The Science Behind Using Humor And Gratitude To Motivate Your Team

Saying thank you and laughing with your team aren’t just nice to do; they’re pivotal motivators that help your team to do their very best.

The Science Behind Using Humor And Gratitude To Motivate Your Team
[Photo: Flickr user Max Braun]

When I was 13 years old, I was the fastest kid in school. After school, I’d meet the guys out on the track and challenge them to footraces from one end to the other. Then one day I lost, and I never won another race.


At the time, I couldn’t understand why everybody was getting faster and I was stuck at the same speed. My talent began to feel average at best, and my track coach had no choice but to move me from top seed to the back of the line. He said it was best for the team.

Even as a teenager, I remember being critical of myself, despite not having a full understanding of why some people were getting stronger and bigger and I was staying the same. We hold ourselves to certain standards that cause us great anxiety. Instead of focusing on the positive, we tend to gravitate toward negativity. I fell for this trap when I was 13 when I realized I was no longer a track star, and I still fall for this in my professional life.

What I’ve come to appreciate more now is just how powerful team dynamic is for success. At 13, it’s hard to comprehend the phrase, “It’s best for the team.” But in business the team is all that matters if you truly care about the work you’re doing.

Here are three lessons every manager should learn about the importance of team chemistry:

1. Value The Team

Track and marketing actually have a lot in common. Individuals are part of a larger team, but most of the work they do is on their own.


I’ve seen firsthand the transformative effect breaking down business silos can have on employees. Science also suggests that it’s in our DNA to be social creatures, whether at home or in the workplace.

Brigham Young University research recently found that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity. And a past study from the BYU research team equated loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and being an alcoholic.

A team is one of the most rewarding communities you can belong to as a professional. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure that all team members feel included, heard, and valued. No one should feel like an island at your company.

Learn how to increase interaction among your team members, for the health of your department and of your staff.

2. Remember Your Thank-you’s

When you’re a team of one, there’s no one you need to answer to, no one you need to thank, and no one to praise you for a job well done. But in a team environment, gratitude goes a long way in building culture and respect.


In our rush to get our work done, it’s natural to deprioritize gratitude in favor of checking off the next item on our to-do lists. However, research shows that not saying thank you or showing gratitude can lead to an unhappy workplace.

Harvard Health found that “gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improves their health, deal with adversity, and builds stronger relationships.”

As a manager, you’re going to receive most of the praise for when your team does well and reaches its goals. By remembering to show gratitude to your staff and praising them for their work, you’re more likely to earn their respect and compel them to work more productively long-term.

Saying thank you isn’t just a courtesy; it’s a motivator that inspires your team to do its very best every day.

3. Laugh

Funny stories are often the hardest ones to tell. But those professionals who effectively inject humor into their management styles are more likely to establish relationships with their peers, and at a much quicker rate.


A study published in Human Nature found that sharing a few laughs with someone makes him or her more likely to open up and tell you something personal about themselves. And this opening up is a crucial stepping-stone in building new relationships and solidifying social bonds.

You might not be the funniest person in the room, but allowing your team to joke around and share funny stories facilitates a bonding experience seldomly replicated in any other way. Therefore, you need to learn when it’s okay to let people wind down.

A laughing team isn’t an unproductive team. Sharing a few chuckles builds the team dynamic, and ultimately leads to stronger collaborative work down the line.

Back when we were kids, being the best mattered more than being a team player. Today, that’s just not the case; your biggest asset as a manager is a happy and healthy team.

Ask yourself: Are you building a team dynamic or are you allowing individualism to stunt your team’s creative output?

About the author

Ted Karczewski is a writer and marketing strategist who focuses on bridging the gap between the creative and business worlds. He is the managing editor of the Content Standard, a media site covering creativity, innovation, leadership, and business transformation for Skyword, a content marketing platform and services company