Laughter Is Cheaper Than Stress

By Jeff Justice, CSP

U.S. businesses pay the cost of not dealing effectively with workplace stress, and according to the latest statistics, the tab reaches $300 billion annually and is seen in absenteeism, employee turnover, and reduced productivity.

Now, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has defined “presenteeism” as being “at work” without being productive. In Understanding Business Values and Motivators, Dr. Ira Wolfe says it’s worse than absenteeism, because employees still show up and receive a full paycheck — but they disrupt and demoralize other workers while neglecting the work they are being paid to do. The cost of “presenteeism” in the U.S. alone is estimated to be the hundreds of billions of dollars, resulting in over 2.5 billion lost workdays per year.

The task of fixing problems that stress workers usually lands in the laps of managers who don’t receive much training in laughing their way to success. Bosses who want to get results should take a lesson from stand-up  comedians. Witty executives get bigger bonuses and better performance ratings, according to a report by management consultant Fabio Sala in the Harvard Business Review. He writes, “Humor, used skilfully, greases the management wheels, reduces hostility, deflects criticism, relieves tension, improves morale and helps communicate difficult messages.

In teaching my Comedy Workshoppe course, my number one rule is you have to be able to laugh at yourself and the things that stress you out. Student Don Weston came up with this line: “People ask me if my hair is natural. I say, ‘No, I have it professionally thinned.’” Anne Goff quipped, “My father is Filipino and my mother’s a redneck — my people came over here in a bass boat.”

Regarding the frustrations of dating, Sue Hogan came up with, “I’m 39 and have been dating for the past 27 years. Do you realize that if this was a job, in three years I could retire?” Sue also said, “I called Hertz to report an accident I’d had in one of their cars. They wanted to know if the car was driveable. I said, “Apparently not by me!”

Your life, too, is full of laughter, if you’ll just take the time to look.


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