Did you know that adding humor to work can lead to incredible benefits like:

  • Reduced Absenteeism
  • Enhanced Problem Solving Skills
  • Increased Production & Persistence
  • Boosts Creativity

That’s great, but what if you’re just not that funny? Whether you’re the corporate comedian or you’re more of a serious manager, here’s a model to help you add levity to your workplace:


The L.A.F.T.E.R. Model

(I’ve never understood why there’s an “ugh” in the middle of the word “laUGHter” anyway, so let’s just spell it right)

Lead by example

Ask for help

Fun over funny

Tell your story

Earn it



Lead by example:

Simply put, try not to take yourself too seriously. That means doing things like participating in those ridiculous team builders or even making fun of yourself on occasion!  Bad hair day?  Stain on your shirt?  Rather than trying to cover it up all day, show it off!  This article from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business program, which now incorporates a “Humor in Business” course in their curriculum, states that leaders who use humor bridge social distance between themselves and employees and gain credibility.

I once spilled a thermos of coffee on my lap and rather than heading straight for the restroom, I stopped by the lobby where several employees were and showed off my stupidity.  Immediately, the quiet new employee who I knew the least, shook his head and said “I told you to see a doctor about that!”, which got everyone laughing.  From then on, he seemed more at ease around me as a supervisor and our relationship felt more genuine.


Ask for Help:

If humor isn’t your thing, there’s always someone who would love to take on the task!  In fact, once you anoint them as your “Head of Humor”, “Queen of Comedy”, or whatever you want to call it, you probably won’t get them to leave you alone about all of the ideas they have!  (Can you already picture who this person is in your office?)

You can even “Ask for help” with “Leading by example”.  One executive I know who isn’t great at being funny on the spot had a brilliant idea.  He asked his colleagues he was close with to tease him more often in front of employees rather than just when they were alone so people could see that he was easy-going and could laugh at himself!

In fact, if you need professional help for your humor there’s even an entire conference dedicated to the study and application of humor in corporate, healthcare, and education settings. The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor hosts a conference each year where professionals can gain continuing education credits while learning to harness the power of humor.


Fun over Funny:

For most of us, trying too hard to be funny leads to more groans and eye rolls than laughs (think Michael Scott in “The Office”).  If you want to get people laughing, rather than trying to be funny just get them to have fun.  According to laughter research from Robert Provine, we are 30 times more likely to laugh in groups than by ourselves. The key is to engage people in activities where they can play and interact with one another, like making a meal together, doing a service project, trivia, talent show, NCAA Basketball or Oscars brackets for prizes, etc.


Tell your story:

Bringing humor to work doesn’t have to be a covert operation!  You’ll gain more traction if you simply tell people your goal.  Let them know you’re hoping to make it a more fun place to work  and you’ll probably get ideas from them!  This also shows people that you’re trying and you care about them.

Tell your story to potential employees and customers as well.  Is fun or humor reflected in your company’s values?  What about in advertising, Facebook pages, tweets, etc.?  How about job descriptions?  Along with technical skills, add that you’re looking for someone with a “sense of humor” or “who values a “fun and creative work environment”.


Earn it:

You’ve now read most of an article (congratulations by the way), about the importance of humor at work.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t give you license to spend your day practicing one-liners or watching Youtube videos of cats falling into fish tanks. Before you can be goofy, you have to be good.

A 2012 Bell Leadership Institute study  found that when employees are asked to describe characteristics of leaders in their organizations, “work ethic” and “sense of humor” are mentioned twice as much as any other trait.  People must see you as reliable first, then your tomfoolery will be accepted as a welcome reprieve rather than an annoying distraction.



You can’t change corporate culture with just a funny bulletin board or a ping-pong table.  A company’s culture is defined by its rituals which occur annually, monthly, weekly, and daily.  An annual holiday party is great, but if that’s the only fun event all year it’s not impacting the culture.

You don’t have to be the funniest person in your organization to be the one adding more humor.  Using humor to create a culture of fun is doable, just get rid of the “ugh” and add some L.A.F.T.E.R.!

For more ideas about how to lead with laughter and create a culture of fun, you can attend his sessions at the 2018 HR Inside Summit. Check out his TED Talk below for a preview!

Leading with Laughter: The Power of Humor in Leadership

About the author:

Paul Osincup is a Speaker and Positive Workplace Strategist who helps companies create dynamic and engaging work climates. With a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Administration, Paul’s previous roles had him addressing high-risk behaviors and potential threats to college campuses. In 2013 he was a consultant at the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Alcohol, Drug, and Violence Prevention and he still delivers school violence prevention consultation on behalf of several non-profit agencies. A conflict resolution specialist, Paul has also earned national recognition for his work with alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice.