I sat in a meeting watching colleagues pass by the glass wall. Generally, these folks walked this hallway much like a ship’s plank, with heads down and sober looks. On this day, however, I heard laughter. I watched those same zombies smiling, laughing, and actually running into a big conference room. I was stunned.
When I asked what was going on, one of the people in the meeting explained that it was an employee appreciation day, and everyone was given a chance to spend one hour eating and playing games. The whooping and hollering I heard from behind those closed doors made me long to leave my meeting and join them.
When I left that office at 4:00, people were still smiling and talking and working with a positive energy that almost buzzed like electricity.
I wish I could say that is my common experience as a consultant. However, my recent forays into a variety of work environments have been terrifyingly dirge-like. The silence is deafening.
Most notable is the lack of laughter along with the discussion of physical ailments. The two are often related.
Martha Beck, an international life coach, says this about laughter:
It seems to me at this moment that laughing is a serious thing, that it connects us with truth and love and God.
I tend to agree with her . . . laughter is a very serious thing that is too often considered “fluff” by leaders who treat people like widgets. What they might not realize is that laughter is the release valve for this economic pressure cooker, and any work environment that is too quiet is a hot-house that cultivates sickness and anger.
Years ago I led a sales team that had a lot of pressure on them since they were cold-calling by phone most of the day. So, I set up the singing bass. Yes, I had a “Big Mouth Bill Bass” that when turned on sang “Take Me To the River.”
Whenever a team member made a sale, they were asked to come into my office. I would shut the door and close the blinds, and we would turn on the fish and dance our hearts out. It motivated all of us. Try it! Hit play on the video above and dance. I guarantee you will feel better. If you don’t, then let me know and I’ll remove the “guarantee” from that comment.
According to Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher, authors of “The Levity Effect,” researchers at the University of Maryland found that a lack of fun impacts us physiologically. Mental stress constricted blood vessels, reducing blood flow which delivers oxygen to the brain and keeps the heart beating.
Lack of oxygen? Impact on the heart? Lack of laughter is as serious as a heart attack. So, why is laughter considered such a bad thing? Why do leaders assume that when they hear laughter work is not getting done?
They also found that laughter caused the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow. In fact, just anticipating a light-hearted event impacts people physiologically in very positive ways.
Fun is not a four-letter word, and it might be your saving grace. It’s as easy as:
If you’re interested in reading more on the power of levity – here’s the book I referenced: