An engineer walks into a stand-up comedy club... It's not the start of a joke, but rather the life of Andrew Tarvin, humor engineer and founder of Humor That Works, a company that teaches organizations how to be more effective using humor.
Andrew is a self-described nerd (if you're wondering what type of nerd, computer or math? the answer is yes) who started using humor as a way to be more effective as a project manager while working at Procter & Gamble.
"For me project management wasn't the most exciting job in the world, but I found that adding humor to my emails and meetings led to better results and helped it so people didn't hate me," Andrew says. "People started looking forward to receiving my weekly status emails because they knew a laugh would be included."
There's something to what Andrew is saying. Studies have found that people who use humor at work are more productive, less stressed, and happier.
So with that in mind, here are 5 tips from Andrew on how you can use humor in the workplace:
1. Think fun over funny. Using humor in the workplace doesn't mean you have to tell jokes (but if you are good at telling jokes, and follow the below rules, joke away). Making people laugh is only one type of humor, getting them to smile is another. When starting out, focus on making things fun as opposed to making things funny.
2. Know your MAP. The Humor MAP stands for your Medium, Audience, and Purpose. Knowing how you are going to execute your humor (medium), who's going to receive it (audience), and why you're using humor to begin with (purpose), can help make sure you pick the right type of humor to use. While project managers might love a good scope creep joke, marketers might think you're talking about scary mouthwash.
3. Be inclusive. The best type of office humor is inclusive--it is about bringing everyone together as opposed to singling anyone out. Humor that makes fun other people might get a few laughs, but it doesn't do anything to improve the effectiveness of the workplace (even if it is "REALLY funny"). Working on projects as a team, learning improv together, and telling stories can be ways of using humor without excluding people around you.
4. Stay positive. Sarcasm and satire are common types of humor but they aren't necessarily well-suited for the workplace. Positive humor maintains the right mindset while still bringing fun into the workplace (like the math nerd says, "they aren't math problems, they're math opportunities.")
5. Show confidence. Nothing sabotages humor faster than fumbling through a joke, losing track of details in a story, or trying to lead an exercise with the self-esteem of Steve Urkel. Even if you're not sure how the humor is going to go, be confident in your execution and sell the humor (aka be Stefan Urquelle).
Ultimately, using humor starts with making a choice to want to make your work more enjoyable. And you can started today by sharing this article (or this video clip of what it's like to be an expert in a meeting).