IF YOU want to get ahead at work and in life, it pays to be funny.
According to speaker and comedian Marty Wilson, who is also the best-selling author of More Funny More Money, managers with a good sense of humour tend to have greater staff retention, while jobseekers that use humour are more likely to be hired.
He said funny people are generally seen as more competent and credible, and that people who use humour at work are more likely to receive larger end-of-year bonuses.
In short, it seems that humour really could be the key to success.
“For some reason, in our home life we deliberately choose to be around people who make us laugh, but when we walk through the doors at work, we fall off a humour cliff because we see work as ‘serious’ business,” he told news.com.au.
“Most people in a job have that idea hanging over their heads but the ironic thing is the reverse is true – people with a clenched jaw and furrowed brow only tend to get to the middle management level, but the people who rise above that are the people who are able to be themselves at work.”
The father-of-three said humour helped people get ahead as it sent the message they were psychologically healthy and able to help those around them through times of stress.
And while humans are hardwired to divide everyone we meet into “us” and “them”, sharing a laugh with someone makes our brain drop its defences, and view the other person as being on the same team.
But what if you’re not a natural stand-up comic? Well, it turns out that’s actually a good thing.
“Every workplace has ‘that guy’ who in his head still thinks he’s 14 and can pull jokes off the internet – don’t be that guy, because it’s the exact opposite of what you should do,” Wilson said.
“It’s about allowing your humour and your humanity to come out so be prepared to be in the moment and laugh about what happens in the workplace.
“You have to do it in a very real way – not in a fake way. There are 100 tips and tricks for winning a job interview, but if you strip it back to what works on a human to human level, it just comes down to what we do socially anyway, and having the confidence to do that in a work situation.”
In other words, it’s all about being natural, authentic and relaxed – not about developing a cringe-worthy comedy routine.
And the good news is that even people who don’t think they’re naturally funny can inject a bit of humour into their work life.
Wilson said everyone had the ability to be funny around people they felt truly comfortable with – and that the key was to draw on tried-and-tested, funny anecdotes you’ve already told many times before in front of people you trust.
But of course, joking at work always carries a risk.
“Comedians always have a target in stand-up comedy but you can’t do that at work. The most important thing when you’re bringing humour in is to be careful about who the butt of the joke is,” Wilson said.
“There’s three things you’ll always be able to make fun of – common enemies, shared frustrations, and yourself. You can always make fun of yourself in just about any situation.
“But in the workplace, you should make fun of yourself as a human being – never with respect to your capabilities in the job. Don’t make fun of your skills and abilities, make fun of yourself as a member of a group that everyone else in the room is also a member of.”
Wilson said parents could always share a laugh about the day-to-day frustrations of parenthood, while self-deprecating jokes about your terrible golfing ability would help endear yourself to a golf-mad boss.