BS in the Workplace: The Psychology of a Hearty Laugh

I drink a lot of coffee and a lot of Coke Zeros throughout my mornings. Consequently, no one is surprised when I have to excuse myself at a meeting to use the ladies room. It seems natural and in no way unexpected. Yes, I ingest a lot of caffeine and have too tiny a bladder for the caffeine I push through it. However, oftentimes when I head out to the restroom in the middle of a large meeting it is because I need a moment. I need a moment to have a hearty laugh.

I tend to say jokes all the time and have been noted to just laugh throughout the day. The building janitor noted the other day that he likes seeing me because I’m always laughing. It puts other people in a good mood. Well, that is, it puts people who are not paranoid in a good mood. There have been a few people, admittedly, that get a little freaked out by my ability to just laugh throughout the day.

Last week, I was caught in the middle of a workplace storm where the ludicrous was not so sublime. There were various meetings where I just laughed out right therein and others where I had to run out to the restroom and giggle into a paper towel. I felt like a Hogwarts girl doing so. Oh, life was definitely throwing me curve-balls and all I could do at the moment was laugh at them.

Have you seen video that has gone viral by Karl Pilkington called “Bullshit Man”? If you have to sit through insufferable meetings at work, check it out. Once you do, you too will leave meetings mid-way to have a hearty laugh and flashback to the video. In one meeting I was at, a rather dignified old-school guy was at his breaking point. He just outright noted how this was all BS and this “ducker” was a “MF” liar. I felt like such a naughty schoolgirl listening to this dignified man lose it. I couldn’t stop from laughing. He was serious and in mental pain from the lies he perceived to be occurring. I tried to soothe his fears but he was right. He was absolutely 100% right. I just kept laughing. He looked at my heavily contorted face and cracked a smile. Then he chuckled and shook his head. Laughter calmed him down.

In the psychological and business literature, it has been noted that indeed laughter can be the best medicine for organizational health. Some have argued that laughter in the workplace boosts productivity. It would seem to me that laughter can booster a sense of being comrades in arms and enhance teamwork. Supposedly, enhanced teamwork can increase productivity and production of good quality work. I am not 100% sure about that latter part, but I am willing to go with it. I like laughing and heartily encourage others to do so as well.

Now, in this particular situation with the dignified angry colleague, laughter helped diffuse the situation and lowered his ever-increasing blood pressure. He knew I was not laughing at him but was commiserating and noting the ludicrousness of it all. I was truly his comrade. We were both in mental pain but we were both expelling the bad vibes out from our bodies.

Later that day, there was a much larger meeting where I felt my brain would explode. Karl Pilkington’s video was so right on point. Have you ever sat at a meeting where not one word could be believed? Why don’t those meetings ever become a drinking game where Mai Tai shots are taken every time BS is uttered. Probably because productivity would increase for about an hour and then precipitously and dangerously plummet. With a soda in hand, I left said meeting and headed to the restroom and laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

Now let us go back to the premise that laughter can increase productivity. It can when directed at an external issue. What happens, though when your shared laughter is at perceived workplace injustices? Eventually continued injustice-precipitated laughter, leads to a sense of bitterness, resignation and continued disbelief.

I still believe in laughter. I think it is better than yelling, fuming or vomiting. I don’t need my body getting sick from all the BS. Go ahead, laugh and be healthy. Can’t muster a laugh? Try tickling yourself. No, it is not possible but eventually you will laugh at how silly you just were in trying to tickle yourself.