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Go Ahead, Make Me Laugh

I have to say that I really appreciate my current boss.  And some of my key team members.  You know why?  They make me laugh.

The ability to make others laugh is a rare and valuable commodity.  I have never been more appreciative of this than lately in the zaniness of the real estate and stock market meltdowns and the crumbling of venerable financial institutions.  Someone who can see humor in the situation or create fun when others are getting tense provides sustaining value and a welcome relief.

I talked about the importance of appropriate humor as a way to manage our emotions in my book.  It is a great way to reduce your stress levels which is a key to emotional self-management.  It is also helpful for building relationships with others when you show that you don’t take yourself too seriously and are able to laugh along with others.  So it helps with relationship management as well.  Both self-management and relationship management are key competencies in the EQ framework for project management.

Do you encourage humor on your projects?  Have you enrolled someone on your project team to be responsible for humor?  Do you have someone in charge of making other laugh?  Have you made it part of their job description?  Perhaps you should think about it.

On the flip side, do you have people on your team who cannot laugh?  Do you have people that think it would be best to eliminate humor from the workplace?  I had someone like this recently and I realized just how poisonous that one individual was to my entire team.  This particular individual’s fear and anger prevented them from being able to laugh and in the process, they impacted the entire team.  Lack of sense of humor is not something you can fire someone for but perhaps you can find ways to get that person on board someone else’s team (hopefully a competitor).  Either way, it’s best if you can prevent people like this from killing the spirit of fun and enjoyment of everyone else on the team.

I think this is important enough for me to make part of the screening process for new hires or when I am staffing up a new team.  That is, I need to figure out if the candidate has a sense of humor.  I need this attribute in the members of the team.  Don’t get me wrong – I need people who are dead serious about their work and the success of the project or program.  And they also need the ability to laugh at themselves and not take themselves too seriously.

Happy holidays!


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Elizabeth

    Well said. I have just finished reading ‘Watching the English’ and it talks a lot about our sense of humour as it manifests through irony. Humour is culturally-sensitive, but if you get it right it can make issues seem not half as difficult to tackle and build great team spirit. And for those people working over the holidays, that’s even more important!

  2. Anthony Mersino

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks so much for your comment, it is good to hear from you again.
    I am in complete agreement with you that humour (and humor) are very culturally- sensitive. Self-deprecating humour will usually transcend culture but other forms of humor need to be considered in the context of your project team. Judging from my experience with a recent workshop in Slovenia, what is funny to a Brit may not necessarily be funny to his German co-worker.
    I hope you and the rest of the ladies over at the Girls Guide to Project Management have a safe and humor-filled holiday.

  3. Rich Maltzman, PMP

    Well articulated as usual. Projects may not be “fun” when you are in the midst of a resource drain, a schedule crunch, or scope confusion, but step back, and there is comedy all over the place in a project. You only have to look at Dilbert to find a rich source of project humor. We also hope to draw out some comedy when Ranjit Biswas and I *finally* release The Fiddler on the Project. In fact, I still invite your readers to participate in this collaboratively-written book by going to and entering your two cents/pence/centavos.
    Thanks for a great post, nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

  4. Umer Ahmed

    Humor really counts a lot, its energizes and remove the boredom. So its really helps, in making good decisions specially when Managers are stressed up or fatigued due to work. We in Pakistan in such situations talks about politics, in offices talking about politics is common in everyone, even if someone doesn’t have much knowledge of current issues, he/she take interest in that discussion. Sometime those discussion get worse sometimes it get humorous.

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