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Humor: A New Kind of Leadership

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As the 1990s and the first decade of the new century progressed, more and more employees who used to love their jobs have joined the ranks of the frustrated, angry, overworked, burned out, anxious or depressed. Morale remains down, and people just don‘t enjoy coming to work any more. They feel burned out, overloaded, short of time, and unable to keep up with the information explosion. They are tired of the demand to do everything faster and are anxious about losing their jobs. And they’re afraid that they haven‘t yet seen the worst.

Increasing employee dissatisfaction is just one sign of a growing need for a new kind of leadership. Other changes leave companies no choice but to rethink the demands of leadership. As a result, most companies now have a horizontal rather than a vertical structure. Employees are more empowered to make decisions than ever before, but they also have heavier work loads, more time pressure, the demand for constant learning and a faster pace of change to deal with than ever before. Today’s leaders must know how to motivate employees to sustain peak levels of performance, with a constant eye to sustaining quality. They must know how to bolster team spirit and nurture open communication. And they must do all this in the midst of a sense of job insecurity at all levels of the organization.

Leaders today must recognize the strong desire of an educated work force to have work that they enjoy doing. The resistance often encountered to the idea of making work enjoyable is surprising, since any corporate culture that enables people to feel good while they’re doing their work increases the odds that employees will take pride in their work, be committed to quality, and do whatever it takes to help the team get the job done. Leaders must also know how to identify and develop resilient employees who can perform well in a demanding work environment. In the future, successful companies will increasingly be companies with resilient employees.

All of these considerations have supported the trend to put humor to work. To the great surprise of many CEOs, helping employees lighten up on the job has boosted productivity at the same time that it has provided an invaluable skill in coping with ever-increasing levels of job stress. While humor and fun are generally not mentioned in the context of Total Quality Management, they are essential to getting employees to “internalize” the commitment to quality. When the majority of employees love their jobs and have fun doing them, the motivation to provide quality comes from within.

“I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs” Samuel Goldwyn

At the top levels, of course, leadership involves the development and application of the basic values and philosophy of the company. Other articles at this web site include numerous examples of CEOs who have become convinced of the value of humor and fun on the job, and their organizations reflect this value. The employees in these companies generally enjoy their work, and the CEOs believe this is crucial to maximizing productivity and quality.

According to the CEO of Rosenbluth International, Hal Rosenbluth, it is “almost inhumane if companies create a climate where people can’t naturally have fun . . . Our role and responsibility as leaders and associates is to create a place where people can enjoy themselves. I know our company is doing well when I walk around and hear people laughing.”

In June of 2000, CEO Magazine sponsored a roundtable discussion among 25 CEOs of major American companies.  Human resource concerns were the main focus of the discussion.  The conclusion reached by these CEOs was that in order for any company to be successful in today’s competitive global market, it has no choice but to find ways to get employees to work more effectively, more rapidly and more creatively—and here’s the kicker—and to enjoy their work in the process!  In my view, this is one of the greatest challenges to leadership today.  Many companies persist in raising the bar a bit higher for employees each year, but how many are able to sustain high levels of job enjoyment in the process?  As other articles at this website document, appropriate forms of (and appropriately timed) humor in the context of everyday work efforts go a long way in helping achieve each of these goals

In the early 1960s, President Kennedy created a bold vision for people to work toward when he said that the United States would land a man on the moon and safely return him to Earth before the end of the decade. There was no technology available to do this at the time, but his commitment made it happen. My own belief is that companies today need to make the same kind of commitment to finding ways to make work enjoyable, if they want to survive and thrive in the 21st century.  Humor is one of the most powerful allies you will find in achieving this goal.

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Funny Weirdo Haircuts Drive Us Nuts!

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The problem with young people today is that they have crazy haircuts.

In my day, a lad had two choices for a haircut – a crew cut or a flat top and both cost 50 cents. You went to the barber every Saturday morning with your old dad, had your ears raised and were grateful to look like every other kid on your block.

But these young people today. They all want to “express themselves” with their weirdo hairdos!

