Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast

The Power of Laughter in the Workplace

August 02, 2021 Maria Melfa, Jocelyn Allen, David Horning Season 1 Episode 5
Bring Out the Talent: A Learning and Development Podcast
The Power of Laughter in the Workplace
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of, “Bring Out The Talent,” we speak with David Horning, speaker, comedian, and founder of the hilarious “Water Cooler Comedy.” 

David will discuss how humor can be used as a powerful tool to inspire happiness, ignite creativity, boost productivity, and promote a collaborative workplace culture. He will also chat about ways that leaders can effectively use humor in the workplace, four types of humor that leaders will find effective in managing workplace culture, and what types of humor to avoid. 

Tune into this episode to discover how you can capitalize on the power of humor in your workplace!

Maria Melfa [00:00:05] Thank you for joining us today for bring out the talent. My name is Maria Melfa and I am the CEO and president at the Training Associates. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:00:14] And I’m Jocelyn Allen. I’m a talent recruitment manager here at TTA, and I’m thrilled to have you join us here. 

Maria Melfa [00:00:20] So we’re very excited to have David Horning join us today. David is a keynote speaker, consultant, comedian and founder of Water Cooler Comedy. He has a degree in political science from the University of Akron over eight years in comedy and a passion for bringing humor to the workplace. David spent years living in New York City and studying comedy while performing an improv comedy clubs. His sketch comedy show, Laundry Day, was selected for the New York Comedy Festival after being floored by the fact that only one in three people are engaged by their work. David decided to leave the city to set out on a mission to disrupt workplace culture as a leadership speaker. David’s mission is to transform workplaces by inspiring culture shifts that make work more meaningful, more human and, most importantly, more fun so that both leaders and employees alike can be more engaged and productive. His mission to find the humor in everything has culminated in his new podcast, titled You Can’t Laugh At That, which explores elements of stand up comedy to discover perspectives that can make even the most offensive or clichéd topics funny. David, as a leadership speaker who possesses programs with laughs that will transform your company culture and change your perspective on leadership and on humor in the workplace. Wow, David. 

David Horning [00:01:47] And that is all the time we have here. The man. I got it. I got I got some of that 

Jocelyn Allen [00:01:58] Stop doing 

Maria Melfa [00:01:59] Stuff I know now. But it’s obvious it’s a great review on your talent and experience. Absolutely. 

David Horning [00:02:07] Inside baseball here. I wrote that. So. 

Maria Melfa [00:02:12] Yeah. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:02:13] David, so thank you so much for joining us. As Maria said, we were big fans of yours over here. You conducted a webinar with us that was a ton of fun. As an attendee, I can tell you that I did laugh the whole time. And we just want to tell our listeners a little bit more about you. You’ve been a comedian for over eight years. Like what brought you to this place that you’re at now? 

David Horning [00:02:37] Yeah, I mean, the natural progression from political science to comedy is not that big of a gap there. Just I’ve always found joy in making other people laugh and being able to do that in dark circumstances when people are going through negative life experiences and being able to bring a smile to their faces, you know, that’s kind of where it all started. And then just the idea that this is a skill that people can learn, you know, I’m a I’m obsessed with human behavior. I love exploring why people do what they do. And instead of really focusing on what they did, I want to dive a little bit deeper into that and learning that humor is a skill that anybody can call upon, whether you’re funny or not. I want people to learn the same skills that I have learned and being able to find humor and dig deeper into any given situation. And so speaking and performing comedy, obviously, that’s that instant gratification that that dopamine hit right away by making people laugh. But I’ve gotten into speaking and consulting and training because I want to teach people those same skills to think like a comedian before acting like a leader, because it changes how you lead the way you look at things first and foremost. 

Maria Melfa [00:03:51] I think that’s a brilliant idea. I know you reached out to me originally on LinkedIn many months ago, and I do get a lot of messages through LinkedIn and oftentimes I don’t have enough time to get back to people. But because I am so passionate about having a fun and engaging workplace where I hear laughter and all day is just so important to me. So I got back to you right away, David, and we had some phone calls and we were excited to have you conduct a webinar. And as we can see, it resonated with a lot of people because we had over nine hundred and fifty people register for your webinar. And we’ve had a lot of webinars on very interesting topics over the last year. But this was by far the most well attended. Just want to read a few words, build trust, enhance problem-solving skills, reduce employee absenteeism, increase company loyalty, prevent long-term burnout, improve productivity, burn calories, increase happiness, increase perceived leadership skills, build confidence and a. Abilities bring creative skills into the workplace. These are some of the incredible benefits of bringing humor in the workplace, but yet still so many companies do not embrace this philosophy. They feel like we can’t have fun. What is this, like a joke? We have to work here, all of those positive attributes. Why do you believe that leaders don’t want to have fun in the workplace? 

David Horning [00:05:34] It’s uncomfortable. It’s fear. It’s new. It’s breaking up the status quo. It’s so much easier to maintain the way things are and doing something that’s outside of the box, there’s a risk that it might not work. But the ultimate irony there is that taking those risks and making those mistakes help us learn faster. And when you do it, using a sense of humor, when you’re able to laugh, when you fall on your face and rallies the people around you because it humanizes yourself, it level sets you as a leader. And now you have a tribe of people who are looking to make this work. So not only can you get to the right solution faster, I mean, that’s the irony to me in it. Not only can you do that, but it brings people together. It builds that trust that it creates that by and it all starts from that place of fear. And I think a lot of it has to do with the questions that we ask ourselves. Right. From a leadership position. Usually, the question is, what should we do this or shouldn’t we? And there’s only two answers there. Life is way more nuanced than that. And that’s what I love about comedy, is comedy explores the nuance. It explores the great explorers. It goes beyond the judgment, thinking, the binary thinking that this or that way of thinking. So instead of asking the question, well, should we or shouldn’t we use humor in the workplace, the question that more people need to ask, and that’s why I do what I do is to challenge people to ask this question is how can we do it? How can we do it based on our culture, on our people, on my own personality? How can we combine all these things and make this a possibility? Because the answers, that question, there are so many different ways to answer that question that can be overwhelming to there is never just one right answer. If only life were that simple, but that would make life boring. 

Maria Melfa [00:07:23] Yes, I 

David Horning [00:07:24] And we want to explore that complexity. 

Maria Melfa [00:07:27] I know when I was a guest on your podcast a few months ago, you posted it. And we did get an interesting comment where a gentleman said, I didn’t realize that leaders were not allowing people to laugh in the workplace. It’s not that leaders do not allow laughter in the workplace. I don’t think that rarely happens in today’s work environment. But the difference is, is making laughter a very integrated part of your culture that you actually do a lot of things to make people laugh. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:08:04] Speaking of which, I have a very important question to ask based on all of the key points. Are the benefits to using humor in the workplace? So you say burn calories here. How many jokes does a person have to tell to get into a bikini by summer? Exactly. 

David Horning [00:08:23] That’s the burning. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:08:24] I think we need metrics here. 

Maria Melfa [00:08:27] If even if you could please 

Jocelyn Allen [00:08:31] Share your thoughts, 

David Horning [00:08:33] Don’t cancel the beach body subscription, don’t throw out the treadmill. But the physiological reaction of squeezing out of your lungs, I mean, that’s you know, that’s good for you. And also the chemicals that it unlocks in the brain, too. And that’s those are the most important health benefits for me, is that if you’re stressed out and then you can, you’re that moment when you finally realize it’s OK to laugh at whatever the situation is like, that feeling, that just kind of wave of relief, that’s endorphins. That’s dopamine. If you’re with other people, it’s oxytocin. If you’re the one making other people that that serotonin and those are the chemicals, the combat stress, which makes you healthier. So organizations that incorporate fun into work, if I’m going to flip this into what I talk about organizations that do that, they see fewer sick days being taken. They see more productivity, they see more motivation because those feelings and those chemicals are released and you’re in your people’s bodies. And those are the that that’s the cocktail that we want people to have while they’re at work. Yes. That brain cocktail. 

Maria Melfa [00:09:40] I know sometimes laughing so hard, I experience the feeling of just doing about five hundred sit-ups when your stomach hurts a lot. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:09:49] And the cheeks. 

Maria Melfa [00:09:50] Yes. And the 

Jocelyn Allen [00:09:51] Cheekbones. That’s my thing. That’s how I know that you’ve got me. It’s like when my cheeks start to get sore crunches. 

