We’ve become a nation of anxiety-riddled employees, fruitlessly chasing our tails in search of relief. Thank goodness we still have a sense of humor, even if it’s been scared into hiding by the snarling dogs of workplace pressure.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to seek out reading material that will help you see the lighter side of business life. The following books definitely fit that bill. Whether you’re chuckling at the antics of a free-wheeling tech startup or laughing your way to improved team productivity, the selections listed here will help you ditch the stress and enjoy better moments at work.
1. Humor That Works: The Missing Skill for Success and Happiness at Work by Andrew Tarvin
Too often, leaders take everything too seriously. Not surprisingly, their dryness takes a toll on employees, leading to stale, unexciting work cultures where true engagement dies on the vine. If your business lacks a fun spark, read Humor That Works. Andrew Tarvin lays out how you can reframe your management style and celebrate the ironically amusing side of most situations. I especially appreciated the way he links happiness and higher productivity to a lighter attitude. My best working memories involve teams that spent their time laughing and learning, not longing for 5 o’clock.
2. The Laughing Guide to Change: Using Humor and Science to Master Your Behaviors, Emotions, and Thoughts by Ora Prilleltensky and Isaac Prilleltensky
Embracing change comes with challenges. Fortunately, Ora and Isaac Prilleltensky have found an innovative way to merge cognitive and behavioral transformation with humor. The Laughing Guide to Change introduces scientific methods of controlling your mental and physical responses when doing something differently, yet the language is hardly dry. The authors add a twist to the self-help book by incorporating serious fun throughout. I enjoyed the way their narrative style moved seamlessly between research-backed wisdom and amusing anecdotes. I’m considering using their science-meets-laughter learning technique in my executive coaching practice.
3. Nincompoopery: Why Your Customers Hate You—And How to Fix It by John R. Brandt
Every company has its sacred cows. However, those legacy bovines can be precisely what sends customers stampeding to the competition. With compassion and humor, John Brandt reveals why corporations must regular reconsider all their processes and decisions or risk losing market share and reputation. After being introduced to this book, I immediately started sifting through our team’s tried-and-true procedures to trim any fat that could weigh down our growth. It was cathartic and refreshingly freeing to go against the herd.
4. Take Off!: 21 High-Flying Secrets for Career Success by Stephen A. Forte
Craving a book with a refreshing, witty vibe that has the same cadence as bantering with your best friend? Stephen Forte establishes himself as a modern-day humorist while sharing intimate, insightful and sometimes embarrassing details about his often-strange journey in the aviation industry. I can’t say I’m ready to jump out of an airplane or take the pilot’s seat, but I do know that I learned some applicable success tips from Forte and his brushes with actors, business mavens and bizarre figures. And I’ll employ them to help my business fly higher.
5. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
Dan Lyons’ reflections on joining a venture-backed tech startup in the early going pulls back the curtain on life in a company that was backed by millions but lacked clear boundaries. I shook my head many a time, amazed at the cultural anomalies he describes—truly, it’s hard to imagine a place that seems more foreign or less professional. Nevertheless, I came away from Disrupted with kernels of inspiration to rev up my own business dealings. While I’m going to pass on the late-night partying, I’m not averse to occasional goofy hijinks.
Who doesn’t love a good laugh? Stoical bosses and snippy colleagues, that’s who. But according to Michael Kerr, their pushback against playfulness only serves to degrade a business’s culture. His witty yet thought-provoking book places a premium on bringing lightheartedness to the job. Not only does Kerr offer plenty of examples to support his penchant for positivity, but he provides a wealth of ways to transform stick-in-the-mud workplaces. I’ve always thought that companies need regular infusions of laughter. The Humor Advantage has prompted me to stir the office (coffee) pot more often.
What if you bucked your preferred nature for 365 days, forcing yourself so far out of your comfort zone that it vanished? The introverted Jessica Pan took this challenge and shares her hilarious, cringeworthy and sometimes surprising outcomes in Sorry I’m Late. I found myself rooting for this unlikely hero as she constantly pushed against her personal leanings in the ultimate life experiment. Pan’s year-long adventure shows how we could all benefit from straying further from the nest. In response, I’ve added some uncharacteristic-for-Rhett items to my to-do list: Wish me luck.