by Larry Weaver
There’s nothing funny about layoffs and pay cuts, but they’re no reason to lose your sense of humor at work, especially during a season that’s supposed to be fun and festive.
Managers can do their staffs a huge favor during these tough economic times by lightening up the workplace. How? Talk about the positives—and do it publicly.
Turn your holiday celebration into an awards ceremony. Invite employees to bring their families to a casual, informal gathering at which you can congratulate employees for their accomplishments, review your organization’s successes and put a positive spin on your outlook for the coming year.
Most important: Make them laugh. The American worker could really use a good chuckle right about now. Everybody knows these are tough times. There’s no need to rehash it. Have an event that celebrates only the good.
Here are some suggestions for an awards ceremony that your employees will remember long after the holidays:
If you’re going to have a presentation, choose someone with a sense of humor as master of ceremonies. If you can’t afford a “corporate comedian,” enlist the “class clown” from among your employees for the job. Don’t be afraid to select an employee from the rank and file. For once, humor is more important than hierarchy.
Don’t limit your awards to traditional categories such as length of service, perfect attendance or most sales. Give funny awards to employees, too—designations that gently poke fun at people who can take it.
How about a “selective hearing” award for the person who hears only what he or she wants to? Or the “Jerry Seinfeld” award for someone who’s known for making something out of nothing. Maybe you could bestow a “Loch Ness” award to the employee least likely to be found at his or her desk.
Tip: Give these tongue-in-cheek awards only to employees you know will accept them in the spirit of fun. If you embarrass or insult someone, the party will be over.
A few days before the party, walk around the workplace with a camera and take pictures of people at work. Ask them to do something funny or make a silly face. Organize them into a PowerPoint presentation. Showing it at the party will help foster a sense of community and make people laugh. Include funny photos of yourself—and your organization’s execs—as well. The people you include in the slide show will feel a sense of recognition.
Don’t limit your attempts to help employees feel valued and recognized to a once-a-year event. I’ve never worked anywhere that I was thanked too much. Have you?
Encourage managers to pat employees on the back on a regular basis. Make those moments more meaningful by:
- Making them personal. Coach supervisors to get to know what’s important to each member of their team. People of different ages and positions like to be thanked in different ways. A shy person might appreciate a private handshake in the boss’s office, while someone else might like to be singled out for praise in front of everyone at the weekly staff meeting. Tailor your thanks so it means the most to the recipient.
- Giving a memento. A handwritten thank-you note or a certificate of appreciation is something the employee can show off at home, hang on a cubicle wall and keep as a reminder of his or her accomplishment.
- Keeping it light. You don’t have to be a comedian to make someone smile. Use workplace-appropriate humor during conversations with employees whom you’re singling out for praise. The better you know an employee, the more you will understand what the person might consider funny.
It’s been proven that laughing and even smiling can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, boost the immune system and produce a sense of well-being. What better rewards could you give to a valued employee during a time when there seems to be so little to smile about?
Author: Larry Weaver is a comedian specializing in corporate events and private parties and author of Funny Employee Awards, Your Complete Guide to Organizing a Humorous, Entertaining and Rewarding Recognition Ceremony. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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