David Horning [00:09:59] Check that off the list we’ve worked out today. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:10:01] That’s, I think, the biggest. The thing that we’re talking about here, when to bring it in, how to bring it in is the fear that surrounds it. So how does an organization effectively bring humor into their workplace if it’s something that they haven’t necessarily explored purposefully before? 

David Horning [00:10:20] It really depends on the organization. I always say you can’t change a leopard spots, right? So if you’re somebody who is nose to the grind, loves working, stressed out, but you’re interested in this. My advice to you is don’t try to be funny, because once you start trying to be funny, first of all, nobody likes the person who tries to be funny. It may even be trade people’s trust. If you’re if you go from that, like all business all the time to suddenly you’re cracking jokes. Where did this come from? So I think a lot of it has to do with finding those people that work with you already who are surrounded by laughter, who are the ones who are willing to take a risk and tell a joke. And it eases the tension. Those people that bring the sunshine into the office lean into those people. And that’s one reason why a lot of organizations don’t incorporate humor as like, well, you know, I don’t have time or I’m not funny at all or people don’t laugh at my jokes or I’m not creative. I’m an analytical person. You can still appreciate humor. So lean into those people who are already using humor and maybe give them the task of coming up with a few activities they can do. I always say active themed days, things like Dad joke Wednesday where people bring their favorite bad joke and then we vote on it over a slack channel or something. And at the end of the day, whoever is the best dad joke wins something and it’s a shared experience like that. So, you know, it’s like what? What works for you? What works for your people, what works for your company culture, your mission values, and how can we what’s one step you can take at a time? Not like try to do it all at once. What’s one step that you can take and how can you lean into the people who are already doing it? 

Maria Melfa [00:12:05] So I love that idea about the dad jokes and prizes. Dad. 

David Horning [00:12:11] Yes, Dad. 

Maria Melfa [00:12:13] On Tuesdays we try to do your momma jokes. So we were actually talking about that earlier. My favorite, your momma joke is your mom is so stupid. She puts a quarter in each ear and thinks she’s listening to 50 Cent. So good. So Drosten, you have a favorite, your momma joke, your favorite one. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:12:37] Your momma so fat. Her belt size 

Maria Melfa [00:12:39] Is the Quada. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:12:43] I also am a big fan of dad jokes. 

Maria Melfa [00:12:45] Yes, I have a dad. He’s, he’s full of them. 

David Horning [00:12:50] Dad jokes are pretty innocuous too. Like they’re, they’re pretty harmless for the most part. So if you’re worried about how this might cross the line, always abide by your, your company’s culture. So if what you’re about to say doesn’t fall in line with that, maybe, maybe skip it. I was talking with I spoke to a group yesterday, and one of the questions was, you know, how do we incorporate humor without crossing the line? And so I asked her in response what her company’s values were. And one of the first things she said was accountability. And I said, there it is. If somebody tells a joke and it offends somebody else, they have that accountability where they can say that was my bad. Or when that person comes to them and says, I didn’t appreciate that now we have this basis of accountability that we can start from and talk about what happened and how to do it better next time. So what value does your company have that you can use as a platform to start from when it comes to using Uber in the workplace? 

Maria Melfa [00:13:49] So do you think your momma jokes are not appropriate? 

David Horning [00:13:53] It depends on the culture. It seems like with TTA, they are appropriate. But knowing you and knowing what I know about you, I feel like it fits the culture. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:14:02] Feel like your mom was our safe zone. Yes. I mean, your dad jokes. Please leave it to the grown-ups kids. 

Maria Melfa [00:14:10] Right? We try. It’s definitely not inappropriate, but. Sure. 

David Horning [00:14:14] And in a culture like that too, I feel like if someone were to approach someone, say, hey, you know, that joke kind of offended me. I feel like there would be more of a conversation versus somebody digging their heels and defense and getting ugly. Yes. Which is a fear of a lot of people. But if you have a culture where you value one another as human beings, first, I feel like there’s more you’re more likely to have a more constructive conversation about that. That’s the way I look at it as a comic to is. It’s not my job to tell you what does and doesn’t offend you. Like, that’s not my business. If it offended you. I don’t I can’t say. Well, that shouldn’t have offended you. It’s now there’s a conversation like if somebody comes up to me after a show and says, you can’t laugh at that, which is the name of my podcast, there’s a reason for that. I like to ask questions in response, like, how can I approach this differently? Because I didn’t see it from that angle at first. And of course, the intent is always to make people feel good. Yes, it has to start from there. If if you’re malicious in your use of humor and you’re cutting people down, it’s like that’s that that can have disastrous effects. 

