The ability to genuinely empathise with and connect emotionally to those in the workplace is a powerful and valuable tool.
According to a Robert Haft International survey, only 15% of workers are fired because of lack of competence. The remaining 85% are let go because of their inability to get along with fellow employees. When asked about the qualities of an effective employee, senior administrators and HR managers select humour as one of the choice attributes of a desired employee.
hy has humour become a recognised asset in the workplace? Humour facilitates effective communication because it recognises human frailties, and conveys a serious message in a context that is more likely to be heeded.
It builds relationships through creating a sense of social cohesion and togetherness that speaks to the psychological need for us to belong.
It reduces stress, one of the most common factors in underperformance, in inducing a general sense of well-being and contentment.
It provides perspective, through reminding us that we often magnify problems, and maintaining a healthy sense of context is valuable in learning how to handle challenges, obstacles and failures. Consider the cartoon of the fellow lying on the psychiatrists couch, being told: “The whole world isn’t against you; there are billions of people out there who don’t care one way or the other!”
Admittedly, it raises questions about appropriate boundaries in the workplace. Humour can sometimes be out of place, and an unsuitable joke can do more harm than good, if it is offensive or tasteless. This forces us to think about the nature of our relationships with employers, employees, and colleagues, etc, and we must understand the need for hierarchies, and respect boundaries. Thinking about appropriate behaviour in the workplace enables and empowers us to develop strong relationships, and allows us to get ahead inside the workplace and beyond.
When we talk about interpersonal or workplace boundaries, it can sometimes be a difficult concept to grasp because it isn’t something we can see. But just because we can’t see a boundary, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there or that it isn’t important. Boundaries are present whenever a person interfaces with another. The definition of a boundary is the ability to know where you end and where another person begins. When we talk about needing space, setting limits, determining acceptable behaviour, or creating a sense of autonomy, we are really talking about boundaries. It is a general misconception that having good boundaries will distance you from others. The truth is that when you know where you end and others begin, you can then closely engage with others because you won’t feel overwhelmed or unprotected. Having a sense of autonomy prevents the need to distance ourselves from others with a barrier. Productive, positive engagement is then possible, where everyone benefits.
Read more sections from JABE's 2010 Yom Kippur leaflet: