Thursday, October 25, 2012

YES: Humor is Profitable!

One of my colleagues remarked recently that humor is difficult to "sell".  I have yet to meet anyone who says that humor is not important, but what does it take for companies to "buy" training in humor development? Are skills like creativity and humor even on the radar of Human Resource Departments or have they ever flickered across the minds of company executives?

Creativity is the ability of the brain to bring together diverse ideas that will generate the thinking necessary for complex problem solving. Humor and creativity are great companions, each a perfect complement for the other in nourishing thinking. Risk-taking is the nucleus of creativity and of humor; the freedom to express wild ideas activates spirited conversation and sparks the imagination. Creativity and positivity flourish when accompanied by a sense of humor.

Forward thinking executives realize that the old solutions don't work any more. It takes creativity and practice to be able to change thinking and increase productivity.  Exploring the benefits of creative thinking has reaped big benefits for companies like Google.  Google has unorthodox “rules” for employee behavior.  Their web site states that employees can create their office environment by showcasing team interests and personality.  Bikes are often used for efficient travel between meetings.  It is not unusual to see dogs, lava lamps and massage chairs in office spaces.  There are volleyball courts, pianos, ping-pong tables and pool tables.  Healthy lunches are served in the cafĂ© with snacks and drinks in the break rooms.  This is not your typical workplace, but it sure sounds like a fun place to work.  One reason Google has been so successful is because of their emphasis on creativity and fun. 

Humor increases the potential for divergent thinking and the capacity for solving complex problems. By linking diverse areas of the brain, humor forges new neural connections  involving previously existing concepts. Voila: creativity flourishes. This means that it is essential to encourage the employees in your organization "think outside the box,"  Humor is a viable way to do this!

Excerpts in this blog are taken from my new book, Using Humor to Maximize Living. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Humordoomers; Bullying Behavior

January can be a cold and depressing month in the Midwest.  Trying to liven up my workplace during a particularly dark day, I suggested that we plan a "Hawaiian Day".  We could put on music, bring in beach foods,  pictures of sunny vacations. and have a trivia contest. In the midst of my excitement and during the crescendo of my planning, one of my co-workers looked at me with a sneer and said, "You don't have enough to do--do you?"  It was as if I was hit over the head with a conch.  

Thus the term, "humordoomer" was created, a definition that evolved from my reflections on this office event.  I wrote extensively about this in chapter 4 of my book, Using Humor to Maximize Learning.  The title of the chapter is: Hurtful Humor is No Laughing Matter.  

"A humordoomer is a person who consistently uses negative humor to control and manipulate others. Humorphobia breeds humordoomers, skilled crafters who use subtle techniques to suppress humor in the workplace. Humordoomers are usually unhappy individuals stressed by the dual demands of accountability and limited time constraints; they’re pessimistic leeches that can suck the humergy right out of you. Grown in a petri dish of fear and anger, these folks are threatened by joyful energy and enthusiasm. They often use humor to manipulate others and to maintain a level of control of their world. Their negative humor reflects their unhappy immersion in the confining straits of a workaholic world. Often their techniques are so woven into the fabric of a culture that not only are they unaware of their own webbing effect, their unsuspecting prey are oblivious as well."

Bullies are often humordoomers.  They use humor as a weapon to belittle and make fun of others.  There has been a lot written recently about bullying behavior, but not much on how they use negative humor control and manipulate others.  Again, this is  addressed in my articles on humor. 

"A bullying type of humor can be used to control what happens in relationships. When making fun of others, bullies are usually expressing internal fears because they are unable or unwilling to recognize their own emotional needs. Humor becomes a weapon of the bully, when used with the intentional purpose of wounding another.

"Bully behavior is frequently portrayed in the media as an acceptable method to express frustration, hostility, fears, and anger. The use of mockery and sarcasm allows the venting of anger. Jokes with the express purpose of making fun of others abound on television, in movies, and on the Internet. Our fears of difference in culture have often been expressed in jokes about Italians, Jews, Mexicans, gays, and religious entities. While often clever, these jokes perpetuate the bully mindset that it’s okay to make fun of individuals or groups. There is research to suggest that this type of humor can lead to violent behavior. "

Think about the humordoomers and bullies in your life.  When I facilitate workshops on humor, people are quickly able to identify these people in their lives.  I am always asked  how to deal with these folks.  There are numerous suggestions in my book as shown from this excerpt. 

"While difficult to deal with, there are some strategies that you can use to stimulate humordoomer reform. Attempt to identify the cause of the negative behavior exhibited by humordoomers and follow this with suggestions for change. This requires a loving attitude and skillful communication. (Note: these negative patterns of behavior are usually hardwired after years of repetition.) The following are strategies to combat stressed humordoomers (who are fearful and overwhelmed):

Kill them with kindness and understanding. Often people need someone to listen to them and empathize.
Identify the strengths in this person and tell them how much you appreciate this quality in them. It really helps if you have several staff members doing this.
 ‑Ask them what they are going to do to make things better. Encourage any attempts at improvement.

The following are strategies for pessimistic humordoomers (who are habitually negative):
 ‑Smile and say “If you tell me something awful, I need you to tell me three positive things. I just can’t handle negativity today!”
Do the broken record routine: “So what’s the good news?” Just keep repeating this with a laugh. If they come up with something positive, cheer and do cartwheels!

And the way to combat angry humordoomers, who are resentful and frustrated with a lack of control in their life and who are unable to express their feelings in positive ways; is to recognize that these folks may actually need more help then you are able to give. If you have the opportunity, suggest that they seek counseling and/or therapy."

Feel free to share your ideas and techniques for dealing with humordoomers  in the comment section below.  Personally, I consciously make an effort to try to include more positive people in my life and spend as little time as possible with humordoomers.  For more suggestions and ideas on what to do about negative folks, do check out my Humor Quest web site.  And join me in continuing to include more laughter and joy in your life!