Maria Melfa [00:15:19] Absolutely. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:15:20] We were talking earlier about when leaders are looking to effectively place humor in the organization, but maybe they’re not the funny guy. So looking to the people who are surrounded by the jokes that they may be here making them and alleviating stress. So something that kind of came to mind for me is what if that perception to that leader is always that that’s goofing off? How do you change that perception when you think that humor in the workplace is going to completely transform a certain organization’s culture? 

David Horning [00:15:52] Is it having an impact on results? Is are you not getting your work done, being able to point to numbers? Leaders like that tend to value numbers more than anything. And I mean, that’s a good place to start in that conversation where it’s like, well, I’m getting my job done. I’m you know, other people are getting their job done, having that sense of morale and camaraderie. I mean, it’s all about making a connection with that leader. So what is their perspective here? How can I meet them where they are and then work backward to what we’re doing? If you are having fun at work and your leaders like, hey, probably don’t do that. You know, it’s all about knowing your audience and meeting your audience where you are. And I always say you can’t perform for the audience you wish you had. You have to perform for the audience that you do have and saying, oh, I wish my boss were different. But that changes the way you approach it. I’ve worked for some crappy bosses before and it’s always taken me time. But I’m always the one who, like, I toe the line. That’s always been my place in an organization when I work for other people and like, how can I toe the line but also be very likable. Well, I have to get in this person’s mind first so, you know, figure out what works, what doesn’t work and play that line and get to know them on a human level, too. 

David Horning [00:17:10] So one thing that I tell people to help them work with a difficult boss is to imagine yourself as a character on a sitcom about you, all the other people you’re dealing with. Like, let’s say it’s like a workplace comedy, like the office. Your boss is just this. This person who lacks self-awareness doesn’t allow certain things that would be beneficial for the workplace. They’re acting against their own self-interest constantly without even realizing it. That’s a character on your show and you are the main character. So the main character has to find a way to overcome those obstacles. So using my strengths as a character, my knowledge, my experience, how can I connect with that other character? It changes how you look at other people instantly. So instead of dreading them, it’s like yours. Michael Scott again. What’s he going to do tonight? Just having that simple shift in perspective. It changes how you feel about the person. It changes how you approach them, changes how you talk to other people about them. It changes how you talk to them. Little things change body language. Your posture becomes more upright without you even realizing it. If you like a person rather than, you know, you’re kind of like guarding yourself if you don’t. And that that creates a subconscious mental barrier. So it’s a simple reframing can make all the difference in how you approach a situation. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:18:30] It’s a very cool way to think about it, to insert yourself into your own sitcom. Totally relatable. I think that’s 

David Horning [00:18:37] Punching your teeth, right? I love that. Yeah. 

Maria Melfa [00:18:42] So happiness is a byproduct of laughter, right? Yes. And we all see all the stats and data on how much more productivity you get. From employees when they’re happy. So it’s interesting that more companies have an embrace that, but I do feel that, like I mentioned when we had your webinar and had so many people sign up from a lot of very large Fortune 500 companies, you could see that people are realizing, just like with mental health and wellness, you don’t come to the office being a different person. You’re the same person. You don’t leave one brain at home and walk in with another one. So, you know, it’s very important to have your employees feel appreciated, feel engaged, feel like they’re able to take risks, which is also a byproduct of having you know, you are not taking yourself so seriously in the workplace. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:19:43] Do you find the same thing, David, that a lot of organizations are kind of ready to make of the shift? Or do you still find that work isn’t the place to laugh? 

