Work should always be a complete joke

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The Independent Online
LAUGHING HAS become a serious business. As well as improving motivation and morale, humour in the workplace can improve a company's productivity by up to 40 per cent, according to a leading expert.

Dr John Morreall, of the University of South Florida, said humour enhanced creativity, cut stress among employees and helped overcome defensiveness and conflict.

In a paper presented at the International Humour Conference in California, Dr Morreall showed how it can improve mental flexibility among workers. "Modern industries such as computer and IT [information technology] firms are changing the quickest. Many now have laughter rooms, full of funny gadgets, where employees can go for some laughter time before a big meeting or a brain-storming session," Dr Morreall said.

The changes in the United States are catching on fast among British employers and companies are increasingly aware of creating fun environments. A Confederation of British Industry spokesman said: "Companies across the UK are increasingly seeing employee satisfaction as a key contribution to business performance and as employees spend a lot of their time at work, humour and having a laugh is an important element."

Some British companies are employing jesters to organise fun days in an attempt to encourage staff to enjoy themselves at work. Humour allows fresh and original ideas to flourish because it removes normal inhibitions, said Robert McHendry, of the Oxford Psychologists Press consultancy.

"John Cleese, the comedian, has made over 130 training videos, showing with humour the mistakes people make in the workplace. They are successful because they're funny and people relax," said Dr Morreall, who has identified three different types of bosses.

The Emperor General is an old-style male autocratic boss who uses humour only rarely. His jokes are formulaic and very rarely clever or witty. He uses them to put down or humiliate his staff. "The Emperor General boss does not allow his underlings to initiate humour as it is part of his control mechanism," Dr Morreall said.

The Matron is a senior female boss who almost never uses humour at work. The Contemporary Horizontal boss, male or female, uses humour to motivate and encourage his staff. This boss is more of a coach and does not use laughter to push people around, allowing people to complain using humour.