Is your firm a place that promotes laughter, or does it more resemble lockdown, a space in which people are both scared and unsupportive? Why don’t we hear more laughter within our corporate walls?
You have probably heard the phrase “laugher is the best medicine.’ Norman Cousins (a renowned author and editor), watched funny movies (e.g., Marx, Fields, and Chaplin) in an attempt to self-medicate. Although he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, through a concerted effort he was able to emerge cancer free, and to live for another twenty years. Cousins rationalized that if depression, worry, and negative thinking could result in his condition, then perhaps positive action could bring a reversal.
Laughter is the music of the soul, the healer of our physical maladies. Given that premise, it’s surprising that more companies don’t do more to promote this magic elixir. When was the last time you laughed at work? Or, the last time you even smiled?
Below are some tips to enhance workers’ well being, and to simultaneously increase their contentment:
- Allow people to make mistakes. At Google, twenty percent of employee time is spent on projects of their choosing, only a fraction of which succeed. Google realizes that freedom and trust breeds creativity.
- Create a serenity room. People will more likely see humor when they’re relaxed. Provide a place to decompress so that workers can experience some peace and privacy. This point is particularly salient if workers reside in an environment with no walls [note: cube farms are not conducive to happiness].
- Cultivate play within your daily routine. Pike Place Fish Market is perhaps the master in promoting organizational fun. Workers find ways to connect with their peers, and to involve the customer in their wacky antics. It’s no wonder that these employees look forward to showing up for work! Its customers receive expert care from workers who are in top form. Employees are more likely to “let loose” in environments in which they feel comfortable.
- Create a safe space. Self protection and self expression are at odds. Open gatherings (like meetings, gym class, and home room) can be danger zones. I love what Pearson and Porath (2009) suggest as a way to curb boisterous behavior. In meetings, colleagues who are close to crossing the line receive a yellow flag, while those who have clearly blurred relational boundaries receive a red flag. This approach (similar to that used in raising children’s EQ) is both immediate and effective at extinguishing bad form.
- Be proactive. Be the one who smiles first, or who greets another colleague with “Good morning.” Joy is both reciprocal and contagious. “The gift of self is the perfect gift” as the saying goes. Happiness is more likely to surface when the seeds of praise, sincere appreciation, and heart felt concern are planted in someone’s spirit. Esteem is nurtured through intimacy, and intimacy is the active demonstration of love.
If you pay below market, then the only card you have to play is your firm’s culture. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your employees under siege?
- Do they take cover from sniper attacks?
- Have you crafted a persona that’s unapproachable, uncommunicative, and unpredictable, so that people walk on egg shells when they’re around you? [note: a climate of non-communication makes people feel uncomfortable].
- Do you suppress conflict, when airing viewpoints would be more productive?
- Have you chosen the dysfunction of dominance (in which you remain unchallenged)? Unfettered dialogue implies a relinquishing of agendas, and a laying down of arms. Don’t allow a situation to get so out of whack that it creates mutiny and discontent.
The blessing one feels in the absence of tension, dread, and the threat of unpleasant occurrence promotes top performance. Playfulness, safety, and joy create peak work experiences known as “flow,” or the mental interpenetration of heaven with the human spirit. It’s a form of positive restructuring, (Sinetar, 1991) self-reflection, or “superradiance” (McTaggart, 2002) – a coherent marshalling of subatomic particles within our brains.
True joy is then laughter and playfulness. Not the play of bureaucracies which occurs at another’s expense, but the play of a soul set free.
McTaggart, L. (2002). The field: The quest for the secret force of the universe. New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers.
Peale, N. V. (1957). Stay alive all your life. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Sinetar, M. (1991). Developing a 21st century mind. New NY: Villard Books.