Humor as a Leadership Competency

Humor is a tool that leaders can use to inspire and engage with the employees. Humor at workplace has the following benefits:

  • It helps you enjoy your work
  • It helps build emotional intelligence and confidence
  • It makes leaders more approachable and memorable
In this podcast, Mamta talks about the benefits of humor at workplace.


Podcast Audio Transcript

Alisha: Hello listeners, this is Alisha; thank you for tuning in to yet another exciting and informative podcast from us at Infosys BPM. Today, we are delving into the interesting area of “humor” and how it can be a leadership competency. And to talk about this, we have here with us, Mamta Thapliyal, HR Business Leader - Americas. Welcome Mamta. How are you?

Mamta:  I’m doing well, Alisha. Thank you for having me.

Alisha: Mamta, we all enjoy a good joke at our workplaces. Laughter is very much a cure-all for any work-related stress. So, this topic is quite interesting to me, and I believe it will be for our listeners as well.

When it comes to corporate leaders, how does humor help them inspire their teams?

Mamta:  That’s quite true Alisha; humor is definitely a great tool for leaders to be more inspiring and effective. Several studies corroborate that humor brings business benefits in terms of effectiveness and efficiency of employees. I will talk about a few key reasons why leaders should use humor at theworkplace.

  1. Humor lets you enjoy your own work: Humor helps leaders establish their relationships more deeply. A leader who can crack a joke is likely to be liked more by his/her team members. Also, we can all testify to the ability of humor to diffuse tensions.
  2. Humor helps you build confidence and emotional intelligence: I don’t have to tell you how important confidence is to a leader. Emotional intelligence can be even more important as it helps manage your emotions positively and better empathize with your team members. Humor is critical in building these two traits. You would want your leaders to be happy, and that reassures your own confidence.
  3. Humor helps leaders with the “Pratfall Effect”: Let me elaborate on what “Pratfall Effect” is. Imagine you are a leader, which usually means you are seen as infallible in the eyes of your team members. But this notion of perfection also causes a distancing effect from your team members. But if you make a tiny, trivial mistake, it makes them like you more, because it makes you look more like them. This socio-psychological effect is called Pratfall Effect. Having a way with humor creates the same effect. Essentially, it makes your team members like you more.
  4. It makes you more memorable: A sense of humor also helps leaders with the retention effect. More employees tend to remember leaders who keep them entertained.

Alisha: Mamta, those are very insightful points you have said.

But in a workplace, there has to be a certain limit to the amount of humor you can bring, right?

Mamta:  Absolutely.

When it comes to leaders and the corporate world, we are strictly in the area of “light humor”. You should know that you are never in the “business of comedy”. Your aim should be to break tension in workplaces, have a good emotional connection with your employees, and develop the trait of being approachable.

Admittedly, not every leader comes with a good sense of humor. But if you look at successful leaders, most of them possess this trait.

So, when we talk about where the limits of workplace humor should be, it should be in a perfect middle ground – neither mean nor self-deprecating. Your humor must never hurt another person; it should always aim to make them feel better. This means you should have the ability to properly measure the level of tolerance of your team members and use authentic humor based on your own experiences to help connect well with them.

Alisha: That sounds very interesting and logical. Does academic research also corroborate this hypothesis?

Mamta:  Definitely, Alisha. There have been numerous studies related to the effectiveness of humor at the workplace.

According to studies done by top business schools such as MIT, Wharton, and London School of Business laughter brings a host of benefits. It relieves stress and boredom, and helps you become more creative and collaborative.

Another industry survey found that 55% percent of employees would even be willing to earn less if they have fun at work.

So, the benefits of humor at work cannot be ignored. It’s very much an indispensable leadership trait.

Alisha: Mamta, your views on humor are extremely relevant. Thank you so much for coming to the podcast today and discussing this aspect.

Mamta:  Thank you for having me, Alisha. It was a pleasure.

Alisha: Dear listeners, if you enjoyed our podcast today, please don’t forget to share and like it on social media. Our social handles are mentioned in the podcast page. The podcast will be available on various platforms like Google Podcasts and Spotify, in addition to our website.

Also, if you have any queries, do reach out to us through the email address on the podcast description. Watch this space for more exciting podcasts coming up. Once again, thank you for tuning in, stay healthy and socially distanced. Have a nice day!

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