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The only constant in business today is change! Change, and the result­ing stress, can be devastating to attitudes and outcomes. Humor's posi­tive power can relieve us from the stress of change and help us to re­spond proactively to the opportunities change creates. According to John Wagner, dean at Cincinnati State and a professional speaker and humorist, humor can be used in many ways to positively affect an organization's

Health—Humor can help respond to stress.


    Understanding—Communication and cooperation techniques can use humor.


    Management—Humor can avoid power struggles and be more influ­ential.

Opportunity—Humor's perspective can help shape positive action.

Recognition—Self-esteem can be built through humor.


Perhaps the most significant bottom line is your health, because with­out it you're dead! Norman Cousins' bestselling book Anatomy of an Illness opens up many people's eyes to that notion that "S/He who laughs lasts." William Fry, Jr., M.D., who has done research on the physiology of laughter for 45 years, lends support to Cousins' notion that laughter is like "internal jogging." Laughter suppresses the stress-related hormones in the brain, enhances respiration and circulation, oxygenates the blood, and activates the immune system. The cost of stress to the economy is figured at $200 billion each year. In the midst of changing and challenging times, George Burns said it the best: "You can't help growing older, but you can help growing old." Dr. George Vaillant found humor to be one of the key mature coping mechanisms that ensured that stress didn't kill more quickly and commonly. What he was saying was that humor can add years to your life and life to your years. Results of a recent survey shows that more than 90 percent of people surveyed think humor relieves stress in the workplace. That's a no-brainer. The more interest tidbits are in the result details. Such as, humor is most important to younger men and older women, and Re­publicans are more likely to say humor relieves stress than Democrats (96 percent to 88 percent).


Victor Borge, the great humorist pianist, says, "a smile is the shortest distance between two people." Humor can be an effective way to build understanding between people. Since creative teamwork is essential in organizations, humor can have positive implications in improving un­derstanding between and among groups. A better understanding be­tween people begins with how our body language communicates our feelings. While young children have at least a dozen facial expres­sions, a lot of adults get by with two or three. Some CEOs have a grand total of one face—"professional cool"— for every situation. With ex­pressions like this, or lack there of, what type of understanding can be going on between colleagues?


When a gain in efficiency or profits comes at the expense of lowering the quality of the lives of the people within a company, the gain is not worth the gain. As a matter of fact, even if the profits of a company are raised at the expense of its employees, many times the company may fail. If power struggles are happening to make profits, then employees are not happy and the overall mood of the company is poor. It is rea­sonable to expect that most people want to work hard to assist a com­pany to succeed. It is not reasonable to expect people to produce at their fullest if this production isn't producing a positive life style for them. Laughing with others builds confidence, brings people together, and pokes fun at our common dilemmas. Laughing at others destroys confidence, ruptures teamwork, and singles out individuals or groups as the "butt."


To boost morale, humor does not have to focus on the positive. Ac­cording to John Morreall, president of HUMOR-WORKS Seminars, there was a bank where morale was at an all-time low. The tellers weren't getting along, and nobody liked the customers. To improve morale, the manager announced a "Worst Customer of the Week Contest." Each Friday afternoon the tellers got together to describe the worst customer they had had that week. The winning teller got a certificate and bottle of champagne. The tellers loved the contest. As they listened to the horror stories, they came to understand and sympathize with one an­other. That created camaraderie. And because they wanted to win the champagne, they each wanted to get the "Worst Customer of the Week." If a teller saw a customer wandering around the bank, she or he would say in a cheerful voice, "I can take you over here, sir. How can I help you this morning?" The customers, of course, responded to this extra nice service by becoming nicer themselves. Within a few weeks the bank's morale problem was over.

John Wagner says to "take yourself lightly, but take your job seri­ously." There will always be situations where you screwed up. We all do. Yet most people pretend there's nothing wrong, or worse, they cover up their mistakes. You have to admit you made a mistake and then deal with it right away. The way to have more fun is to laugh at your fumble then do everything in your power to fix the problem. That's a crucial piece. You fix the problem quickly so the customers know you care about them, but you can have fun with the mistake. Crack a joke. Laugh. Even a smile works in these situations and can shape a positive action.

To Be Continued


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