MCD Partners

Memphis Daily News
Put Laughter in the Workplace
May 4, 2015
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Grandparents are noted for the things they teach their grandchildren.
When I was a little girl, my grandfather taught me how to draw horns, beards and mustaches on people whose pictures were in the newspaper. He told me it was always better to do this before anyone read the paper; it made it more interesting.
I didn’t think it really made anyone as happy as he thought because the ink always covered up the words on the other side of the page. But he’d just laugh, and we’d do it anyway.
He laughed a lot. When I was eight my grandfather became very ill. One morning we got a call that he had taken a turn for the worse. The family gathered around his bed: his wife, 10 children, in-laws and hordes of grandchildren.
My aunt Lillian, a religious sister, thought it would be a good idea to sprinkle my grandfather with holy water. She very ceremoniously waved the bottle of water in the direction of my grandfather. As she did, the top flew off and the entire contents of the bottle landed in my grandfather’s face.
He opened his eyes, wiped the water from his face, and with a fading smile said, “You don’t have to drown me, Lilly. I’m going as fast as I can.”
Everyone laughed.
Laughter is a gift that brings perspective. It is an invisible force made present by the determination to believe God is good, life is beautiful, and in spite of your circumstances, you still have control over your response.
We have always known that it’s good to laugh. It promotes mental and physical health, increases morale, makes stressful situations seem less frightening, avoids burnout and builds rapport. So why don’t we do it more often? Why don’t we make humor a priority in the one place we spend so much of our time, the workplace, as a positive tool to bring people together?
The most successful, creative and innovative corporate or institutional cultures value a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor. They understand the value of “recess” more than the chronically serious work environments that are not able to cope with increasing stress.
A humorless workplace often loses the brightest and best employees who usually recognize that the pressure valve is missing, and morale is rapidly decreasing.
Joel Goodman, director of the Humor Project, has a quick test for workplace humor, the “AT&T test.” Is the humor appropriate, tasteful and timely? When I was a principal, the school staff spent a particularly grueling summer coping with building renovations and preparations. Since I knew we still had a couple weeks of more of the same, I planned a trip one Friday to a lunch where the keynote speaker led what was billed as a “Laughter Seminar.” The rest of the summer seemed easier as we reminisced about our shared humorous experience.
You can’t always leave them laughing, but a frequent smile conveys a corporate culture of joy.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit
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