mary_feeley Humor in the Workplace

The Humor Deficit Disorder Cure

December 07, 2006

By Mary Feeley

Why cure Humor Deficit Disorder (H.D.D.)?  Because when we use humor, we have the power to transform the negative into the positive.   A sense of humor is not just the ability to tell a joke.  A sense of humor is an attitudinal perspective, combining both the intelligence and the self-confidence to view and respond to life’s challenges with a healthy dose of irony and absurdity.

A well-timed joke can neutralize emotionally charged, stressful events.  Recently, I was flying in a terrible storm and the landing was very rough.  Many passengers were visibly stressed and fearful.  After a safe landing, the flight attendant calmly announced, “Welcome to Kansas City…I apologize for the bumpy landing, however, it was not the plane’s fault or the pilot’s fault….it was the asphalt.  Everyone on the plane responded with the loudness and length of laughter that former standup comics, like myself, ache for.  The flight attendant could not control or change what had happened.  However, by using the gift of humor, she reframed the negative perception of this experience into a positive one.  Her humor diffused the fear and created a powerful and positive image for herself, the crew, the airline and the flying experience.

If you suffer from H.D.D., take heart-- humor is an integral aspect of the human experience and you can learn how to incorporate humor into your own unique communication style.  You don’t have to launch yourself headlong into the next staff meeting, ready to offer your first funny bit.  Here are some tips for combating H.D.D. and getting you started on your own laugh track. 

First, make a commitment to learn more about your comic self.  Surround yourself with opportunities for “funny” discovery.   Watch comedy shows, movies, tv shows.  Read the comics or watch comedians.  Find and go participate in the things that make you laugh.  Collect funny props, cartoons, coffee mugs, bumper stickers – anything that brings a smile to your face or someone else’s. 

Second, find a comrade in comedy.  We all need at least one special friend who can point out a humorous perspective when we cannot find it.  I have several such treasured friends…and the time we spend in person, on the phone or online is more valuable and more healing than the best doctors.

Finally, keep your attention on what’s happening in the present.  The most successful humor occurs spontaneously, and if we are not living in the moment, we miss those humorous opportunities.  Humor doesn’t happen in a monologue.  It is a dialogue -- one person initiates the humor, another has to respond.

It has been my honor and humbling to be a keynote speaker, trainer and entertainer for some plus twenty years.  When I help an organization recover from the deadly disease of Humor Deficit Disorder, I see people reap the benefits of the humor advantage.   I see organizations successfully manage the challenges of change, customer service and communication.  I love it because it is fun!  I take what I do seriously; I don’t take myself so seriously. 

Thank you for allowing me to be your humor guru this week.  I hope you have learned and laughed!  Let us cure Humor Deficit Disorder in our lifetime.

Laugh Track to the Fast Track

December 06, 2006

By Mary Feeley, CSP

A personal story illustrates the power of the laugh track to the fast track.  I was a new executive at a cosmetic company.  My responsibilities were to motivate a national sales force through training and special events.  I thought it would be a fun job.  After all, it was cosmetics and planning events is supposed to be fun.

Soon after I was hired I realized I was working in a humor impaired organization.  During one long meeting where no one was brave enough to suggest any more ideas that would be shot down by the quite imitating President, I desperately needed to use the ladies' room.  Thinking that it was time to adjourn, I closed my notebook and moved away from the table.

"What do you think you're doing?", screamed my furious boss.  "I'm in control here, and I'll let you know when this meeting is over.  Furthermore, because of your impudence, we will continue this meeting until I have answers."

I was humiliated.  My new colleagues were angry that my action had resulted in a longer meeting.  Having nothing to lose, I took a humor risk and said, "Sir, no disrespect was intended, but I have kidneys the size of lentil beans and I need to use the restroom now!"

Everyone roared with laughter, including the President and he excused me to go to the restroom.  As I got to the door, I took another humor risk and asked, "Can my colleagues come with me, you know we women never go to the bathroom alone."

My boss was laughing so hard, he excused us all to go empty our lentil beans and tabled the meeting for the next day.

