March 29, 2016

My topics under the heading L include Laughter, Leadership, Learning, Listening & Love.

You probably want the answer about how to be a good leader. Unfortunately there isn’t one, but laughter is a useful aspect of a well led organisation.

LAUGHTER – extract

A volunteer once asked for an appointment to speak to me and her demeanour was so serious that I thought she was going to leave us. But her story was much more of a shock. She wanted to tell me that in all her working life until now, she hadn’t been in an organisation where laughter was the norm – as it was at MTC – and how much pleasure she was getting out of the experience. I find it hard to imagine a workplace without laughter. Admittedly, I have often worked for organisations which manufacture comedy as part of their output but that but that doesn’t guarantee laughter off stage.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Beard (2014, 130) says the workplace needs laughter: “[l]aughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.” Research on care-focussed service non-profits in Great Britain, also provide examples of what make employment experiences positive amongst the stress of such work. When asked why an employee loved her organisation it was because of the laugher. “For her, employee satisfaction manifests itself in the fact that they work and play well together. The staff has fun”  (Lewis & Plas 2001,p. 68).

Even the UK Department of Trade and Industry in a survey exploring the influence of inspirational leaders focuses on the importance of fun: “employees are able to have fun at work and the importance of a light-hearted attitude is paramount. Business is seldom effective when everything is taken excessively seriously, and employees who work in a relaxed, more fun-filled environment are less stressed and more productive” (quoted in Adams, 2007, p.226).

There are pragmatic ways to engender happiness according to researchers. For example, Cropanzano & Wright (2001) believe that because it’s such a subjective state, as long you’re providing people with a sense that their work is meaningful, that they’re supported and that their work makes a difference then you’ve at least contributed some of the precursors to happiness. Of course, those researchers were interested is in exploring whether happiness at work results in more productivity. As a manager, one does want people to be more motivated and thus contribute to the needs of the organisation but it’s also just nicer to go work with people who are happy.

In a recent discussion with a successful and caring arts manager, they talked with pride about the good organisational culture that had helped create. To do this, the organisation had a staff workshop and simply asked what would make for a happy workplace. The answers were wonderfully pragmatic and included things like making sure that time accrued was taken off, regular as well as annual performance appraisal, giving everyone a pay increase (even if it was modest), promising and trying to deliver honesty and transparency and good HR practices. Laughter wasn’t on the list but I’m sure it was another organisation where it could be heard.


Adams, J 2007, Managing People in Organizations: contemporary theory and practice, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Beard, A 2014, ‘Leading with Humor’, Harvard Business Review 92(5): 130-131

Cropanzano, R & Wright, TA 2001, ‘When a “happy” worker is really a “productive worker”: A review and further refinement of the happy-productive worker thesis’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research 53(3): 182-199

Plas, JM & Lewis, SE 2001, Person-Centered Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks CA