No Funny Business

When was the last time you actually listened to the flight safety announcement as your plane was waiting to take off? Why listen, right? You’ve heard it hundreds of times and it’s always the same. Not on Southwest Airline it isn’t! Check this out…

Southwest Airlines is a US carrier that specializes in humour. Its flight attendants are encouraged to put a smile on passengers’ faces. And as you can see in the video, some of them have taken the message to heart and turned their passenger announcements into comedy routines. More importantly, notice the reaction of the passengers. They listen to every word. They laugh. They even applaud!
The message should be clear: Humour and business can go together…and can do so very successfully. Southwest Airlines is a good example. From the moment the airline was set up in 1967, humour was identified as a key component of the company’s culture. Generating smiles is an official corporate goal; it’s even part of the selection process. “Have you ever used humour to solve a workplace problem?” is a question asked in job interviews. And the strategy is clearly working. The airline now has nearly 46,000 employees and operates more than 3,400 flights per day. In fact, Southwest carries more domestic passengers than any other US airline.
One of the things that has struck us over the years from observing participants on our courses is how lively, creative and humorous people are…until they start talking about business! At this point their smiles disappear and their language becomes heavy and dull. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Humour can be appropriate in the workplace. And it can contribute significantly to business success. Humour in the workplace can help you and your team in many ways. It can help you become:
1. More creative – Humour enables innovation. People tend to withhold their ideas when they find themselves in cheerless and judgemental environments. In contrast, a fun and jokey office culture encourages the sharing of ideas (however wacky), ideas that may turn out to be extremely valuable.
2. More relaxed – Laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which are important for reducing the physical symptoms of stress. In addition, it’s an excellent way of increasing personal satisfaction, as laughter makes it easier to deal with difficult situations and connect with people. Managers with a good sense of humour are also seen as being more approachable. Laughter truly is the best medicine!
3. More memorable – The average person sends and receives a total of more than 50 emails per day – and spends more than 80% of the working day engaged in some form of inter-personal communication. In this scenario it’s all too easy for your message to get lost in the communication overload. Humour can help prevent this; it can make your message stand out from the crowd and stick.
4. Better paid – Really! A study by the Harvard Business Review reveals that executives with a sense of humour are paid more and promoted faster. The research shows that a good sense of humour correlates strongly with competency and adaptability, factors that distinguish the best leaders from the rest of the pack.
Still not convinced? OK, here’s one more. Humour can even help you:
5. Lose weight – Laughing for 10-15 minutes a day burns around 50 calories. And that’s enough to lose a couple of kilos if you keep it up for a whole year!
Before closing, a few words of caution are in order. Humour must always be appropriate to the situation and the people. Culture is a factor that you need to be aware of too. What works in one country may not go down so well in another. It goes without saying that there are limits and that you must always use humour tactfully.
Despite this caveat, we believe the rewards greatly outweigh the risks. Don’t assume you can’t use humour at work. You can. Book yourself a flight on Southwest Airlines and see for yourself!