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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Humour can pay off at workplace

When senior writer Guy de Noronha ended a meeting by saying, "I think we've both had enough of each other; let's call it a day," he had his boss in splits. A well-timed, harmless one-liner is capable of thawing the atmosphere, and the workplace is no exception.

With mounting stress, it's paramount that our workplace is a happy one. Interestingly, even employers are taking a shine to the humour quotient by seeking candidates with a lighter vein among their other skill sets. A worker with a sense of humour is any day easier to deal with compared to his grumpy counterpart. Affirms Priyanka Sharma (name changed) who manages the call centre at a multinational banking company, "A worker with a sense of humour is crucial in the calling business, as he passes on the same vivacity to customers on the other end who can only hear him. Besides, such people help keep the team motivated with their light-heartedness." Shares model Amit Ranjan, "Amid hectic fitting sessions and rehearsals before a fashion show, a witty colleague can help ease the pressure."

In a professional atmosphere, wit goes a long way in articulating your opinion, provided it is not directed at someone. Just as humour has its highs, a failed attempt at being funny can suddenly strip you of your admirers. Believes Aseem Sadana, co-founder of Isango, a global online travel experiences company, "Humour can be dangerous, if not practised subtly. It does wonders when you have reached an impasse." But Aseem also feels that its application should solely be subject to the listener's mood and body language. Seconds Guy, "It's good to say something witty in a meeting where everyone's tense, but don't come up with a book of jokes and go on till lunch time! You should be known as someone with a sense of humour, not as a comedian."

If humour makes you approachable, does it make sense for a leader to indulge his lighter side? "You have to deal with different mindsets in a team," says Priyanka, "The ones who are not open to feedback can be dealt with using humour. Applying wit at all times can make you look too casual."

Laughter is the best medicine in creative professions such as dancing, too. Says Rajeshwari Sainath, B h a rat a n at ya m danseuse and director of the Hyderabad-based dance institute Sruthi Laya Kendra, "Humour connects me to my students. If I am going to be matter-of-fact while teaching, I will not be able to engage their interest. It is important to smile while dancing, but some students refuse to do so despite repeated prompting. That's when I come up with one-liners like 'don't look like a scientist, you are an artist', and they break into a smile." Rajeshwari, however, gives a lot of importance to the quality of humour, "It shouldn't be aimed at berating a person. By inducing sarcasm you are killing humour."

While you try to cheer your colleagues up with a witty remark, dabbling in sarcasm might just turn out to be your undoing. Explains psychologist, Dr Kamal Khurana, "Humour is an elegant way of making life happier. At the cost of being witty you shouldn't hurt someone's value system, particularly in an office environment where you are constantly being judged. Humour can never backfire, being silly can."

Humour comes easily to some people, but there are others who can try too hard to be witty and end up making faux pas that is remembered for time to come. And, while many believe you either have it, or you don't, some experts say one can always hone the latent talent over time. Justifies Aseem, 'By perpetuating humour you are making the workplace happier. And happier people deliver far more."

Whether it is an employer-employee or a peer-to-peer relationship, good wit should never go unappreciated. It de-stresses us momentarily and speaks volumes for the person who keeps a cool head in a tight situation and passes on the same feeling to those around.

So, if you know a good joke, it's time to share and spread the cheer! 
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