinized because it’s life or death or no deal if that squiggly line of page 10 is red rather than light red. Indeed, when you just have no hope (of going home soon), humor is the only thing you have to hold onto. Cherish it.
Humor can serve as a legitimate reality check
Have you ever reviewed a report, an analysis or a summary that contained a number so out of whack that it made you LOL? Well, humor may have just saved you and your team from a major error that would have made the front page of the business section. If you are in an external reporting or investor relations function where you may be the last line of defense on commentary to be released onto the street, noticing items that are so wrong they are hilarious may actually save your job (I know this is a stretch, but this did happen to one of my clients who was an inspiration for this story).
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.