Robert insists that particularly joking around about things associated with the job has a positive impact in the workplace. And, to prove this he and collaborator Wan Yan, a business doctoral student, examined theories on humour and integrating literature from a wide variety of disciplines that touch on the subject. Based on the research, the two concluded that a little humour enhances creativity, department cohesiveness and overall performance.
"Humour has a significant impact in organizations. Humour isn't incompatible with goals of the workplace. It's not incompatible with the organization's desire to be competitive," Robert said.
"In fact, we argue that humour is pretty important. It's not just clowning around and having fun; it has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humour, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded."
Robert stressed the international aspect is an important part of the research and said the paper addresses some of the key cultural differences between the United States and Asian economic powerhouses such as China and India. "Humour is difficult in cross cultural situations. It's hard to know what's going to be funny or when to use humour. Some people have suggested that you just avoid it all together; don't be funny, don't try to make jokes. We basically reject that and offer some ground rules for understanding when and what kind of humour might be appropriate," he said.
The study - The Case for Developing New Research on Humor and Culture in Organizations: Toward a Higher Grade of Manure - was published as a chapter in Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management.