April Fool: Why your job should be a laughing matter

It’s April Fool’s day. Did you smile this morning when you sat down at your desk? Did you play a little trick on your colleagues or your boss? Do you remember that wonderful story about the spaghetti tree that had the world laughing? If nothing else, the 1st of April should bring a grin to your face.

But how often do you smile at work? How often are you in stitches with laughter? If you’re having to think hard to dredge up a moment of hilarity, the chances are that humour doesn’t feature much in your workplace.

Laughter and humour are essential components of having healthy emotional intelligence. When we laugh, it lifts our mood, it reduces stress and creates bonds and better relationships. A research study published in The Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 27, Iss: 2, states that, ‘Employee humour is associated with enhanced work performance, satisfaction, workgroup cohesion, health, and coping effectiveness, as well as decreased burnout, stress, and work withdrawal.’ Pretty important then, and proof that laughter really does bring happiness and increased job satisfaction.

The Mayo Clinic in the USA recognises that laughter has a powerful effect on promoting good health – both physical and mental health. Positive thoughts release neuropeptides that help combat stress and more serious illnesses such as heart disease. It also relaxes muscles and improves the immune system.

Vital for the workplace, is how humour and laughter impacts upon trust and empathy. When we share a sense of humour with colleagues, we bond with them, and feel a shared sense of purpose. That is essential for great team building and the development of trust and inspiration in a leader. Think of a manager or leader who is able to laugh at him or herself, who can bring some levity into a serious situation. This trait shows that he can manage stress, that she is conscious of the emotions of her team and that he can take the emotional temperature of a situation.

Of course humour has it’s place. Someone with a low emotional intelligence will make a joke at an wholly inopportune moment or laugh inappropriately at a colleague’s misfortune.

And beware of false laughter. A study run by Dr Carolyn McGettigan from Royal Holloway, University of London noted that our brains easily distinguish between genuine and fake laughter. Don’t even try to fake it!

If you truly want to be happy in your job then humour and laughter must be part of your workplace. You need to laugh with colleagues, smooth over problems with a gentle giggle and crack a joke to keep things in perspective. Coaching in emotional intelligence will look at your overall happiness score and laughter can be brought back into your life. Remember to smile when you next look in the mirror – you’ll be surprised at good it makes you feel!

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