Humor in the Workplace Goes a Long Way

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Neil Baum, MD, and Neeraj Kohli, MD, MBA

Neil Baum, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA, and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers.

Neeraj Kohli, MD, MBA, is Director, Division of Urogynecology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor, Department of Ob/Gyn, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.


Yes, healthcare is serious business. And we can take our work seriously, but we should lighten up on ourselves. It has to start at the top. Doctors and office managers have to have a certain element of levity to create a lighthearted atmosphere where employees look forward to coming to work.

An example of fun in the workplace can be starting off a staff meeting with a joke. You can create an atmosphere of fun by posting cartoons related to healthcare on the staff bulletin board. Another suggestion is to allow the staff to dress up for holidays, especially on Halloween. We (Dr. Baum) have a sign on the ceiling over each examination table that says, “Smile! You are on candid camera.” It is amazing how such a simple sign makes people relax during a pelvic exam. We also have an “easy” button and will often ask patients to hit the button if the visit or the procedure didn’t cause him or her any discomfort. After a vasectomy,

I bring the patient’s wife/partner into the treatment room and I tell the man that he is to take it very easy, no heavy lifting, and that his partner should offer him plenty of tender loving care. In order to assist with the latter, I offer the man a small brass bell that costs less than $1 and tell him that he can ring the bell whenever he needs his wife/partner. This never fails to illicit a smile and giggles on the faces of both the patient and his partner. Finally, incorporate fun in your practice by going on staff retreats outside of the office, such as a trip to the zoo.

Bottom line: It is common to see that when the doctors lighten up and create a fun workplace, there is an improvement in the level of employee trust, creativity, and communication, which translates to lower turnover, higher morale, and a punch line that leads to an improvement in the bottom line.