Never complain if you hear laughter

Published: 06 Dec 2013 By Jean Roberts-Jones

To quote from one of my all-time favourite films Singing in the Rain, 1952, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, and as an action it should be in every senior manager’s tool box. In a previous job, I had the misfortune to have a Chair who complained bitterly that he often heard laughter when he entered the building; ‘why is no-one working?’ he would ask. I tried many times to explain the laughter was a key part of my staff support plan but he never understood.

Throughout my career, in the voluntary sector I have valued being able to joke with the team. I have certainly found it cheaper than counselling! I am currently Chief Executive at One Community, a borough based Community Voluntary Services provider also offering many other direct services, and some days it gets very tough; funding cuts, more for less, listening to issues of abuse, so how do you cope? Obviously, I would never tolerate laughing at anyone or about any of our clients but having one of the drivers come in and sing ‘Rosemarie I love you’, still makes me smile, (Slim Whitman eat your heart out).

Many of us spend the greatest portion of our lives in paid employment, if we are lucky. Full time posts average between 35 and 45 hours a week, but many of us in the voluntary sector work more than our allocated time. Some charities are able to afford to cover ‘extra hours’, some do not pay overtime but give TOIL (Time of in Lieu) instead. However, many charities cannot afford to be that generous. Is it enough to say we love job satisfaction?

Is it fair to say that because you know that you have made a difference to Mrs Smith who is worried about getting her shopping?  Win for Mrs Smith, win for the team. Nevertheless, should staff just get to feel good, a feeling they cannot often share for confidentiality reasons? Shouldn’t they also get a reasonable working area, reasonable facilities and of course a reasonable salary? I believe they should also feel free to laugh, so they want to come to work because it’s a fun place to be.

Over the past 22 years, I have been lucky enough to have some great jobs, but I have always wanted my teams to enjoy coming to work because it fun as well as rewarding. This does not mean we do not take seriously the hidden deprivation in the Borough, the concern that Food Banks are increasing or that a client has died. We respond with the respect and dignity the situation deserves. However, we do take time out to laugh about life and not take ourselves too seriously.

•    Remember to share clean jokes or funny situations. If you tell a joke, even badly, your staff will soon tell you theirs! Be warned.
•    If, as a manager, you hear laughter in the next room; don’t go in while they are still laughing. This can stop it straight away; hold back and go in while they are smiling. Over time they will learn it’s safe to tell you what they were laughing about.
•    Try and treat people to something a bit different; chocolate is always good, however, homemade cake or sweets are even better.
•    Encourage the team to have an occasional coffee outside the office. As a manager, it is difficult to know how long to stay, don’t out stay your welcome but also do make the effort to go for at least 30 minutes.

Remember 15 minutes of laughter can burn 40 calories, so it even helps the diet.

Jean Roberts-Jones is Chief Executive at One Community.


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