David Horning [00:19:51] They’re definitely open to making the shift they’re looking for. They’re looking for ways to engage people. And, you know, then that happens and priorities shifted. How do we connect virtually? How do we make sure people are protected and safe? And so employee engagement got put on the back burner for a little bit because we had to make this big shift. So now I think that those organizations are looking for ways to engage their teams. But here’s the thing is we have years and years of data on engagement studies and years and years of data, workplaces that embrace humor and the results are there. But it’s just a matter of overcoming that mental block, that fear that, oh, if we make work the time and place to laugh, then there’s not a time and place at work. So it’s just a matter of overcoming that mental block. And I mean, Stanford is offering a course in their graduate school business about humor in the workplace. I mean, more and more organizations are valuing it. There are more training programs. There are more workshops. I’m working with the company that does stand-up comedy training as part of their onboarding. So everybody that works there has gone through this comedy training where they do a sat by the end of this training workshop. And what they found is it creates a sense of buy-in immediate trust for new employees because everybody’s been in the same boat, even the people who are terrified of getting on stage and speaking in front of people. 

David Horning [00:21:32] When you see a room of people who have gone through that same experience, it creates instant bonding, instant trust. And they’ve seen positive results. They’re able to they have an edge in recruiting when it comes to getting creative talents because now creativity is a skill that’s so highly valued in the workplace, the company that allows their people to have fun and go through this interesting onboarding experience or the rival company who’s just like every other company, who are you going to go with? You’re going to go with that company where you can see that your creativity will be valued. More and more companies are warming up to the idea. But it’s a matter of taking that first step. And there are three options. You can keep doing things the way you’ve been doing them, which is the death knell for a company. I have a joke. I have a joke where because I’m an optimistic person, I am super like something happens. I’m like, OK, let’s find the silver lining in this. And there are all these new technologies that are coming out that are scaring people. I’m optimistic about it. I’m just worried about those people who are resistant to it. Like this guy came up to me after a show one night and he goes upstairs. 

David Horning [00:22:43] You want to buy a GPS? That’s all right. No one mad respect, man. It’s too that this was two thousand nineteen. You’re trying to salvage GPS in twenty nineteen. That is an entrepreneurial spirit. No. Two, never start a sales pitch with. All right. Unless you’re selling hidings. And then number three, I don’t need a GPS because I already printed MapQuest directions to Blockbuster. And I tell that joke because like MapQuest and Blockbuster were super relevant ten, fifteen years ago and now they’re totally obsolete because they kept that well, we’ve never done it that way before mentality. And so that’s the value of humor in the workplace. Its humor allows us to pivot quickly so that when we are faced with unexpected adversity here, we are facing uncertainty. Being able to laugh creates that instant perspective shift where you’re now seeing things from a different point of view. When we laugh, I like to say it’s our brain’s way of saying, oh, never looked at it that way before, because all of a sudden you’re being taken to a different place. When a comedian delivers a joke, we figure it out. The punch line, the punch line to that joke, and it makes us laugh. The same parts of our brains lighting up as when we solve a problem. So solving problems and joking go hand in hand if the joking is done in a productive way. 

Maria Melfa [00:24:07] I love hearing the examples of these corporations using these laughter workshops onboarding program. We do that less formally, but that’s a great idea. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:24:18] It is a very cool idea. I think the onboarding kits should come with tomatoes. 

Maria Melfa [00:24:23] And I know I’m actually funny because I’m working on a few ads right now. We’re looking for a few different people to join the company. And I’m thinking that I probably do not have enough humor written into that. I know, like, we’ll do a couple of little jokes here and there, but that’s definitely important to do. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:24:42] We should ask their favorite dad joke. 

Maria Melfa [00:24:45] Yeah. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:24:46] As part of this. Right. Please give us your dad joke and then an offer letter will come with feedback 

Maria Melfa [00:24:55] On how we can improve. Yeah. 

David Horning [00:24:58] And that’s the beauty of it too is it’s not like, you know, they don’t have to be funny. It’s just having that appreciation for the sense of humor. So the willingness to even take that risk and tell that joke. That’s a great interview. Exactly. Just to kind of break up that that status quo, but also to kind of introduce them to what kind of culture you already have.

Jocelyn Allen [00:25:19] So a constant theme, as we’ve been talking here, is about leading with laughter and how it affects your culture. And we are dealing with a back to workforce post-pandemic. We’re dealing with people who are very not interested in even coming back to work across the globe. I think a workplace culture could be contributing to the reason why people don’t necessarily want to be ready to come back to work. So why are your thoughts that way? What have you seen that contributes to this? And how would workplace humor possibly solve that issue? 