They walk around with their spiky bangs, corn rows, streaky uplifts, mohawks, faux hawks and wigged out sideburns. It’s a carnival freak show but without the popcorn.

If I had ever come home with a multi-colored mullet and a bum fluff goatee my old dad would have used me as a stump and split a cord of wood on my back.

It’s showy and disrespectful. Plumped and preening like a bunch of randy roosters let loose in a hen house. Disgraceful. I say they should round those damned young people up and sheer them down like the sheep they’re supposed to be.

It’s dangerous I tell you and it leads to anarchy and loose morals. It won’t be long before willy nilly hair styles aren’t enough for them anymore and they start frothing at the mouth, burning down post offices, practicing communism and forcing seniors to sport dreadlocks, rattails, moptops and worse.

And mark my god damned words, when that day comes we are all going to be well and truly sorry.

They have crazy haircuts. That’s the problem with young people today.

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Oh God! Young People Need to Toughen the Hell Up

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The problem with young people today is that they’re too damned soft.

In my day, young people were tough, damn it. We were gristly, sinewy and hard as nails. My generation was forged in a furnace of fiery parents, sweltering outhouses, creamed chip beef and the type of childhood diseases that either killed you or put some damned hair on your chest.

We had to be hard – conditions demanded it. There was no room for mollycoddling and teenaged slackassery. We couldn’t lie around in our underpants all day levelling up in Donkey Kong and text messaging our idiot friends. We were too busy rendering sheep fat, toting ice blocks and extracting our own teeth for that kind of foolishness. Our “down time” was getting dressed up in flour sack suits and attending the funerals of siblings who had died of dust pneumonia.

But these young people today? They’re marshmallows. And the similarity extends beyond their squishy plumpness and incredible lack of taste. Most have never done a lick of honest work and wouldn’t recognized a calloused palm if you clapped them across the ear with one.

They don’t understand what it means to sacrifice or to go without. For them, sacrifice is eating an unfrosted pop tart, fornicating with an unflavored condom or settling for less than an unlimited phone plan. Take away their cushy duvets, parental fawning and Junior Shopper credit cards and they wouldn’t last 5 damned minutes in the cold hard world.

And they’re emotionally soft too. Call a young person a worthless ninnyhammer and he’ll whinge, cry and fold up like a house of cards just to prove you right. Criticism’s considered some form of abuse instead of what it’s supposed to be – a practical assessment of your obvious limitations and some damned motivation to prove me wrong.

Face facts, this country is deep in the toilet and one flush away from becoming “Runningdoghai” the 23rd Province of the People’s Republic of China. If we ever want to return our nation to its former glory we need to stop raising a generation of spongy cry-babies and get back to work on hardening our resolve, our bodies and our minds.

They’re too damned soft. That’s the problem with young people today.

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Sensible Careers – A Joke!

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It’s high time we brought back good old fashioned jobs like costermongers, spittleman, wheeltappers, pettifoggers, pig jobbers, quarrel pickers and knock knobblers.

American Barbershop Idol

Surely to God we’ve exhausted this nation’s supply of caterwauling nancy boys and are ready to bring some damned decent singing back to the national stage. Four part harmonies plus straw boaters equals toe-tapping, good clean family fun.

Cursive Writing

And I don’t mean swearing. I mean putting pen to paper. They may be able to text 80 words a minute but ask them write a sentence longhand and it comes out looking like something a chimp would produce with a pointed stick and mitt full of mashed blackberries.

The Power of Positive Gumption

All this new age, positive-thinking hokum smacks me as being the worst kind of bumph since Clark Stanley sold his first bottle of snake oil elixir back in 1893.

Positive thinking as a means to an end is like the American Dream – it’s fine in theory but really only helpful to those with good genes, rich families and access to a decent education. For everyone else – it’s sleight of hand and empty platitudes.

For 2012, instead of folks assuming they can set their life right with little more than a combination of visualizations, affirmations and positive mental brainwaves, I’d like to see people attempting to set reasonable goals and then achieving them through a combination of hard work, determination and the power of positive gumption.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve but keep the damned noise down. I’ll be in bed by 9:30.

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About the Humor Column

We give you a reason to laugh all day.

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