It's No Laughing Matter. Or Is It? Understanding the Importance of Humor in the Workplace

I had the pleasure of speaking with Greg Schwem who is presenting at SHRM’s annual conference next week in New Orleans. Throughout our engaging conversation Greg shared his experiences and insights and we enjoyed a few chuckles as well. Frankly, I left this exchange feeling uplifted and recharged. All this from a brief chat, so one can only imagine the positive outcomes from a full conference session with Greg!

As a business humorist and award-winning Chicago Tribune columnist Greg “challenges his audience to realize that eliminating or curtailing humor in the workplace environment also stifles creativity and teamwork.” The topic of humor in the workplace has always been an important and sensitive issue, but even more so now, as HR professionals are guiding employees through return to on-site work and various hybrid arrangements. As such, Greg commends SHRM for tackling this topic. If we want to cause an effect, humor is certainly a key way to do this, as it has a key role to play in employee retention, wellness, and mental health.

Greg loves hearing people laugh and after a presentation finds it rewarding when participants share “We really needed that” or “We had no idea we could laugh at ourselves.” Greg notes that “We need to challenge the notion that this is not a good time for us to be laughing. It is always a good time to be laughing. Your company might not be funny, but people in your company are, and you can use this to your advantage.” Participants in Greg’s session will leave with practical suggestions and resources to customize and implement humor in their own workplaces. “You will be given things to think about and avoid as you seek a balance of successfully and appropriately capitalizing on humor in the workplace.”

If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite, or tickle your funny bone, Greg’s session will provide a respite from the more typical operational topics offered to conference participants. While all of these subjects are important it will be refreshing to learn in a more “light-hearted manner” and yes, Greg promises there will be laughter in his session. Laughter and learning! I can’t think of a much better combination.

I closed our conversation by asking Greg what he is looking forward to, other than presenting, at the upcoming conference. He is excited about his book signing (The road to success goes through the salad bar) and having the chance to interact with conference participants. Oh and “Beignets. But remember, don’t wear dark clothing when enjoying these treats!” This had me thinking that a beignet binge could be a great excuse to wear white after labour day. Yet another reason to smile as we concluded our chat.

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