Telling jokes and making light of situations can be an effective method of dealing with stress in the workplace, according to Dr Jane Lê, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School.
Dr Lê added that when people confront tensions, they use humour either to reinforce negative feelings and exacerbate the paradox, or in a more positive way such as reorienting themselves and overcoming the paradox.
Dr Lê was involved in a two-year study which focused on large telecommunications organisations dealing with stresses caused by regulatory changes.
The results indicated that humour can either relieve tension or exacerbate problems. However, overall it was a natural response that helps people understand conflict in the workplace.
"In our study we found that humour became a dominant dynamic for managers at all levels when tensions ran high,” Dr Lê said.
“Humour creates an interactional dynamic in which staff can deconstruct workplace paradoxes and respond to them.”
The researchers also found that humour allows people to joke about contradictory objectives and find a solution that would otherwise result in a “costly stalemate”.
Further, the researchers urged managers to be conscious of implementing humour as a solution to conflict.
“Humour is a very natural response and an indicator of what is going on in business, and managers need to look at how laughter can be put to good effect,” said Dr Lê.
The published paper is titled: “We have to do this and that? You must be joking: Constructing and responding to paradox through humour”.
Meanwhile, Eve Ash, Psychologist & Speaker, and CEO of Seven Dimensions, recently told L&D Professional
that she has found that humour facilitates engagement and a physiological response that makes people feel less of a threat.
“They feel more aligned as a team, as it makes people feel more sociable and more involved,” she said.
However, she added that as soon as humour takes up too much time or goes off track it can actually be a negative in the training space.