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The 7 Building Blocks of High Performance Humor

Uncategorized Sep 24, 2019

Fun fact:

In January of this year, Southwest Airlines reported their 46th consecutive year of profitability. They also ranked #11 on Fortune’s 2019 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies.

One of this company’s standout qualities is its dedication to a humorous corporate culture. Their flight crews are encouraged to be funny, and the numbers don’t lie - that sense of humor is paying off!

No, this post isn’t sponsored by Southwest Airlines! They’re just an excellent example of how a company that values a good laugh achieves success. This is High Performance Humor at work (literally!).

High Performance Humor: Let’s Break It Down

High Performance Humor (HPH) is the strategic use of humor in a professional setting in order to achieve a more successful work environment.

Every organization can benefit from incorporating HPH into their workplace; however, before you can give HPH a seat in the boardroom, you have to understand how to properly employ it.

I’ve identified the components to HPH that will help you develop masterful use of strategic humor in the workplace. These are The 7 Building Blocks of High Performance Humor:

  1. Content: This is what you’re aiming to communicate to your audience (via an anecdote, joke, observation, etc.). It could be anything from a stressful project to your work buddy’s tie, and it can be used to create a lighthearted moment in the middle of any situation.


  1. Bond: This is the relationship between you and your audience. Humor can help establish and reinforce connections between leaders, coworkers and clients. In fact, a sense of humor has been found to be a key trait in effective leaders!


  1. Safety: This one is so important! The physical and emotional safety of your audience must always be considered when employing humor, both within and outside of the workplace. Respect is key! HPH never alienates, harasses, or otherwise harms another.


  1. Distance: This refers to the emotional and temporal distance from a painful event. Recognizing that certain events and occurrences can be funny, but only from a certain distance, helps you discern how to deliver certain instances of humor. And remember: some topics are better left untouched! Use good judgement and always err on the side of caution.


  1. Confidence: This is the self-assurance you feel in relation to your abilities or qualities. Humor has been shown to actually project confidence to others! As you continue to practice incorporating humor into your workplace, you’ll grow more confident in yourself and your abilities.


  1. Competence: This refers to your level of skill, proficiency and mastery in a given topic. Understanding the topic you’re joking about helps you deliver a more impactful and nuanced message to others. This brings me to my second point about competence: communication! Knowing how to communicate with the different personalities you’re surrounded by improves bonds with others (see Point 2) through establishing shared emotions and a common goal. Get to know those around you and learn how to best connect with them!


  1. Authenticity: While I’ve discussed the importance of considering those around you when employing humor, there’s one rule that I really want you to remember: Always be authentic! Learn about your unique sense of humor, and from there, learn how to translate it to different humor styles in a way that remains true to yourself. Grow your sense of humor into something that works for


We each have our strengths and weaknesses within the 7 Building Blocks, so identify yours and use that as a starting point. Build on your strengths and understand your areas of improvement. With a little practice and time, you’ll be an unstoppable force of High Performance Humor, and your workplace will thrive!


Connect with Me:

YouTube: Karyn Buxman
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
Facebook: Karyn Buxman Speaks
LinkedIn: Karyn Buxman

Karyn Buxman is a TEDx speaker, author, and neurohumorist (one who researches the neurobiology of humor) who lives at the intersection of humor and the brain. A pioneer in the emerging science of applied humor, Karyn helps high performers expand their influence, strengthen their relationships, and boost their resilience. She’s one of only 43 women in the world to be inducted into the National Speakers Association's Speaker Hall of Fame, and she has inspired over 500 organizations – including NASA and the Million Dollar Round Table– to add a dose of levity to their daily lives.


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