Blog >
The Measurable Benefits of Leading with Laughter


The Measurable Benefits of Leading with Laughter

Marja Fox shares her expertise on building a positive and productive company culture in this blog that identifies the value of having fun at work. 

Everyone hates consultants. We are the business world’s equivalent of lawyers. So, introducing yourself to a new set of clients can be a bit fraught; they already hold a host of not-so-flattering opinions about you before you even open your mouth.

One such occasion was kicking off a post-merger management project involving two dozen clients, many of whom were working together for the first time. My team had decided that we would break the ice for everyone by sharing names and favorite candy. I told this room of strangers that my signature candy was M&Ms as established by my father at my birth: “He was working for the government at the time, in a facility where cigars were forbidden, so he decided to hand out plain M&Ms instead. M&Ms because those were my initials – Marja Marie – and plain because I’m a girl. No nuts.”

The room erupted. In less than 30 seconds, I humanized myself and my team, established a baseline of humility and levity, and kick-started the social bonding that would pull us through the hard work ahead. Only humor could have managed such a feat. You might be thinking: but the risk of telling a (slightly) off-color joke to a large group in a professional setting! Yes, humor comes with risks, but the payoff is big.

The Biology of Humor

Laughter is universal across all human cultures. It even exists in some form in rats, chimp and bonobos – leading some social scientists to date its appearance to 14 million years ago, based on the last common ancestor. And it starts early: humans begin to develop a sense of humor as early as 6 weeks old, when babies first smile and laugh in response to their environment.

And yet, the reason why we laugh remains an unresolved mystery. There is strong evidence that humor is a form of social communication. Studies have shown that people are 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of others than alone – thus, the ubiquitous laugh track. Some even suggest humor is an evolutionary replacement for the social grooming seen in higher primates given the similar release in opiates. Laughter also has some modest physiological benefits such as boosting immunity, improving blood pressure and alleviating anxiety and depression. Clown therapy is used in hospital settings to help patients in their healing.


Key points include:

  • Bosses who motivate
  • Increased creativity and problem solving ability
  • Lessons for leaders


Read the full article, The Business Case for Humor, on