People involved in interpersonal conflict in both business and industry are often too close to the problems to be of any great help in solving them. They feel insecure, uncomfortable and threatened when it comes to expressing their feelings and offering possible solutions. “What will the boss think if I rock the boat?” How will I be able to work with these people if I appear to be criticizing them?” “Will they think I’m a trouble maker?” “How can I hurt peoples’ feelings?” The predictable answers to these questions will ensure that things will remain the same. Nothing will change. Nobody wants to step outside their comfort zone and disturb the status quo no matter how much the status quo needs to be challenged. So stress continues to increase and morale continues to decline.
I have found cartoon humor to be helpful in solving relational problems in the workplace. They present real conflict situations and place them within a humorous context. By taking a cartoon and using it as the basis for discussion you accomplish a few things: You remove any personal connection between the problem and your personnel. They are discussing a cartoon situation not a situation related to them. The characters are not real and therefore you avoid hurt feelings or damaged egos. Analysing a cartoon results in a more lively discussion than if you were analysing an existing, identified problem. Workers are separated from the problem and therefore are less threatened and more willing to offer suggestions and solutions.
The humor in a cartoon is empathic humour. People laugh with the characters in the cartoon because they empathize with them and their plight. Call it the “been there, had it done to me” syndrome. When I use cartoons in my presentations I always hear people in my audience say, “Isn’t that the truth?” When I hear this I know that something has connected with them.
A wise leader will ask questions about the cartoon which will not only address the conflict generally, but will open the possibility of a similar problem existing in their specific workplace. Such as, “Could such a problem ever occur here?" “If it ever did occur here, how would we handle it?” At some point the direct link between the cartoon and an existing problem will have to be made. Even when this is done the cartoon can still be used as a non-threatening way to discuss the situation without making direct references to people who are causing the dis-ease.
This is an excerpt from Mike Moore’s special report Humor in the Workplace. For more ideas on the use of humor to solve people problems visit http;//motivationalplus.com/cgi/a/t.cgi?problems
Visit Mike’s Laughline cartoon page at http://motivationalplus.com/cgi/a/t.cgi?joyful
Mike Moore is an international speaker and writer on human potential and humor therapy.