This article will look at:

■       Why it is important to have workplace humor.

■       How humor lifts moods and improves relationships.

■       How to inject humor into your life by knowing yourself.

■       Going on a humor diet (e.g., Interfax Daily).

■       Making fun of stress — Developing your sense of humor.

■       Is there a place for grim humor?

■       Watching the company you keep; locking it in.

■       Remembering that your sense of humor is your sense of balance.

■       Humor leads people to believe you have a higher IQ or “virtual intelligence,” (Mark Lewis).

■       How to introduce humor to your job.

■       Getting in touch with the experts.

Why is it important to have workplace humor? It works.

He who laughs… lasts. Although leading a humorless life is not fatal, it can be unhealthy psychologically. Humor serves as a balance pole on the tightrope of life. Humor is a powerful force in releasing stress’s stranglehold. In fact, humor is such a powerful antidote to stress that many corporations hire humor consultants to “lighten up” office environments.

What is the secret to dramatically improving the quality of your life? Increase your smiles per hour.

Laughter is a natural mood elevator, and according to a Cornell University study, it also increases creativity and flexibility of thought. Humor gives a more balanced sense of perspective. Appropriately timed humor has even been found to be useful in alleviating the pain of injections as well as post-operative pain. Hal Lancaster, of the Wall Street Journal, emphasizes three important benefits to humor at work. Humor can:

■     Motivate,

■     Strengthen bonds between workers,

■     Reduce stress.

Humor can enhance your career up the ladder. One CEO says, “Competent people with a sense of humor are more likely to be promoted. People are more likely to want to work for someone who has a sense of humor.”

Lancaster says that the key attribute of humor in the workplace is to motivate and create team spirit, without wasting time.

Humor should be used like a spice, to enhance your career. Overusing humor is like ruining a dish with too much flavoring. You should use the right amount of humor at the right time.

Humor works at the workplace

IBM executive, Karen Donnalley, attained a 30% increase in sales by injecting fun and humor into a very competitive, intense office. She is considered one of the top motivators for IBM. Some techniques she uses include having salespeople hit a gong for their first sale of the day, and then moving a race horse with their picture on it out of a starting gate.

How humor lifts moods/improves health and relationships.

The main mechanism of humor or laughter appears to be the release of endorphins or the brain’s natural tranquilizer into the system. Laughing results in an “endorphin high.” Furthermore, laughter stimulates internal organs making them work better through the increase of circulation that follows the vibrating massage that accompanies laughter and heightens resistive vitality against disease.

We smile because we are happy. Interestingly, it has been discovered that our smile also causes our feelings of happiness. The act of smiling elevates moods.

How to inject humor into your life.

Know yourself.

Find your “sore spots” and apply humor as you would a soothing salve. For example, if your daily encounter with a computer makes you sore, find cartoons that make fun of computers. (Whole books have been devoted to making light of irritations, such as 101 Uses for Your Discarded Computer). You may want to put the cartoons in a file where you can pull them out.

Go on a humor diet.

Try Interfax Daily. Optimism is the breakfast of champions. Instead of waking up to “doom and gloom” news, listen to upbeat radio stations. Find a radio station that emphasizes humor. Calendars are available that feature a daily cartoon or joke. The nationally-syndicated radio station, WMAG, is a pleasing way to start the day. When reading the newspaper, focus on the “funnies” first before finding out all the negative things thousands of people have done lately. Watch movies, listen to tapes or read books that are humorous. Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a very extensive list of humorous books, audiocassettes, and videocassettes. There are cable channels that feature only “light” programs. Many TV networks offer comedy serials. These can be bright spots in your weekly routine.

The Interfax Daily is “America’s original faxed newspaper since 1995.” It is faxed daily from (336) 397-0000 at no charge, to well over ten-thousand offices daily, and then copied and distributed. A sample of their daily humor is, “What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.”*

*Used by permission, Interfax Daily, March 5, 2001, Vol. WZ1V7101.

Making fun of stress.

Develop your sense of humor. Flumor is an art form that can be nurtured. Jeanne Swanner Robertson, a nationally-renowned speaker and author, offers the how-to’s of honing your humor skills in her 1998 book, Don’t Let the Funny Stuff Get Away: Turn Everyday Experiences into Stories That Audiences Will Remember.

Robertson suggests taking “humor breaks.” Often people feel worse after listening to everyone’s complaints during breaks, so choose to be around more uplifting people. The last chapter of her book details how to collect “humor cues.” Organize a file of things that are humorous to you. Pull up these “humor cues” on a daily basis.

Children laugh at least 25 times more often per day than adults.

(Adults average only 15 laughs a day, children about 400 per day.)

Is there a place for grim humor?

Yes. The world-famous Viennese psychiatrist, Dr. Victor Frankl, who survived the atrocities of two Nazi concentration camps, recommended using a sense of humor to soften one’s own harsh situations. Dr. Frankl felt that even having a “grim sense of humor” helps to protectively detach ourselves from unavoidable suffering. Of course, limit your use of grim humor to yourself.

Never give up. Even a blind pig finds an occasional acorn.

