Why Workplace Humor Is No Joke - Interview With Harry Paul
Yana Prokopets 31 March 2015
Harry Paul is a speaker and co-author of six books that have sold over 8 million copies including the internationally bestselling business book FISH! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. He helps organizations increase productivity by engaging and energizing employees to be and do their best while helping the company reach its goals. He shows employees how to enjoy what they are doing and get excited about coming to work and working hard.
How about we start by you sharing your favorite work place joke?
This is from a design firm in California. One of the engineers went on vacation, while he was away his fellow engineers decided to play a practical joke on him. They went to his office and removed the door and door jamb. They brought in drywall and drywalled the doorway in and then painted it. His office didn’t exist when he returned.A great joke for sure that became folklore at the firm. But there is an important lesson here—know your audience—or make sure there are boundaries in place for play.
It’s not about joking, it’s about playing at work. My book FISH! showcases the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington. They are very effective at creating fun ways of doing their work, such as throwing fish and shouting out the orders. It is a most efficient way for them to do their work and build unique customer experiences. Fun at work also increases the level energy, passion and enthusiasm for what you are doing.
Should a company have specific policy regarding humor in the work place beyond the common sense? And what should be in the policy, if there's need for one.
Common sense is the best judge for playing at work. There is no need for policy, in fact in can have a negative effect—but boundaries are necessary. If people are playing inside the boundaries, great. If not, bring them back inside the boundaries or expand the boundaries.
a) Play must be part of the work process—not instead of. Remember, work made fun gets done.
b) People should and must take their work seriously, just take themselves a little less seriously. c) Include everyone’s idea of fun, what is fun to you may not be fun for me. It also keeps it fresh. Remember, you can’t mandate fun through company policy—it must be organic and made up by the all the people in the organization.
Walk us through 'Office prank that went wrong 101'. First three things to do.
If a practical joke goes wrong the first thing you should do is apologize to anyone that may have been offended, Second, look at why it offended some to avoid these situations in the future, and third, set up guidelines for practical jokes. I am a proponent of fun being part of work, but practical jokes sometimes can bring a sense of community to the workplace, more energy and become folklore that helps define your culture as one wh ere it is okay to come to work and enjoy what you are doing, no matter what it is you are doing.
Should joking and humor be generally encouraged in the work place?
If you are joking around and being funny for the sake of being funny you are detracting from the work process and productivity suffers. Fun and play at work must serve a purpose.
Many people who thing they have a sense of humor actually don't. How can one let a co-worker know that they are getting tired of jokes without hurting someone's feelings?
I firmly believe that everyone has a sense of humor—it’s just different than ours. And in order for play at work to be effective and add to productivity and profitability, as I said above, you must honor everyone’s idea of fun. And always respect others feeling. Know who you can have with and how.