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Comic relief: laughter could help with workplace aggression

It might be a good time to thank a colleague who made you laugh today, if a new study by Australian researchers is to go by.

They’ve found a bit of humour goes a long way in the workplace.

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) found it helps employees deal with workplace aggression and stressful situations.

Lead researcher Dr David Cheng of the ANU College of Business and Economics said workplace aggression is a widespread problem, but added humour might go some way to reducing its negative impact.

“While obviously the best solution to workplace aggression is to stamp out the poor behaviour, our research shows if something stressful does happen to you at work, a bit of laughter can help,” Cheng said.

Study participants were exposed to a simulation of a colleague aggressively shouting at them and then shown one of two short videos, one of which was humorous.

“The experiments consistently showed exposure to humorous stimuli is useful for victims of aggression,” he said. “Humour helps reduce some of the damage caused to a victim’s psychological well-being by bolstering their sense of power.”

Cheng added participants also felt others would be more likely to listen to them. “That’s important because with workplace aggression, when you get yelled at you feel belittled, you feel weaker. So humour can help counter that by making you feel more empowered.”

His previous research showed those engaging in boring, repetitive work were able to keep it up longer after being exposed to funny videos during a 10-minute break than those who didn’t get to laugh.

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