On my last job search I came across the following position: Court Jester. You read that right. This particular company was hiring someone to liven up the office through his or her antics. At the time it was the only company I saw that had a position like that.

How times have changed... Just when you thought you had seen everything, here comes the humor consultant. We now seek advice from folks who claim to know how to keep workplaces fun and frivolous.

If I sound cynical, I'm not. Honest. I just sound that way when I write.

But, yes, we now have humor consultants. According to Portfolio.com, these professionals are not teaching employees and management how to tell jokes or put on a comedy show. Instead, they are showing them to see the bright side of all situations. Finding some sunshine in what some would say are dark times is the ultimate goal.

The value of this could be great. After all, many of us spend long periods of time each day at the workplace. Why not make it enjoyable? Laughter and the endorphins that come with it just may make you like your job in the end.

Results, however, have been mixed thus far. Some snippets from the article:

- 'Patricia Clerico-Parham of Cisco Systems says [ New Yorker cartoon editor Bob] Mankoff's presentation there last year helped "defuse tension in a competitive environment where there's not much downtime." His talk was "an important reminder that it's okay to have fun, and brainstorming is not about blaming," she adds.

- One client, Tim Warneke, senior director of King Pharmaceuticals in Cary, North Carolina, says these sessions not only help employees learn how to "bring fun to work" but also coaches them on what is appropriate humor. "She gives feedback on what is and isn't going to fly," he says.

- Take the humor consultant who wore a red rubber clown nose while speaking to a regional gathering of State Farm employees. Spokeswoman Carolyn Fujioka says he was "pretty lame and he provided no revelations."

- A consultant who served up platitudes like "humor is a life-giving liquid" and "humor occurs at the speed of trust" to management trainees at McDonald's also was not well received. The company official who booked the guy angrily hung up on this reporter when asked about the experience.

Like with all consultants, do the due diligence. Determine if the consultant did improve the workplace and help contribute to better bottom lines for his or her clients. Bringing in a humor consultant is risky; the returns must merit that risk.

If you teach a person to laugh, then he shall laugh for a lifetime. Or something like that.

Do you see upsides in hiring humor consultants? Should we just seek out employees and managers with positive orientations instead? Can an optimistic outlook on worklife be taught?

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Tags: consultants, ha, humor


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Comment by Jason Lane on October 8, 2008 at 2:27pm
Amanda - Great comment, couldn't agree more. One of my favorite books ever was 'Kitchen Confidential' by the now famous Anthony Bourdain. In it he says basically the same thing - he'd rather hire someone who has the character and drive and wants to be there than someone who is more qualified but less passionate about the job. "You can teach cooking, but you can't teach character" is his quote from the book - truer words could not be spoken.

By the way just an LOL, buddy of mine had a gig for awhile as Captain Morgan - Literally, he would go to bars dressed as the Capt, with a team of shot girls, and promote their product. Said it was the best job he ever had.

Comment by Paul Paz on October 7, 2008 at 10:50pm

I have been managed on many occasions with this repeated phrase from superiors,

"Smile... Be happy... damn it!"

It usually makes me smile internally!

Comment by Heather Stewart on October 7, 2008 at 8:41am
I think it is not only important to hire for personality and positivity, but to coach it as well. As leaders of a company, we should all lead by example. I cannot force my team to have fun just because some "humor consultant" is around, especially if I am walking around with a cynical attitude.
That being said, where do I sign up to be the court jester? I do that already on top of my normal responsibilities, maybe this is a step up! :)
Comment by Amanda Vroom on October 2, 2008 at 12:15pm
You should always hire for personality. You teach anyone a task!

Comment by Keith Bernhardt on October 2, 2008 at 9:31am
I remember several years ago, Continental Airlines hired "stand up comics"
for some of their flights.

For a long time, work was considered "serious". there was a time and place for "humor" and "relaxation" Work wasn't a vacation was always the venecular.

We need to escape from time to time and relax, even from work.

This is a good topic, I enjoyed this immensely.




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