At a tense press conference during a hostile takeover I covered as a young reporter, I got the last question. I asked the CEO of the company under siege to tell us a joke. “A joke?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. “You’re supposed to be funny. Tell us a joke.”
Obviously, it could have been a disaster. But he whipped out a joke that not only made us laugh, it sent a message to the company pursuing his. He also made his own employees relax a bit — if the boss could tell a joke at a press conference, the takeover wasn’t going to kill them, either. I got compliments about that question for years (sadly, I didn’t have space to use the joke in my story, though the Chicago Tribune did).
Humor is a dangerous thing at work. My question could easily have backfired on me (I probably wouldn’t ask it now that I’m a grizzled veteran). His joke could’ve backfired on him. But even mild humor can help inspire people to work harder, be more creative, builds loyalty, improves health and seems to increase potential for wealth.
Thus starts the review I did of “The Levity Effect” on Big Think, Lighten Up, It’s Only Work .
Most of the book isn’t about becoming a CEO with a penchant for stand-up comedy. It’s more like the CEO as straight man, letting others have a little more fun.