Required: A Sense of Humor

republished from business2community

Why is it that a sense of humor is such a desired trait in an employee? If you spend any time sifting through a company’s job board, you’ll find humor is just as important as having actual, relevant skill in a subject matter. I wondered if making people laugh is a desired trait that is needed for a company’s success when the purpose of the institution is to create revenue and drive innovation.

Companies need team members who have focused and clear individual expression and creative general collaboration with others as well as those who have mastered different forms of communication. To put it into medieval terms, much like a castle, there is no need for a court jester when the king’s people are supposed to defend the walls and create a thriving community. The jester provides jokes but little else. There is probably a certain amount of culture creation but no real tangible benefit.

However, let’s take a look at what a jester may contribute to the village. He or she may be needed to disengage the community from every day normalcy. In such case, a bit of absurdity is more than welcome. Companies may need their own jokesters to create community and break up the daily grind. There has to be more to it than creating a culture, although it’s good to be reminded of company values.

Humor might just be one of the most important skills for your company. Funny people understand patterns of human behavior. These ‘jokers’ can arrive at customer insights that big data tends to gloss over, especially around the role that products play in people’s lives. It may be this skill that is most needed to be disruptive in industries that have created a standard and sense of normalcy.

A company can offer up new products and services but employees need to evangelize its usage. This may be where incongruity theory, the idea that humor arises when there’s an inconsistency between what people expect to happen and what actually happens, comes into play. People tend to laugh together at something they either approve or disapprove of. Thus, to create a need for a product both internally and externally, it may be that a bit of humor is needed to gauge acceptance.

Laughter is quite specific and subjective to the audience. It is, in many ways, a fundamentally offensive perspective. It is also the best way to assess cohesion. People laugh together when they believe the group is behaving sensibly and don’t laugh when a statement or viewpoint is outside social norms. Laughter brings about a certain degree of agreeableness when everyone participates.

The philosopher, Henri Bergson, said that humor is a social sanction against inflexible behavior. He believed that finding humor in the mundane was an incredible skill and a huge asset within companies; because in order to succeed, you have to create iterations in common habits, products and continuity in the organization. In other words, funny employees help you to create more innovative products as your market is defined and give a sense of continuity to the culture as the company grows.

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