Humor Can Help Your Career -- No Joke!

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We don't know exactly why human beings laugh. But we do know that's it's for social reasons; laughing isn't something we tend to do alone. This makes humor an excellent tool for settling into a new workplace, at least according to 79 percent of chief financial officers.

When the temporary staffing agency Accountemps asked 1,400 CFOs, "How important is an employee's sense of humor in him or her fitting into your company's corporate culture?": 57 percent said it was "somewhat important" and 22 percent replied that it was "very important."

The value of humor in the workplace has been noted before. "The use of humor, and the ability to produce and make humor, is associated with intelligence and creativity, two things highly valued in workplaces," Chris Robert, assistant professor of management at the University of Missouri, told Businessweek back in 2007.

Office humor, especially of the David Brent/Michael Scott variety, might be seen as inappropriate, distracting and even dangerous (if it teeters over into harassment). But Robert and a doctoral student researched the effects of humor in workplace environments, and found that its benefits were manifold. It can improve creativity and department cohesiveness, and because laughter is pleasurable, on the most basic physiological level, a jokey workplace can actually boost productivity.

Laughing, and even just anticipating a laugh, can spike your health-making hormones, and drain your levels of cortisol -- the steroid that flushes your body to stress you out. So humor doesn't just help you fit in; it can actually help keep you fit. And while it's good to know that CFOs agree, the value of humor is also pretty intuitive. Starting your day with a belly of mirth is likely to up your mood and your focus better than three cups of coffee and a good cry.

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