It’s OK To Laugh (Yes, Even Now)

It’s OK To Laugh (Yes, Even Now)
by Johnny Buschardt, Senior Manager of Program Delivery, OKCNP

As I sit here, trying to write my first blog for the OKCNP in the middle of a global pandemic known as COVID-19, I keep finding myself going back to something humorist Dave Barry once said, “There really is no secret to being funny; I just try to put the funniest word at the end of each underpants.” While Barry is undoubtedly correct that there is no magical equation that makes a person or situation instantly funny, the underlying truth that humor can – and should – play a role in every situation has rarely been more applicable.

As an organization, when we are faced with a change that is rapid, unexpected and all-inclusive, there tends to be a fight-or-flight response as we determine how to move forward. Are we an individual team (and we’re all in this together) or are we a team of individuals (and it is every person for themselves)? When this organizational hurdle appears, humor can play a significant role, both in helping an organization adjust to major changes and in helping that organization create a stronger bond as a team. Humor not only allows us to remember the shared aspects of our lives that make us smile and bring us comfort, but the coping mechanism of laughter helps to reinforce a happy and healthy organizational culture.

While the external challenges our organization faces may not always be under our control, our organizational culture – and how, as an organization, we face those challenges – certainly is under our control. Just as importantly, let’s face it… even a global pandemic can give us a reason to giggle. Case in point: two months ago, many of us had never even heard of Zoom, much less participated in a “virtual meeting.” Six weeks ago, we were worried about the lighting in our virtual meeting areas and if the pictures on the wall behind us were askew. Today? Most of us don’t even have pants on and we all appreciate the value of being able to turn our cameras off whenever we’d like. Whereas organizational meetings used to consist of making sure all departments were properly represented, today they include pets, spouses, children… and now we all know that Todd from marketing is obviously a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and owns every action figure that has ever been created. In short, humor helps us remember that we’re human; that even the best of us still make mistakes and that even the worst periods we experience can still bring us something to smile about.

These days, the silver lining in the cloud may not have to do with a financial projection or a strategic plan – it could be just knowing that, like the rest us, when our CEO wears a mask, she looks like she is either about to hold up a train or rob a bank. While it may be true that no one has made a mask seem cool since Darth Vader hit the scene, it’s the humor in our situations that binds us all and allows us to emphasize that, even in the midst of an unprecedented change in the way the world turns, we can still find something positive in common with those around us. Whether we are trying to figure out just how having 265 rolls of toilet paper is going to make your home life more pleasant, or understanding that, whether we admit it or not, we all seem to REALLY like touching our face, every situation has something we can find humor in – and sometimes, that humor can be the one thing that brings us closer to each other (while remaining six feet apart, of course).

When facing an external challenge that may be beyond your capacity to routinely address, the question becomes: how will your organization be further defined by the crisis you face? Will current uncertainties fracture the culture that we have worked so hard to foster and promote, or will those uncertainties be an opportunity for us to let that culture truly shine through? The power of humor, as both a universal connector and a strong personal motivator, should not only be encouraged during times of crises, it should be a crucial component. We need to let the people within our organization understand that this too shall pass – and that we WILL emerge on the other side of this even stronger than we were underpants.

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Janetta Cravens