Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 3rd 2017 Contents AUGUST 3 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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Humour, no laughing
matter at work
Recently, on a flight
from New York's JFK
airport, I was sur-
prised to find myself
sitting up and paying
close attention to the
flight attendant's standard safety
announcement. Most of us have
heard this announcement so many
times that we hardly pay attention
to them. I was no different. But not
on this flight.
Just before take-off, the flight
attendant took the microphone and
announced that some pets that were
brought on board by a passenger have
escaped and asked the passengers to
look out for them under their seats.
Everyone became alert, put up their
feet promptly and started looking
under their seats, imagining the scary
scenes from the movie Snakes on a
With a chuckle, the flight atten-
dant proceeded to thank everyone
for their attention, and went on to
make the safety announcement in a
humorous and memorable manner.
Flying is already a stressful pro-
cess. The flight attendant's ap-
proach to doing his job effectively
using humour was a big relief to the
Everyone laughed and lightened
up throughout the flight. It showed
how humour can be used effectively
to gain people's attention and even
get them to do what you want them
to do, willingly and effortlessly.
Research referenced in the book
Persuasive Communication deter-
mined that humour, "builds rapport,
makes the target audience want to
listen more, makes information more
memorable, distracts people from
thinking about counter arguments,
relaxes the audience, and makes
them more receptive to messages."
This is exactly what the flight at-
tendant did when he used humour to
gain attention to get us, the passen-
gers, to do what he wanted us to do.
A study for the Academy of Man-
agement Journal explains that, "Of
all the communicative strategies
that leaders use, the use of humour
is most promising, but least under-
In this month's session, Crest-
com's faculty member Dr Terry Paul-
son explores the use of humour in the
workplace, and how we can use it to
communicate, persuade, negotiate
and generally get desired results.
A Forbes magazine article by Jac-
quelyn Smith titled, 10 Reasons Why
Humour Is a Key to Success at Work,
outlines some of the reasons why hu-
mour is an effective tool in getting
things done in the work place.
Here are some key reasons iden-
tified by Smith.
• When you have a sense of hu-
mour, people will enjoy working with
you, and they will be more willing
to give more of their discretionary
• Humour is also potent
stress-buster. When things are
tense in the workplace, laughter can
break down the tension, and enable
everyone to work together towards
the common goal.
• You may be a tough leader who
demands a lot out of your people.
If you lighten up sometimes, and
laugh with your team, it is likely to
humanise you and make you more
relate-able to those around you.
• Humour can be used effectively
even in tough negotiations. A study
profiled in a book called Persuasive
Communication found that, "Play-
ful joking increases the likelihood of
financial concessions during a ne-
There is no doubt that humour
can help in improving innovation
and creativity in the workplace. A
study of corporate leaders in Taiwan,
conducted by Chung Hua Universi-
ty, showed that positive humour did
in fact enhance leaders' innovative
behaviour and effectiveness.
Harvard Business Review found
that bosses identified by employees
as "outstanding leaders" use humour
100 per cent more than "average
If humour is so useful in leading
people why don't we use it more?
Somewhere along the line some-
one confused professionalism with
seriousness. That's a pity because
it keeps us leaders from the very
real work of developing humour as
a leadership skill, and it keeps us from
seeing---and sharing---the humour
that's around us every day.
Like the product warning on a new
iron that reads, "Do not iron clothes
while on body," or the children's su-
perhero costume that dutifully tells
parents, "Warning: wearing of this
garment does not enable you to fly."
Those product warnings were
brought to us by our friends in the
legal profession, in their efforts to
protect their clients from lawsuits.
However, there is the story of an-
other lawyer who had a different
After finishing law school, he
moved to Texas with the intention
of starting a law firm or a business.
He ended up starting a seriously suc-
cessful airline. That airline is con-
sistently one of Fortune magazine's
"Most Admired Companies," and one
of the "Best Places to Work."
A few years ago, this airline was
inducted into the "Customer Ser-
vice Hall of Fame." Most of all, in
an industry that has been decimat-
ed by rising fuel prices, unrest and
consolidation, this airline has been
profitable in more than 39 straight
years. If you haven't already guessed
it, I am referring to Southwest Air-
lines and its founder Herb Kelleher,
both known widely for their sense
Immediately following the recent
incident of a legitimate passenger be-
ing violently pulled out of a compet-
itor's plane, Southwest Airlines ad-
vertised, "We beat the competition,
not you!" When the airline adver-
tised in Dallas for a flight attendant,
40,000 people applied in one day.
When asked for the secret to
Southwest's success, Herb Kelleher
said: "What we are looking for, first
and foremost, is a sense of humour.
We don't care much about education
and expertise because we can train
people. We hire attitudes."
During job interviews, Kelleher
said candidates are specifically asked
to give an example of how they re-
cently used their sense of humour on
the job, and how they've used hu-
mour to defuse a difficult situation.
So, take the work ethic that made
you a leader and strive to develop
your humour skills, and maintain the
perspective that allows you to take
your job seriously and take yourself
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Harvard Business Review found that bosses identified
by employees as "outstanding leaders" use humour 100
per cent more than "average leaders."
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