Happiness and laughter in the workplace

The George Costanza Myth

There is a notion in workplaces that happiness and high performance – like oil and water – don’t mix.   It stems from Henry Ford who said “When we are at work we ought to be at work.   When we are at play we ought to be at play.   There is no use trying to mix the two.”  Mr Ford was right about production lines, but modern workplaces just don’t work that way anymore. I call it the George Costanza myth.

George - not happy and not successful

George Costanza, from hit comedy series “Seinfeld”

George was, to be blunt, a ‘loser’ – which included being stingy, selfish, insecure, dishonest and lazy. Under his desk at work he had a bed so he could sleep. When he got home at night he used to tell his friends he did nothing again.

“How did you manage that?” they would ask.
“Ah” he would respond, “every time someone approaches my desk, I just look stressed, worried and busy” (George would furrow his brow, put his hands in his head, look down – you know the kind of thing)  “and they think I’ve got too much to do”.

Many workplaces are the same.  If someone looks  rushed or stressed, worried, harried or unhappy, then we think they must be busy,  they must have a lot to do,  look at them  – they are probably very effective, they must be getting a lot done.  If someone has a laugh, looks too relaxed or pauses (perhaps they’re thinking) – look at them, obviously they don’t have enough to do.

I’m not saying you don’t have a lot of work – many workplaces are stretched and you might well feel overwhelmed. I am saying that finding ways to relax, taking a breather, time-out and having a laugh are all good for productivity – not bad for it.  In fact being happy at work can make you up to 50% MORE productive.  It also aids innovation, decision-making, memory and communication (more about that next time).

Don’t buy into the myth of stress.   Stress is not an inevitable part of success.  So next time you take a relaxing deep breath, crack a joke or take time to connect with your colleagues, next time you allow yourself to feel happy remember you might also be helping your own success and becoming more productive at the same time.  Personal wellbeing and high performance go together.  More about this next time.

Give yourself a top day.
Cris Popp

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