David Horning [00:25:52] I have a long history in the service industry and that’s an industry that has been fundamentally changed by what’s going on right now. And I went into that industry looking at it as a survival job, but I was lucky enough to work at a restaurant with a leadership team that allowed us to be creative, that allowed us to think outside of the box and the way we solve problems that that that were very open and embraced the idea of just being able to laugh together and laugh openly and often. And it changed the survival job into a place that I ended up working at for almost five years. What that did is we had the same front-of-house staff for over two years, which is almost unheard of in the service industry. It created a camaraderie. And when you’re around people that you look forward to seeing when you’re around leaders, that you look forward to going above and beyond for it creates that intrinsic buy-in that that that intrinsic motivation wherein an organization like that, people will recommend and refer their friends and family to go come work here. This is a great place to work. I have fun. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a service industry. You can be anywhere. You know, are your people leaving and telling their friends and family excitedly about their job, or is it just another day, another dollar? You know, what kind of mentality are you imparting upon your people? And humor plays a role in that because an organization that is open to using humor is also an organization that is open to allowing its employees to be creative. 

David Horning [00:27:35] And when more able to be creative, we’re operating from a place of creation which kind of feels like that obviously makes sense. But that means when you’re in a state of creation, when you’re in that creative mindset, you’re not stressed that you can’t be both at the same time. Like you can have that kind of excitement, which can almost feel like stress. But you know that that’s that feeling of flow where at the end of the day, it’s like like nine hours just went by. That’s crazy. And this is a real look in the mirror. A moment for a lot of leaders is are your people leaving work with that mentality where they can’t wait to come back tomorrow even though we have still a job? Do you see them going above and beyond for one another? Do you see them going above and beyond for you? You know, if one person’s work is done, are they just on Facebook scrolling or are they going to help somebody else? Like there’s all these little quantitative measures that you can kind of look at, these quantitative behaviors you can look at to really tell whether or not you’re cultivating a culture where people want to be. And now as we’re getting back to work, people are kind of self-examining and thinking, do I want to come back here? I mean, we just face this crazy disruption, this thing where it kind of had. Question our own mortality to an extent. 

David Horning [00:28:57] I want to work at a job where I feel like I’m wasting my time, where they don’t value me, or do I want to look somewhere else where they have a better reputation, they’re on their best places to work, list the number of people that I’ve spoken to. So before I give a presentation, I’ll reach out to the group and I’ll ask you to be in contact with individual members. Maybe that’s a bit of selfishness on my part because I’m a people person and I can’t like to network in person. So I’m just like I get to get to meet with people on my computer and make new friends. But a few of them have talked about how I’ve been with this company for eight, nine years. They’ve taken care of me. But now with this going on, I just have so much more on my plate and they’re not providing support. Now, I’m really questioning the fact that I’m working here. So after this and after things get back to a sense of normalcy, do I want to stay here? And that’s not a place we want our people to be. So it’s really important, too. And what is the most important part of using humor is the ability to think beyond just the surface value, to look beyond and ask what else could be true, what else is true here? And this is a real, genuine opportunity for leaders to lean into that, ask open-ended questions of their employees and really listen to that feedback and adapt to it, and kind of self-examine. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:30:13] I had no hesitation coming back to the office at T8 for that reason. I’m somebody who very much values my workspace and how I’m getting things done. So it wasn’t even just about that was part of it. It was, you know, this is my space and now the kid can go back to daycare. I can have my time away, I can have my space again, all of that stuff. But it did become about the genuine human face-to-face connection to the point where now we have people adding days to the weeks they’re coming in on the office because they heard that Tuesday might be the really fun day, you know, things like that. So I just Maria, to give you a shout-out, hasn’t mentioned that she’s a hilarious human being and literally has us going all day long laughing and giggling with the songs and the dances and the activities that she likes to provide for us. But there are days where I don’t want to miss out on that and I’ll push myself further than I would just because being a part of the culture is so important and so amazing. And it just speaks volumes about people who are willing to put in the work to create that space for their employees because they you reap the benefits long term. I have never wanted to work so hard for an individual in my life just because of how supported and comfortable I am. And I know I am not the only person that feels that way. I can say that because we just recently won again for however many years in a row through our third year in a row consecutive year. 

