Top Ten Ways to Laugh More at Work
By abeth2 on May 16, 2013
I have had my share of crappy, miserable, insanely-awful Tuesdays. My mornings usually consisted of lukewarm coffee, screaming children, re-heated muffins, and boring NPR stories. I was stuck in traffic, with bad hair and pants that were an inch too short, and when I got to work I noticed half-done reports and a computer keyboard covered in the crumbs of yesterday’s subway sandwich. I was thinking "Is that really the day care calling to say my kid as a fever? Do I honestly have a meeting in ten minutes? It’s only Tuesday for crying out loud."
But sometimes negative can be turned into positive. I’ve had to ask myself - was I good about finding the humor at work all those years? Work is the one place where you hang up your personal, jovial, humorous self in the closet next to your blazer and half-wrinkled pants and trudge off to Get Things Done.
I think back through my career in law. I’ve snapped at support staff for packets not fully prepared or been furious with opposing counsel for unrealistic discovery demands. I’ve worn sour expressions and said so many disparaging things I’m sure my co-workers wanted to slide Midol pills underneath the crack in the door with a note that read “For heaven’s sakes take these pills, eat a cupcake, and come back when you are nice.” But what do they know? Work is a place where you Get Things Done, after all. Where you beat deadlines and answer emails and attend meetings.
But can’t we get some fun up in here? I’m not talking about the lame birthday cake parties in the break room. I’m talking about real and honest joy. Is it even possible given today’s demands?
The answer is yes. An overwhelming yes.
But you have to go about it the right way. One particular website suggested that in order to break the tension in a workplace, a manager should bring a panic button into the meeting and tell their staff to “just push the panic button when it gets too stressful.” It breaks up the monotony! It creates a light-hearted environment! It’s fantastic! If I were in a meeting where my manager brought in a panic button, I'd shake my head in the same way I did when my mother use to say "let's fold socks; it'll be fun. " Liar.
Another piece of advice said to take fifteen minute walks, develop games with cube-mates, work puzzles in the break room, and take jokes with you to meetings. This just doesn’t ring true. If I was discussing a merger in an operations meeting, I wouldn't be all “hold up there, folkzies. Before we begin this discussion, have you heard the one where the elephant walks into a bar?” And no offense to those people who love puzzles, or elephants. I’m just saying it wouldn’t work particularly well for me.
But the more advanced I became in my career, the fear and insecurity of being accepted wore off and faded into oblivion. So I began to let loose and hauled my normal happy self into the office. After all, my shoes are from TJ Maxx and my brain only works about half the time. If I had a joke about an elephant that I thought was really funny, I’d probably say it. Because elephants are endearing little things that crush vehicles with their hind quarters.
So here are the Top Ten Things that I learned after so many years that helped me start to enjoy work again. To bring humor back into my working life. To learn to really live a little:
(1) Don’t take things so darn seriously. Humor creates a psychological distance. After all, if you don’t get that report turned in and your boss gets mad, and you end up being fired, you could work at Dairy Queen and eat Blizzards all day. Think of the toppings!
(2) Get out of the office for lunch. This is key so your head isn’t buried inside your computer from 7 am until closing time, causing you to be grumpy and lumpy and snappy. Just leave. If you aren’t hungry, drive around. Pick up some iced tea. Head to a park and walk a bit. But take a mid-day break.
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