Remember that cubicle clown who pumped out one-liners like a corporate Chris Rock? You winced, but a new book argues that employees who generate chuckles are more likely to get promoted than their grim-faced colleagues.

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That’s just one payoff that Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher claim in The Levity Effect: Why It Pays to Lighten Up.Citing data on more than a million employees, the authors say that a lighthearted, playful spirit does wonders for the workplace, pumping upmorale, lowering turnover, and, no joke, boosting the bottom line. Wesat down with Christopher to talk about how levity-loving companiesblend humor with the serious business of making a living.

Sure, it’s great to work in a fun-loving place, but does levity really help a company succeed?
Absolutely. People are at their best when they’re relaxed and loosened up. Moreblood gets to the brain. Creativity happens. If you look at Fortune’s annual “Best Places to Work” list, 82 percent of the best companies’ employees say they have fun at work. Of the companies that didn’t quite make the list, the percentage of workers having fun at work fell into the low 60s.

You say true levity is about more than just slinging the jokes. How so?
By levity, we really mean a lightness of being. It’s as much about beingfun as it is about being funny. CEOs tell us they just weren’t bornwith a sense of humor, but we tell them to just unfurrow their browsand let people know they can have fun without the boss freaking outover it.

When you say real levity must be organic to the company, what do you mean?
If you’ve built relationships of trust among your people, the fun willgrow from that. You’ve got to get to know your people and choose theright approach. Oh, and if your people don’t know each other, levitycan help there. One company we liked starts their meetings by askingeach person to tell two truths and one lie about himself or herself.The group gets to guess which one is the lie. People love it.




¦ Create holiday laughs by encouraging everyone to dress up for Halloween or giving a prize for the best April Fools’ Day prank.

¦ Hire a local comedian or actor to emcee your next company event.

¦ Have the CEO switch places with an employee for a day and film the results for all to see.

¦ Get over Hump Day (Wednesday) by showing an episode of The Office. (Dunder Mifflin T-shirts not required.)


¦Screen out undertaker mentalities in the hiring process, and let new hires know on day one -- or sooner -- that a fun-loving spirit iswelcome in your shop.

¦ Assure shy types that they don’t have to double as stand-up comics; it’s okay to enjoy the fun, whether or not you’re the next Jon Stewart.

¦ Remember, laughter must be built on respect and trust. In the absence of those qualities, nobody feels like laughing.


SUCCESS STORIES> Not sure if the levity effect is for you? then justtake a look at these three big-name companies and the things they do tolighten up. You just might change your mind.

¦ Believing that levity equals creativity, Nike has sent its employees to hang out onmovie sets, surf at Redondo Beach, and watch tapings of Oprah. The company also sponsors a politically incorrect radio talk show called KAOS.

¦ Google holds roller-hockey games in the parking lot twice a week and keeps a baby grand piano in the break room, whereemployees often gather for impromptu songfests.

¦ Music and mirth can go hand in hand. At one Microsoft location, employees sign upfor the privilege of blasting out a favorite song at three p.m. Dancing and singing along are encouraged.