I like to think that I'm a funny guy.
Not funny like a clown, or funny looking, though maybe that's true as well.
More that I try to add levity to whatever situation I find myself in. Especially stressful or overly serious ones.
In fact, I'd say that humour is how I deal with most things. It's a default fallback, a personality trait that I generated early on in my life because it's infinitely superior to have people laugh with you or because of you than at you.
But enough depressing recollections around my formative years.
What does this have to do with anything?
Well, this week I was in Sydney again for another Intentional Togetherness Gathering (ITG) with my wonderful team of engineers and fellow managers at Atlassian. This sort of thing shatters my normal patterns into tiny little pieces.
In other words, this post is filler.
Well, maybe that is unkind. It's just not structured or planned or anything like that. It's a stream of consciousness around a topic that I thought was worth exploring.
And that topic is humour.
Specifically, humour in the workplace.
I've recently started reading a book called Humour, Seriously by Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas.
I'm not that far into it yet, but so far I recommend it. It's a pretty easy read, probably because the messages therein are delivered with a healthy dose of humour.
It would be pretty ironic if a book on humour in the workplace was dry and uninteresting, so it's almost like a self-proving theorem.
To be clear, this isn't a book review. I haven't actually read the rest of the book yet. Maybe it gets really bad half-way through, and I will be filled with regret by the time I finish it. You know, because I will finish it, regardless of how good it is.
I'm stubborn like that.
Anyway, back to the topic itself; humour in the workplace.
I like it, I aim to enable it, I aim to provide it where I can.
Working for a living is already too serious as it is, we shouldn't make the act of working any more serious than it has to be. Think about it, if you don't work and earn money, you'll probably die. No money, no food, no home, no life.
Man, for a blog post on humour, this keeps getting dark.
But that's the whole point of levity, right? Taking serious or uncomfortable subjects and disarming them by finding some small amount of joy or brightness within.
I've only really got two thoughts left, so not long now until you can stop reading, sigh wistfully and move on to whatever else you actually had to do today.
The first thought is that when you're in a position of power, like a manager or leader of some sort, it can be hard to tell if your humour is actually having the effect that you want.
Power creates social imbalance and that makes people want to defend their position in the hierarchy by appeasing the person in power.
The right sort of humour can defuse that. The wrong sort reinforces it.
If you're expecting some sort of grand revelation about how to tell the two types of humour apart, you're going to be disappointed. I don't know.
But if you have power, just remember, you might not actually be funny.
The second thought I have is that humour and levity are one of the first things to go when people stop feeling psychologically safe. Like, for example, in an organisation that is going through a lot of change. Not that I know anything about that right now of course...
People get antsy. They don't want to make light of any situation because there could be ramifications.
Ironically, humour builds psychological safety, so in tough business environments and situations, you should make an effort to keep the levity. To make jokes and find the fun in the situation, no matter how dark or depressing it may be.
So, uh, go out and bring levity to your workplace.
Find the humour.