Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why Laughter May be Critical to Career Success

There are certain jobs I've had that I didn't like. The boss was a nut job, the commute was a killer -- and there was never much laughter. I thought there wasn't much to laugh about because the culture was so screwed up, but I realize after interviewing an expert on laughter in the workplace that I may have been missing the mark. The reason chuckles were few and far between was because of a much deeper issue of trust and relationships. Read this story I did for Gannett/USAToday and see if it doesn't expand your thinking ....

There's no shortage of advice on how to attract someone who interests you personally: Be more upbeat, wear your hair differently, don certain clothes, be a good listener.

The list is endless.

Yet many of us remain clueless about how to attract a potential employer or how to get the boss to notice us for career opportunities.

The secret: Many of the things that attract us to someone personally are also key ingredients needed to help us get ahead on the job. That doesn't mean you try to move things from a professional level to a personal one with a co-worker or boss just to climb the career ladder, but it does mean that you can leverage some of your personal traits to make professional inroads.

A good sense of humor can help you professionally.Norman Li, a psychology associate professor atSingapore Management University who studies relationships, says he's found that laughter can be a key indicator of a person's interest in you.

So if you're in a job interview and the hiring manager is cracking jokes — no matter how lame — that's a good sign. If you make an interviewer laugh, that's an equally encouraging sign.

"In general if someone likes you, they will laugh at something you say, or they try to make you laugh, as well," he says. "It's all about the laws of attraction."

In a blog post in Psychology Today, Li relates a story of how he became interested in the part laughter plays in relationships while working on a project. He writes that he didn't laugh at jokes told by supervisors he didn't like even though co-workers would chuckle along when the bosses made comments.

"The implications became clear on the day that we all received our performance reviews," he says in the post. "While those other guys were smiling at their glowing reviews, I was left wondering whether my subpar appraisal might've been better had I laughed at any of those jokes."

Laughter may be part of the success equation, Li says.

Most workers spend the majority of their waking hours with people at work, sharing challenges, eating meals together, coordinating activities — and learning whom to depend on. Those activities mimic what takes place in personal relationships, so it's not surprising that many of the things that attract us to a potential spouse also attract us to certain people at work.

That means that women, who through the ages have looked for mates that can are capable and have social status, may be drawn to successful, powerful men in the workplace and seek them out for professional collaborations, Li says. On the other hand, men always have sought women they deem physically attractive, so they may team up first at work with women they find appealing.

Laughing with others — or prompting others to laugh — can set a tone for relationships at work. As in your personal life, getting someone to laugh is really a way to monitor a relationship.

A husband who cracks a joke and is met with a chilly silence from a wife probably knows that something is wrong.

At work, co-workers who continue to laugh at your jokes or bosses that chuckle at your humor give you a sense that you are still on good footing with them. But a colleague who suddenly doesn't even crack a smile at your attempts to be funny may indicate a problem.

In a study of humor and relationships, Li and his colleagues found that "humor may allow individuals to indicate the direction of their interest and to build relationships incrementally."

So, if you do your best Jim Carrey impression or tell your favorite joke tomorrow and the boss doesn't react, you may need to check for a problem in the relationship.

After all, you don't want the last laugh on you.



Eleanor said...

Laughing at jokes can be a very good sign that someone approves of you. Just imagine how you would feel if you crack a joke and nobody even cracks a smile. Or think back to high school when it's a thrill to make classmates and even the teacher laugh.

Now at work, people don't have to laugh uproariously when the boss makes a joke, but a chuckle wouldn't be amiss.

Kimberly said...

I love this.. You are very correct..
Laughter is the best medicine -- especially for breaking the ice with fellow employees or keeping morale high as a supervisor.

Great stuff! Look forward to networking further with you in the future!!

Get Hired BC Team