OH-SH1T-NUMBER. Making humour work at work


Ha-ha! Very funny! I bet everyone else (not procurement, of course) thinks, that procurement is all about numbers, cost and budget reductions, limitations, taking away fun and bullying suppliers. Surprise! It is not only that! First of all – its people who work as buyers of all sorts. And most of them do have sense of humour which helps at work a lot.

So how does it work and why should you smile and laugh more at work?

Humour has a lot of benefits:

  • Is joyful to yourself and others.
  • Keeps things light and breezy.
  • Increases employees’ morale and motivation, atmosphere at work.
  • Makes embarrassing moments funny (like this one here – when I completely messed when Portuguese won European football championship).
  • Helps with sales: builds relationships and keeps things in perspective.
  • Blocks stress: increases endorphin and blood flow in general, relieves tension.
  • Helps bonding – interpersonal, among team members. Sharing life stories, experiences which were funny, letting others learn from your misunderstandings – all of this brings people closer together.

There can be a lot of different types and forms of humour: verbal humour, physical humour, comedy in print. It is always important to choose best way to express yourself: as in any communication, there are some rules around it.


  •  Observe colleagues expressions and reactions – the joke in your head sounds funny, but people are different.
  • Keep it clean, short, subtle – jokes are different, people are different. So unless you know the people you are talking to very well – better safe than sorry.
  • Respect customers, employer, co-workers. Not much to comment – there is a place and time for everything. We come to work firstly to work.Customers, employers are people paying your salary. And unless you are a professional comedian – you are not being paid for joking all day.
  • Count to 10 and participate in moderation. Especially on the moments when you feel like “biting” someone with sarcastic joke – stop and think. And count to 10, if needed, until the urge passes.
  • Choose your wording, timing, audience carefully.
  • Practice.
  • Make mental notes. Just like I did during a meeting with engineers. We were discussing some spare parts suppliers’ changeover and they were concerned about their response timing possibilities. One of the business requirements was that the new supplier has a “hotline”. Only the engineers used different name. They said “o-sh*t-line” (fine, fine – I did not invent this word). There and then, it was an amazing moment of laughter and a silence breaker, which helped people to express their main concern aloud.
  • Select practical jokes VERY carefully. From being improper and distracting they can lead to health and safety disasters – and nobody is going to think it is funny.

And another part – don’t’s:

  • Sarcasm. No excuse for abuse.
  • Put up with insults.
  • Don’t be the only one laughing. Or – the only one not laughing.

Another powerful tool is a smile. Smile to people and they will smile back. I practice this a lot. During negotiations, simply in office or on the tube. During negotiations I can ask most serious questions. A question like “so can you tell me then where does your company earn profit, if you claim that your margin almost does not exist?” from a grumpy buyer could be perceived as a form of aggression. While if you do it with a smile – it will be a game of words, not an expression of aggression, but the question will still be there.

Sometimes people get confused – they are no longer used to people smiling at them for no reason. Try this exercise: during your morning commute (especially in crowded places), instead of trying to drill a hole in your phone with your eyes, lift them up, make an eye contact with a stranger and smile. I do that. Yes, i get different reactions. However, most of them smile back.

Most daring experiment that me and my team did with humour was presenting a very serious subject on a quarterly assembly of all centres of excellence. Imagine a hundred people sitting in the auditorium and waiting for a subject “Resisting supplier price increases” to be presented. And what do they get? Check this out…



The message was delivered very successfully. The feedback about that subject was best ever. The content was still serious and good. But at the same time it was not just an ordinary boring presentation:

  • our team had the best time ever while preparing the subject.
  • people in the audience related to the subject very well.
  • it was energizing, different, memorable – successful communication.

Procurement can be and is fun! Happy Friday everyone! Keep on smiling!

OH-SH1T-NUMBER. Making humour work at work

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