How to Shift from a “Laugh At” Culture to “Laugh With”

Posted: Wednesday, March 17 2021

How to Shift from a “Laugh At” Culture to “Laugh With”

In every Game On session, our instructor will make a point of establishing Game On’s “Rules of the Game”. These three rules are there to set the guardrails of trust and respect for the participants and the instructors. The instructors present the rules as non-negotiable for the time of the session.

One of the non-negotiable rules that are a hallmark of every Game On session is “Laugh WITH, not AT”.

In each session, we set the tone for joy and laughter to come as a result of a shared experience (Laugh WITH), instead of coming at the expense of fellow participants or the organization (Laugh AT). That is why it is so important to set this rule during interactions, demonstrate what good looks like, and squash any behavior that doesn’t align with this principle.

Of course, we’d love to believe that most teams build one another up and use collective laughter for the greater good. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

So, what happens to a team when “Laugh AT” is allowed to thrive? What if “Laugh AT” becomes the cultural norm in an organization? While some would brush off this behavior, as simple kidding or joking, this disrespectful, unkind, and uncivil behavior does have a price. 

According to a recent study in the US and Canada, most who experience workplace incivility respond in a negative way, in some cases overtly retaliating. Employees are less creative when they feel disrespected, and many get fed up and leave. When prompted, most managers would say that incivility is wrong, but not all recognize that incivility has tangible costs.[1]

A recent poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 different industries, shared that those who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 66% said that their performance declined.
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.

As we all continue to grow as leaders in our respective roles, it is vitally important that we establish the “Rules of the Game” amongst our teams. We must model and share the amazing things that can happen when we treat others with grace and respect.

As Game On’s President and Founder Steve Shenbaum shares, “You may lose some jokes, but you’ll gain many more friends”.


[1] Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, The Price of Incivility. Harvard Business Review. February 2013


About the Author:
Chris Friday, Director of Curriculum for Game On Nation, is an industry leader in curriculum development, coaching, and improvisation. His unique talent for using positive humor to inspire change has helped some of the world’s most prestigious athletes and teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, NFL Players Association, University of Alabama Football, and over 50 first-round NBA and NFL Draft picks. Chris resides in Parrish, FL with his wife and two daughters.

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