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Above all else, don’t forget humour

Blair Mcpherson

Humour in the work place is a good thing. Research shows teams that laugh together are more engaged and creative. Employees find leaders with a sense of humour more engaging. A sense of humour in the work place is good for your career according to a survey of senior managers. Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity. So how come HR don’t have a sense of humour!

To be fair you could say the same about finance but then accountants have a reputation for being rather serious and not prone to engage in trivia or light hearted banter. We tend to view both as kill joys who like to say no. Whilst this impression may be based on experience it is almost certainly a result of managers taking the wrong approach. The chief executive doesn’t ring up the head of HR and ask for permission to promote some one or down grade a post nor do they ask permission to move money from one budget to another they ask for advice. And of course none says no to the chief executive they do however advise against  certain courses of action and recommend other ways of achieving the same desired outcome.

A perception  of HR as lacking a sense of humour may be based on their role in the disciplinary process around complaints of harassment and racism in which the accused claim , “ it was all just a bit of harmless fun “ ,  “ it was a joke” , “ just office banter”. Clearly this is not the type of humour that makes for a relaxed, happy, stress free team/workplace. Likewise if an employee uses their work computer to circulate racist, sexist or or otherwise offensive material to colleagues because they find it funny it’s not surprising HR don’t share their sense of humour.

When people refer to HR as not having a sense of humour they are not referring to specific individuals but the function and role, that of policing the organisations polices. The HR team will tell any one who cares to ask that they like a laugh as must as anyone else. Bearing in mind some of the scenarios they have to deal with a highly developed sense of irony is a definite advantage.

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