What is humour?


Humour – from the Latin; to be fluid and flexible.

Humour in the workplace is a practical ethos that encourages enjoyment in employment. Humour will increase productivity, communication, teamwork, enthusiasm and staff retention and will help to create a healthy work-life balance. It will decrease stress levels, mediation, training time and recruitment costs.

Quite simply,

People who have fun get more done.

With easy-to-implement workplace practices, humour is more than telling jokes or forced frivolity. It is the development of a GSOH – both on an individual and an organisational level.

Defining and analysing humor is a pastime of humorless people.

Robert Benchley

What is a GSOH?

It’s a Good Sense Of Humour. Every would-like-to-meet advert mentions it and, increasingly, humour is an attribute sought during the recruitment process. Someone with a GSOH is more likely to work well with a team and less likely to respond to stress in a negative way.

This coveted sense of humour is learned behaviour. Therefore it is a skill that can be cultivated and honed. Every individual has a sense of humour; there are things they find funny or enjoyable. This will have been influenced by family, community and personal taste. Moreover, every organisation has a sense of humour (and wouldn’t life be a lot more fun of every organisation had a good one). This sense of humour will have evolved from the collective humours of the individuals making up the organisation and from external sources, such as the media, the culture and the nature of the business.


Humour does not brace, it will em-brace.

Developing a good sense of humour, or an improved sense of humour, is particularly important as the face of work is now in a constant state of change. Humour is fluid and flexible. A culture that does not bend and roll with the punches will eventually break. Using humour does not mean that work isn’t taken seriously; it is just taken lightly.

Individuals and organisations with better senses of humour display higher levels of tolerance – to each other and to workplace challenges.

Once upon a time, a good sense of humour in a man meant he could tell a joke, and a good sense of humour in a woman meant she could take a joke. But with the sexual revolution and our increasingly diverse workplace, humour has had to live by its own definition, and be fluid and flexible.


We are born fun – seeing funny and being funny. As we get older, judgement plays a role and our taste becomes acquired, in effect limiting our humour to telling a joke or taking a joke. But in the beginning funny just is. This can be re–discovered. This is the best sense of humour and the best place to see it is in children.


The famous Dr Johnson, complier of the first English dictionary, was walking in a newly-created landscape garden with one of his fashionable aristocratic friends. On reaching a grassy bank, the eminent and, by then, elderly doctor removed his coat and did a roly-poly to the bottom.

The moral of this story is: if Dr Johnson could have fun, so can you!


With practice, a humour response becomes the learned behaviour. This is about

  • Seeing the lighter side
  • Finding the flexible solution
  • Practising compassion and tolerance with workmates
  • Laughing easily, laughing louder, laughing longer.

The right habits create a better sense of humour.

[Laughter is] nothing else but a sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly.

Thomas Hobbes