Maria Melfa [00:31:43] Boston Business Journal, one year, Boston Globe. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:31:46] Ok, so there we go. So three total years of being one of the Boston best places to work, voted anonymously by all of our internal employees. So I know that I’m not the only one who feels that way. 

David Horning [00:31:58] And that’s awesome. I love that you’re doing that if you’re like incentivizing people to come back to work through the activities and the shared experience that you’re creating. Now, I have a question for you. Are you giving people I mean, it sounds like you’re giving people the option if they want to work, say, stay at home and work or come in the office or do a little bit of both? Is that right? 

Maria Melfa [00:32:19] That’s a good question. Yes, we are giving everybody the option. So it’s obviously a personal preference. And some people have safety concerns. Sometimes it’s a matter of child care. But people can elect that 

David Horning [00:32:33] That autonomy, though, that’s one thing that people are really looking for. And so the fact that you’re giving them the freedom to choose do I want to work with a flex schedule? Do I want to work strictly from home? Do I want to come into the office as much as I can? That is an example of giving them that option. So they have that sense of ownership, too. 

Maria Melfa [00:32:51] I think people actually get more work done at home, and I think it’s because I’m the one who’s disrupting them during the day. True to the story, so often I find myself trying to tell jokes and people looking at me like I’m on the phone. 

David Horning [00:33:10] So yeah, they. Oh, Michael Scott. 

Maria Melfa [00:33:14] Yeah, no, absolutely. I just I, I love my people. So, you know, we have like, we’re crazy about hiring the right people and having the right culture fit because I that’s one of the most important things that I’ve learned over the twenty-seven years is there’s no replacement for somebody that’s not a culture. It is like it just disrupts the organization. So culture is definitely king. And you have to do as we talked about, have humor and fun written right into it. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:33:43] Right until you came along, David, I thought that funny was just funny. But then you told me that there are actually many different types of humor. That exists in the world and more specifically that there are for I think you mentioned that you find most effective in managing the workplace or integrating into the workplace. Can you talk to us about what those are?  

David Horning [00:34:05] Well, there are two that are more beneficial. There are four styles of humor. There are two negative styles, two positive styles. And each of us is kind of predisposed to one of those styles. There’s a survey somewhere where people can take and figure out what kind of style of humor that they’re more predisposed for to negative. The one is aggressive humor, which is sarcasm. It’s cutting down somebody else to make yourself feel better. There is self-defeating humor, which is different from self-deprecating humor. Self-defeating humor has other people feeling bad for you. It may start from a place of self-deprecation, which we could all use. We could all laugh at ourselves a little bit. But if that laughing at ourselves doesn’t serve as a springboard to learning and adjusting our behaviors, then then it can be disruptive. So self-defeating humor is not a positive humor style just because it has people feeling worse after you’re done doing it on the inverse. Yeah. You don’t want people feeling bad for you and I like that. But on the inverse is self-enhancing humor, which also can include self-deprecating humor, because, as I said, it’s kind of the setup to a punch line, which is kind of a solution to a joke. So being able to laugh at your own behaviors and use that as a starting point for learning and growing can make your mistakes feel a little more palatable and also humanize you to the people around you. 

David Horning [00:35:38] And then affiliative humor, which is being able to make connections between, unlike things to ease tension. For example, I use a story and present in my presentations that I used to work at a job where literally one of the policies handed down by the owner was not to tell people they’re doing a good job because if you tell people they’re doing a good job, they’re going to stop wanting to work hard, which is so funny to me because it’s like there are so many studies out there or its great appreciation makes people work better. But I digress. So it was that that was the kind of culture we were dealing with there. One day somebody dropped a tray full of drinks and everyone stopped what they were doing and laugh. It was a super stressful shift to so, you know, it was like the worst timing for this. But everybody stopped what they were doing in class. And it was that moment that we needed to kind of cut the stress and break the break up, the tension, and the like. Oh, we’re going to rally together and get through this shift, just like we get through every other shift. And the one boss just comes in and yells, this is not the time or place to laugh. I worked at a comedy club, so by definition, 