The benefits of my use of humor were numerous.  The boss, myself and my colleagues were saved embarrassment.  It diffused the tension of the situation and the challenges we were working on as a team. It humanized my much so that he gave us "lentil bean" breaks in every meeting.  That phrase became a part of our humor culture.

It put me on the laugh track to the fast track.  I was transformed from the new kid on the team to a credible and intelligent source of creativity to help guide the company.  My career accelerated with promotions and perks.  I was personally and professionally fulfilled.  Sales agents attended our events in record numbers.  They knew they would have fun and learn valuable information.  Those events translated in record breaking sales for the company.

Are you on the Laugh Track to the Fast Track?

A Humorous Approach to Change Management

December 05, 2006

By Mary Feeley, CSP

One major trigger of Humor Deficit Disorder (H.D.D.) is the stress of constant change that organizations have to implement to survive succeed and prosper. As organizations strive to develop a strong, yet flexible infrastructure that is responsive to meet customer needs, employees will have to enhance their ability to cope with change.  This constant change can leave even the fittest fatigued. 

Here's a basic human truth that we all forget: you cannot force change.  I was facilitating a program on change skills to top sales professionals.  I brought two salesman to the front of the room for my "yogurt exercise" to prove you cannot force change.  The man who loved yogurt had to persuade the man who hated yogurt to give it a try.  After trying every master sales skill he knew, the yogurt lover failed to convince the other man.  A beautiful southern belle, herself a top producer, cam forward, and softly drawled, "Mary, I do believe I could convince him."  She spooned the yogurt on her arm, looked at her colleague and said, "Eat it."  And, he did.  The participants were on the floor laughing.  She proved that you can package anything: wrap even the punitive subject of change with humor and people will eat it.

All change evokes the emotions of fear, embarrassment, feeling stupid and lack of trust.  Do you remember the first time you experienced the latest in toilet technology...the toilet that automatically flushes?  I ran out of the cubicle screaming thinking someone was behind me.  I felt all those emotions of change.

The benefit of using humor in the change management process include:

  * Promoting a positive perspective
  * Provides a sense of control
  * Overcomes change resistance
  * Neutralizes negative emotions
  * Reduces learning defensiveness
  * Enhances information retention

The humor advantage helps cure H.D.D. to help you revive yourself, your teammates, and your organization so that you can be fit to handle the changes necessary to remain competitive and make a difference to your customers.

The Humor Advantage for the Workplace

December 03, 2006

By Mary Feeley, CSP

A very serious disease is rampantly infiltrating the workplace like a nasty computer virus.  This disease is call H.D.D., which stands for Humor Deficit Disorder.  The symptoms include a workplace high in negative stress, employees griping and spreading rumors, low morale and sabotage of changes that must be implemented.  A joyless environment where creativity is stifled and employees dragging their mindless bodies in resentment to the workplace.
The humor advantage provides many benefits to everyday workplace communication and essential for successful meetings and events.  So much business dialogue necessary for accurate flow of information, for training or for supervision is predictable and therefore easy to tune out.  Humor breathes originality into ordinary dialogue.  It can spawn a creative culture in which new ideas are generated and old patterns of thinking are jolted.  Humor can soften criticism of ideas and the potential embarrassment, inhibition and eventual loss of an imaginative employee.
Organizations who want to create a workplace culture that embraces humor need a strategic plan.  I'm not joking here!  Constructing a humor mission statement that complements the infrastructure and does not contradict the organization's values and ethics is essential.  Training in the use of workplace humor is necessary if management is to feel safe encouraging employees to be funny and have fun.
When an organizations has a culture of humor, employees are less inhibited.  When we feel less inhibited, creativity has fewer boundaries.   The result is a joyful work environment where loyal employees want to come to work and true teamwork is created.  Problem solving and learning are maximized, information flows, employees are better equipped to make changes when necessary to create innovative products and services.  The humor advantage increases productivity that can be seen on the bottom-line in customer loyalty and increased profits.
Laugh and learn this week about the many benefits of the humor advantage and how to skillfully apply humor techniques.

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