Shannon McDevitt has made a career out of playing corporate games. Her business, Just Humor Me! is based on the idea that a company’s productivity and sales are directly related to the good vibes among its employees.
So, McDevitt dedicated her indefatigable good attitude and wit to making workplaces fun.
“We spend more time at work, driving to work, and thinking about work than any other activity and it can really make you sick to your stomach if you don’t enjoy what you do,” said the recently settled Hermosa Beach resident.
Just Humor Me! programs are like at-work retreats for employees. To boost employee morale, McDevitt uses games and wacky exercises to teach techniques for dealing with difficult people, customer service, and management skills.Law firms, doctors’ offices, retailers, and restaurants have all called Just Humor Me! for professional presentations geared toward fixing or improving workplace relations, hoping to turn a fun-impaired establishment into a more pleasant place to take care of business.
Recently, at a law firm, McDevitt had the legal group draw comic strips of characters using humor to reduce stress at work.
“One person drew Miss Piggy trying to encourage others to show cleavage in the office as part of the new dress code. The boss obviously had to call Miss Piggy into the office,” McDevitt recalled.
For the most part, McDevitt finds that adults are ready to play. In fact, watching grown-ups acting silly and letting loose is her favorite aspect of the job.
“For the most part, people are just dying for permission to play and for someone to come in and say it is absolutely OK to sit here with crayons and draw out your stress. It’s absolutely OK to talk about how much the cafeteria food stinks (using these puppets),” McDevitt said. They’ll get pretty goofy, but the end results are beneficial.”
Some games are used as icebreakers for people who’ve been around each other sometimes for years, but don’t really know each other. Once coworkers begin to see each other as individuals and not just as “Mary from accounting”, “Dan in sales”, or “that guy in that office”, they will be able to work better together and get more accomplished, McDevitt said.
The idea for Just Humor Me! came after McDevitt took a business etiquette training class and nearly died of boredom. “I thought, these are really important skills, but why do I have to sit here and feel condescended to and be lectured at? So basically, I wrote my own programs based on the concept that participants learn more when they’re laughing,” she said.
Just Humor Me! originated in Charleston, SC in 2002, but McDevitt wanted a change of pace and new business opportunities so she came to the South Bay, where she doesn’t see any lack in job possibilities.
“My target is people who need training and people who need humor, which I think are pretty big markets,” she said. For marketing, she’s relied on networking within the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce and going out and talking to people, whether at restaurants or at a neighbor’s party.
“It’s very weird,” said McDevitt of her ability to make clients out of complete strangers. “I’ll say something that just clicks in somebody’s mind, and they’ll turn serious and say, Yeah, we need that, can I get your card?”
McDevitt structures the program for each workplace she visits depending on the goals of the company leaders she meets with to discover what it is they want accomplished.
“I really spend a lot of time thinking, “OK, here’s this group, what are their personalities? What do I know about their industry, and how I can tailor a program and games so they’re going to get the most out of training while laughing and having a great time?” she said.
Her goal isn’t to turn everyone in the office into a wisecracking comedian. It’s to show how small things like adding humor to memos, little treats in the break room, or having a contest to see who comes up with the best idea for improving the work atmosphere can bring fun into the company’s setting.
McDevitt said if she can make office workers laugh and get to know one another while improving their job skills and customer relations, she’s happy.
The secret is respect.
The Daily Breeze