Project Management

Leading Projects With Humor

Sam Stevenson is an IT Project Manager for a large municipal government in Ontario, Canada. He is passionate about empowering teams. He is also trained in research analysis and evidence-informed decision-making.

Inspired by a blog post on scary project gremlins, I spent a minute at the beginning of a project meeting looking at pictures of these green monsters. One thing led to another, and eventually I had a green, 1975 AMC Gremlin vehicle on the screen with my team laughing about its awkward design. One person teased me, saying that it was my new car. From there I spoke about the “gremlins” our project was experiencing and how to deal with them.

Laughing at the start of that meeting reduced the tension in the room. That was good because the project was riddled with unexpected technical issues, resource constraints, a hard deadline, and a worsening pandemic situation. Joking around before we got to business boosted our positivity and created a space where we had at least something in common: laughter.

As I am sure you know, project managers often use humor to support their teams. For example, researchers videotaped eight team meetings for the design of a commercial building in England, and they found four to 28 humor incidents at each meeting. The time spent on humorous incidents was up to 12 minutes per meeting, and the researchers considered almost all the humor as beneficial.1

With the pandemic continuing to cause considerable stress in the workplace and at home, humor’s place in projects may be more important than ever. This article …

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