We don’t intend for it to be this way, of course. Yet more often than not, leaders become overly-fixated on making sure they always say and do the right thing, never wanting to commit the unpardonable sin of making a mistake, or (gasp) appearing vulnerable to the people they are trying to lead.
All this pressure and tension leaders create for themselves is ultimately contagious, creating a high pressure and anxiety-ridden work culture for their entire team. As leaders and team members alike find it harder and harder to relax, the effect snowballs, creating more and more stress in the workplace.
Anxiety is toxic to the learning environment.
When a person’s anxiety level increases, their capacity to learn and retain new information decreases. This means that a team under intense distress (a.k.a. anxiety, or bad stress) will take them longer to learn new skills and get important projects done. That’s not to say that all pressure is bad – holding the fire under a team’s proverbial feet is often the only way to get things done. What I am talking about is how leaders oftentimes take themselves and their jobs so seriously, that they end up creating a high-anxiety work environment that ultimately has a counterproductive effect on their team’s overall well-being, and their work product.
Laughter is the antidote to this conundrum.
Laughing releases tension from the body, and allows positive energy to flow freely. Additionally, when someone feels comfortable enough to tell a funny joke or story, they allow themselves to be vulnerable for a moment. Others notice this willingness to be vulnerable, and greater trust is the result.
Humans are relational beings. We desperately need to unplug, laugh, and bond with one another. So do yourself a favor- lighten up. Tell a (tasteful) joke or two. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Your team will thank you. Want to read more about the benefits of laughter in the workplace? Read Dana Bilsky Asher’s article, “The Surprising Link Between Laughter and Learning” for more insight on this.