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I find that humour is a much underestimated skill, in life generally and most definitely in business.

I find that humour is a much underestimated skill, in life generally and most definitely in business.

If used at the appropriate time, and at an appropriate level, humour can help both managers and directors alike deal with anything from poor staff morale to office conflicts of one sort or another.

What you have to be mindful of is that humour is not a universal currency, and people have vastly different views on the merits of its use. In other words what you think is amusing another may feel is, at best, just not funny and, at worst, downright offensive.

Such mismatches in humour can lead to serious employment law breaches if your well intentioned jest is deemed to be inappropriate and therefore could be construed as discrimination.

Some people are simply more sensitive than others and it's not our job, nor our place, as a manager or a director to dictate the sensitivity levels of another person. Indeed, rather than imposing our own humour and sensitivity levels on others we have a duty to make everyone else aware of the different perceptions of humour.

However, once all these points have been taken on board, the situation has been assessed and our EQ (emotional intelligence) is at an optimum level, then do not be afraid to inject humour into a difficult situation.

I am not advocating becoming a stand-up comedian, absolutely not. Telling jokes is a skill and, in my opinion, not for the work place, but an odd quip or a situation related anecdote, with an appropriate degree of levity, has served me well in tough times.

In the same way a smile and a warm handshake, when use correctly, can humanize difficult situations, a touch of light-heartedness can bring about a reality check when tempers are being lost.

In today's digital age, where face to face meetings are a luxury rather than an industry standard, and more and more business is done via the phone or on email, humour can sometimes dispel the tensions that our physical absenteeism can create.

An email can be easily misconstrued, for example the use of capitals can to one person be an effective way of highlighting an issue or comments and to another can signify shouting. Or an unintentionally curt statement over the phone caused by time constraints or office distractions can create an unnecessarily strained conversation, often when both parties are unsure of the cause.

Humour, injected early in these remote conversations and relationships, can negate these issues, relieve tension and provide a level playing field where all participants are aware of the rules and can contribute equally.

I believe it is also important that you understand humour isn't a process to be used to avoid dealing with an issue but rather to allow the players to bring about a better and perhaps more convivial atmosphere in which to deal with something.

Like a sunny day can help you feel more positive about a problem so can a sunny disposition both at home and in the workplace.