Maria Melfa [00:36:45] It’s absolutely 

David Horning [00:36:46] The time, place to laugh. And so I noticed this and it made me laugh. And then I share that experience with some of my coworkers later on the shift. And we laughed again together and got us through the shit together. So it’s connecting those unlike thoughts where there’s this angry boss and normally that would make us feel bad and we’d go back to work, stressed out, walking on eggshells, but in this case, finding the irony in that situation. So that’s an example of affiliative humor, where it’s used to uplift, where it’s used to make observations and ease the tension. So affiliative, self-enhancing aim for those you can start from a place of self-defeating or aggressive humor as long as it ends with that positive outcome. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:37:31] I’m glad you said that because my favorite form of humor is sarcasm. Yeah. So you know, and I, to be honest, I think that there’s probably a lot of people’s it’s an easy kind of thing to do. I mean, at least for me, I don’t know if that’s telling exposing more about myself than is necessary, but what ways would you say that sarcasm can be appropriate? 

David Horning [00:37:56] There’s a number of factors that come into play. The intent. Do you want the other person to feel better or are you trying to cut down? If you’re trying to cut down, that behavior needs to stop right now. The intent is key, the audience. So who are you being sarcastic to? Is it somebody that you banter with back and forth sarcastically often, or is this somebody that you’ve never cr I’m the first comic up, I haven’t had a chance to see how the audience is responding to other comics jokes. I’ll do a couple of easy, simple jokes to kind of feel where the audience is in the room and then kind of meet them where they are and then and then mentally change my set according to their response to those jokes. So know your audience, the intent. And again, the outcome here is to make them feel better. So if you can start with sarcasm and then pivot that in. Self-enhancing or pivot that into a more affiliative style of humor, where you’re like making connections or you’re finding an uplifting punchline at the end of it like there’s any number of ways to do it. But I think those are the three things you have to look out for. The one question I tend to question myself a lot, like ask myself questions that really evaluate where I am, if what I’m going to do is right or wrong or whatever. But asking that question, is this going to make their day better, even if you even pause for a second to think about it, maybe reevaluate. 

Maria Melfa [00:39:29] So, David, as we’re ending our podcast today, I would love for you to tell us a little more about the workshops that you conduct. 

David Horning [00:39:38] The goal of these workshops, first and foremost, before we get into the nitty-gritty, is to shift people’s mindset, is to think like a comedian before you act like a leader. And what I mean by think like a comedian is to question the surface value of everything is to step outside of yourself and ask yourself, how would somebody else look at this is to realize that no matter how tough the current situation is, there is something funny there, even though you might not know what it is at first. So it’s starting to shift to that mindset because that’s not the way most people think. Most people we’re taught to think very judgmentally where, you know, this is bad and that it’s bad because of this rather than it’s way more complex than it just being bad or good or unfortunate or tragic or so I always ask the question. I always have people describe at twenty in one word. And then the following question is what was one way that you grew as a human being because of 20 20 that you wouldn’t have otherwise? My first goal is to teach people how to consciously start to reframe their state of mind. And we do that through Hands-On activities, a lot of self-reflection, a lot of communication, just kind of stream of consciousness exercises where people talk together. 

David Horning [00:41:02] And just like that, that company that that does the onboarding to Pepper, by the way, there is a marketing and communications agency out of New York. When I want people to do in these training programs is to root for one another and to support one another and to be willing to be vulnerable and share their perspective, because we have to start from where we are to get to where we want to go. And if we can incorporate a mindset shift and that’s the first goal that I have. So first training you do with me is all about creating that mindset shift and then we’ll build on that skill and go from there. I want to teach you all the skills. If once I have to try my damnedest to not like try to. This is a problem that I constantly have as I pack my presentations so much where I am like 10 other things I want to say. And there are five minutes left. Focus on the mindset first and foremost, and then we go from there to develop the acting like a leader. 

Jocelyn Allen [00:41:56] Well, thank you so much, David, for joining us. This was a lot of fun. My cheeks hurt. So mission accomplished. And thank you once again for joining us on Bring out the talent. We hope to see you again soon. 

David Horning [00:42:07] Hey, you know where to find me. 

Maria Melfa [00:42:09] I do. Thank you, David. 

David Horning [00:42:15] Of course it is. My pleasure. 

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