New research from the Australian National University has found that humour in the workplace can help employees deal with workplace aggression and stressful situations.
ANU College of Business and Economics lead researcher Dr David Cheng said workplace aggression and bullying is a widespread problem that impacts the mental health of victims and the ramifications can be expensive for organisations. The results of the research show, he said, that humour can be used to reduce the negative impact of aggression.
“While obviously the best solution to workplace aggression is to stamp out the poor behaviour, our research shows if something stressful does happen to you at work, a bit of laughter can help,” Dr Cheng said.
“The experiments consistently showed exposure to humorous stimuli is useful for victims of aggression. Humour helps reduce some of the damage caused to a victim’s psychological well-being by bolstering their sense of power. They felt more powerful and that people would be more likely to listen to them.”
“That’s important because with workplace aggression, when you get yelled at you feel belittled, you feel weaker. So humour can help counter that by making you feel more empowered,” he argued.
The study is part of a larger research project into the impact of laughter in the workplace, following a 2015 study that saw participants engaging in boring repetitive work (answering basic maths questions). After a period, people were given a 10-minute break, with one group again exposed to humourous videos.
“After the break, we told people they could stop work at any point in time. Then we measured how long they went for and how they performed,” he said.
“The people in the humour group continued to work for double the length of time with the same level of performance in terms of the accuracy of their answers.”
The results of the research have been published in a paper titled: Laughter Is (Powerful) Medicine: the Effects of Humor Exposure on the Well-being of Victims of Aggression in the Journal of Business and Psychology.