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The Levity Effect: Three Reasons Why it Pays for Leaders to Lighten Up at Work

by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher

Here are just three reasons it pays to lighten up:

More memorable communication:

Whether you’re about to make a presentation to senior management to get funding for your big idea, to pitch a sales prospect who could make your year, or trying to engage a troop of distracted Campfire Girls, great communicators know that a little humor goes a long way toward making you and your messages more memorable.

Bigger, better ideas:

The work world isn’t suffering from a dearth of tedious, go-nowhere, stiff, brainstorming sessions. Research shows you can boost scores on standardized tests of creativity by exposing people to humor or other conditions that establish a playful atmosphere.

A more successful you:

Leaders who use more levity experience higher employee productivity, engagement and retention. For individuals, the financial rewards hit even closer to home: people with a sense of humor climb the corporate ladder more quickly and earn more money than their peers. Quite simply, executives hire and promote the humorous more often than the dour. Wouldn’t you?


Loosen up on voicemail:

The idea isn’t to be funny on your greeting, just simply keep your tone light and informal. Here’s an example: “Hi, you’ve reached Becky Thomas, or rather you’ve reached my voice mail; obviously if you’d actually reached me, we’d be talking right now. Please leave pertinent info, and I’ll return your call as soon as I possibly can.” A straightforward, light-hearted little voicemail greeting. It’s apparent that Becky is letting her sense of humor show by not taking her greeting too seriously. That is, after all, how we greet people face to face.

Write better emails:

Far too often, this is the sort of message that arrives in our in-box: “It has come to our attention that if the current trend of not cleaning up after one’s self in the break room isn’t soon curtailed and/or halted, the break room will be closed until further notice.” Yikes.

This whole message smacks of a nostril flaring jaw-clencher. Type a message as you would actually say it. How about a little humor:

“Subject: Slobs Unite! Hey say it. How about a little humor: “

Subject: Slobs Unite!

Hey everyone: I’m guessing that it won’t be long before the custodial staff draws up plans for a strike. I don’t even want to think about scabs crossing the picket lines, angry janitors swinging broomsticks, Molotov cocktails, etc. Let’s just please start picking up after ourselves in the cafeteria and this needless violence can be averted. Thanks!”

Gostick and Christopher are the authors of The Levity Effect.