Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Humour in the workplace

In last week's workplace section of the Globe and Mail, Wallace Immen writes about pranks in the workplace. With April Fool’s Day upon us, a number of recent surveys suggest that most workers don’t appreciate pranks in the office and are not tolerated.

I must admit, I hate practical jokes. I don’t take them very well and see them as hurtful and mean-spirited. I will, however, tell you that there is lots of room in the workplace for good-old fashioned humour and funny story-telling. I love to laugh. Anybody who has worked with me knows I have a permanent smile on my face (unless someone has irked me into a scowl) but my personal DNA is made up of passion, perfection … and a good healthy dose of humour.

I love to surround myself with optimistic, charismatic, funny people. Not
“Bozo the Clown” funny but people who can laugh at themselves and make light of situations when you really need to smile. These are usually smart driven people, who have amassed a ton of popular culture and a have a gift for high level wit. I met Warren Buffett a few weeks ago and, let me tell you, if this guy wasn’t a business genius he could easily have a career as a standup comic!

My friend
Catherine Lawrence is one of the smartest and funniest people I know. She actually runs a company that teaches corporations of all sizes (law, accounting, finance too!) on how to infuse humour in the workplace. She calls humour a "critical survival skill" and I agree. She is a wonderful speaker, and is the quintessential “Chief Laughter Officer.” I think what she preaches is sorely needed in today’s businesses.

Our agency culture is built on several guiding principles that put our clients first and foremost, but the undercurrent of the company’s culture is rooted in fun and laughter. Why? Because nobody wants to work in a gulag. Yes, we handle serious situations for our clients including managing hardcore crisis and issues, but should a workplace be devoid of humour because of a dire situation? I think just the opposite. I believe the tougher the situation, the more you need to see a lighter side to get through it.

I’ll never forget the day of my dad’s funeral. The saddest day of my life. On the way to the funeral home in the back of the limo, my brother and I were discussing who would be the most appropriate pallbearers to carry my dad. My mother (whose second language is English and certain words still escape her), who was seated next to us, looked at us in a maddening and disgusting way. She remarked in her heavy Italian accent, “I don’t understand why you and your brother are discussing polar bears at a time like this!” My brother and I laughed hysterically in the back seat and, to this day, I’ll always remember my dad’s funeral with a smile. Even then, in the toughest of times, humour went a long way to alleviate the pain and trauma of the situation.

Certainly we can bring that thinking and style to the workplace.

After all, it’s just PR… so lighten up!

Happy April Fool’s Day!


Scotty said...

Drunken bowling helps as well.

Rick said...

Hi Julie,

Reading your blog the evening before I go in to meet with Naheed tomorrow and this post made me feel more at ease. I'm glad to know that you enjoy a culture where its a good to share a laugh during "trips to the water cooler". I might not have learned this in an informational or job interview.

Julie Rusciolelli said...

After the week from hell we've had, we're still laughing. good luck Rick! See you later today.