A sad song, but bounce back anyhow

With a tear in his voice, Billy-Bob whined, “My dog just died; my health, job and marriage have failed; and I just got a summons to appear in court for speeding. ” Billy-Bob took a breath and dramatically continued his sad song, “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Tired of Billy-Bob’s constant whining, his friend, said, “Did you ever hear of Winston Churchill? Sir Churchill said, “I have cornered the market on Indian rubber, because I will always bounce back.” Billy-Bob’s friend continued saying, “Just like a superball, the harder you hit rock bottom, the higher you need to bounce back. ”

Watch the company you keep; locking it in.

Avoid “pity parties.” Fly with eagles, don’t flounder with turkeys. Seek out and be around people known for their uplifting jokes and/or sense of humor. “Pity parties” use sarcasm to vent complaints, but using negative humor can actually intensify negative feelings, especially if the unwilling target for sarcasm is not an exceptionally “good sport.”

Treat yourself to a humor treatment on a regular basis. Don’t let a day pass without some exposure to humor. Lock in your sense of humor by habit.

Remember: Your sense of humor is your sense of balance.

People who need humor the most, seek it the least. When you feel you no longer have the time or mood for humor, perhaps you should slow down, relax, and smile. If you can’t smile outwardly due to the situation, imagine yourself smiling. Daydream about the most humorous memory you can (e.g., even a pet’s antics can be funny). You may not feel like “jumping for joy,” but the lift you get will empower you with an increased sense of control and a more balanced perspective.

Humor leads people to believe you have a higher IQ (or higher “virtual intelligence”© by Mark Lewis of Denmark).

According to Carolyn Dickman, Education Director, Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety, Inc. (2001), an important relationship between our IQ and humor was found. She goes on to suggest if you want people to think you are smart, start smiling.

The esteemed Reverend Mark Lewis of Denmark talks of “virtual intelligence.” VIQ (virtual IQ) is a simulated form of intelligence that seems very real. Again, having a sense of humor projects this “illusion of intelligence” called “virtual intelligence.” It does not matter if you are really that smart or not. “Virtual intelligence” is a good thing to cultivate, because no one is intelligent in all 120 measured types of intelligence as discovered by IQ expert, Dr. J. P. Guilford. Sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it in an area you haven’t mastered. The bottom line is that smiling persuades people to be believe you are “virtually intelligent” which is very important in any business or human relations setting. Anyone who works for a living on or with computers should make every effort to appear “virtually intelligent ” When video-phones soon dominate communication, it would be great to have your stand-in dummy looking very “virtually intelligent” in your chair, until you can make it there yourself, smiling and secure. People take a mental personality “snapshot” within the first 20 seconds of meeting you, so smile for the camera.

It’s just an act, and if people were as smart as they acted (a true measure of “virtual intelligence”), their brains would be so big they couldn’t lift their heads from the floor. So explore your “virtual intelligence.”

How to introduce humor to your job.

Hal Lancaster, of The Wall Street Journal, offers four tips for workplace humor:

1.   Start with a little humor.

For example, put up jokes on a bulletin board to see reactions. Don’t jeopardize your career in a totally humorless office by irritating humorless executives.

2.    Meaningfully connect.

Squirt gun fights are probably pushing humor too far. To mix playfulness with productivity, try role reversal. Have an executive do your job for a day with you supervising. (Use caution with this approach.)

3.    Renew the humor.

To keep humor from getting old, bring in new approaches.

4.    Don’t offend.

One approach that does not work is to have comedy skits about other departments that attack personally. Be certain not to question anyone’s value or harm anyone with attempts at humor.

Get in touch with the experts.

For humorous props and workshops, contact the Humor Potential, a corporate training organization who specializes in injecting fun into the workplace. The “Joy of Stress” workshop by the Humor Potential was a nationally-televised, Emmy-nominated special, looking at the lighter side of stress.

The highly-popular “Dilbert” series takes the employee’s side of stress at work. This cartoon series by Scott Adams is read by millions daily. It offers potential stress relief through downward comparison. In other words, compared to this cartoon strip, your job may not seem so stressful.

A positive motivational series is “Herbert,” which specializes in producing large posters humorizing potentially tense situations. A classic film that pokes fun at stress is Mel Brooks’, High Anxiety. It has some content that would be more appropriate for college students, but it is generally an entertaining, yet instructional tool to learn about anxiety.

Remember, “Humor is the spoonful of sugar that helps things go down easier.”


This chapter explores five major topics regarding humor: 1) Why it is important to have workplace humor; 2) How to inject humor into your daily life; 3) How humor makes you look smarter, (i.e., “virtual intelligence”); 4) Tips on how to inject humor into your work-life; 5) We also looked at how to get in touch with the experts. Your sense of humor is truly your sense of balance. The next chapter deals with the reported number one job-stressor — public speaking. We will attempt to humorously dismantle this fear by pointing out that public speaking just takes more “hot air” than private speaking.


Guilford, J.P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. Interfax Daily, March 2, 2001, Vol. WZ1V7951, Phone (336) 397-0000 for a Free-Daily humor fax. Baton Rouge, LA.

Robertson, J.S. (1998). Don’t let the funny stuff get away: turn everyday experiences into stories that audiences will remember. Houston, TX: Rich Pub. Co.


-Contributed by Dr. Ronald L. Rubenzer.