Steps to Management Success – Step 65: Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 1st, 2010


Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor

When the going gets tough, smart managers lighten up. Recent studies show that a sense of humor is the most consistent characteristic among executives promoted in major companies, and that managers showing a sense of humor advance faster and further than those without one.

WHAT IT MEANS: Humor promotes creative thinking, mental flexibility, and the ability to cope with change—and that’s what our lives are full of. In expressing confidence and building it in others, humor is invaluable. The right funny comment at just the right time shows a grasp of the situation like nothing else. Self-effacing humor is especially good for expressing confidence. When you poke fun at your own shortcomings, you show that you can face problems squarely, without defensive illusions. Most of all, laughter restores the gift of perspective, making our troubles appear to be much less daunting, and our fears much less formidable. Adhering to this rule does not mean that you should be a joker or the office clown. Kidding around too much can undercut your professionalism. Your guideline: take the work seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.

ACTION PLAN: Do what you can to lighten up your work atmosphere. Spontaneous wit is probably preferable to rehearsed shtick, but do whatever feels comfortable to you. Keep the humor gentle and avoid making fun of people—some people won’t mind, but some will. Some offices are minefields of sarcasm and cynicism—don’t let yours be one of them. Share a funny office-related incident. Begin your presentation with an apt joke or clever quote. Hang up a parody motivational poster ( has some of the best). The workplace abounds with comic material, and you don’t have to be a stand-up comic to harvest it.

EVEN BETTER: Send the signal that it’s OK for everyone to express their sense of humor—within reasonable limits. As a manager, your behavior can set the tone for others to follow. By making and allowing humorous comments (and the best feedback of all is a genuine laugh), you’ll be sending the signal to your colleagues that it’s OK not to be “soooooo serious”—as long as the work gets done. And that’s no joke!

(Excerpted from: 10 Clowns Don’t Make a Circus. . . and 249 Other Critical Management Success Strategies by Steven Schragis and Rick Frishman)

Roger Due

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