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”All of your co-workers are fools. You must learn to pity and tolerate them.”

If you guessed where the quote is from you belong to a cult – the Dilbert Cult.

People who read Dilbert strips are an instant convert to the Dilbert cult. So what gets you glued to Dilbert? What makes you sit for hours in one place and read the strips? If it can make you into a follower then imagine the power of Dilbert in your workplace? It can get your employees glued to your company and how.

For people who are not aware of Dilbert. Dilbert is an American comic strip. The strip is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office featuring engineer Dilbert as the title character. When you start to read the book, you cannot keep it down.It’s got  the Power !  As I call it – The power of conversion.

The Dilbert Power

What makes us sit for hours and turn the pages? What makes us forget everything around us while reading the strips? It’s the power of humor – the power of laughter. We connect with the scenarios & situations in the book and have a hearty laugh .Laughter makes  us feel good. It relieves our day’s stress and makes us feel energetic. It makes that moment more exciting and makes us more active. It’s the laughter that connects us to the book.

When we read about the office scenarios in Dilbert,we burst into a guffaw . But, rarely do we laugh at such situations when they actually occur. Imagine the magic it can create in the workplace if you make everyday funny and interesting. You can create this magic by using what I call the ‘Dilbert Power’ (Power of laughter). Dilbert, the character, a common engineer – makes us laugh through his daily scenarios. We can adopt an idea or two from this, encourage laughter in daily workday and use the Dilbert Power to increase performance, likability and use it as a connector between employees and the company

Dilbert Power in action

Right now you have a dreadful looking expression on your face while staring at your machine and reading this article, don’t you ? Now just smile a little and continue reading – you will see & feel the difference yourself. Look around you  – You will find everyone with a serious expression on their face or an expression of boredom. Do you think in an environment like this people will work to their full capabilities and perform at their best? NO – they won’t. We all know from personal experience that  when we are bored, stressed or anxious we don’t feel like working and we are very mechanical in our work. This  means that we are under utilizing the power of our brains. We are most productive when we are happy, excited or when something breaks our monotony . We can create this positive environment by unleashing the power of laughter – the Dilbert Power

 According to Michelle Gielan, an expert in positive psychology and co-founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research, when something makes us smile or laugh, the feel-good chemical dopamine is dropped into our systems, which turns on all the learning centers in the brain and heightens creativity, productivity and engagement. In a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies, happy employees were found to have 31% higher productivity and 37% higher sales.

Laughter helps in building strong teams, creates excitement in work and creates trust.

Anthony Pescosolido, a management and organizational behavior professor at the University of New Hampshire, In his research found that effective humor provides a sense of “psychological safety” that helps manage emotions and makes group members more willing to accept challenging goals.

The best example of companies using Dilbert power is Southwest Airlines. They use the power to attract and retain their employees. In-fact the Southwest’s president and CEO, Herbert D. Kelleher is the ambassador of humor.Their pre requirement of hiring is that the person should have a sense of humor . it’s this attitude that they look for while hiring new candidates. They believe that humor helps in building a strong sense of community in the company and to be successful you need a strong community.This explains their success.

So how can you unleash Dilbert Power in your workplace?

You don’t need to be a stand-up comedian to create laughter and bring smiles. There are simple things you can do to ensure there is laughter and fun in the company.

  • To err is humor – Have an initiative – to ‘err is humor’, where you can laugh at the errors committed by employees . We all know that  laughter is contagious , that means if one person laughs it will spread through the group and when the group laughs together, it kills the stress of making mistakes and sets a culture of learning from mistakes. This also sends a clear message that company addresses the problem not the person.  This will be a great learning initiative that will help improve the overall performance


  • 5 minutes high-five – You must have heard of laughter clubs and numerous benefits associated with it. You can use this concept in workplace. You dont need to set aside 2 hours for the same . You can just set aside 5 minutes.  Get  the team together and laugh everyday. Start with a high-five – laugh for 5 minutes and end with a high-five. This increases team bonding and creates a spark in the workplace to kill the boredom.


  • Screen stand-up comedy – Set aside sometime- maybe during lunch hours, post lunch hours or once a week to screen good comedy videos  to create the Dilbert power.

However, a word of caution – It is important to clearly define what is acceptable and unacceptable for every initiative or process. It’s the same for humor . Set clear guidelines on what is acceptable and unacceptable.

 You may not have company perks like Google and Facebook. You may not have freebies to give away like Hindustan lever and you may not have a big brand name like Tatas – But you do have the power of laughter – The Dilbert Power , that will act as a connector and will be more powerful than the perks and freebies !


By Gauri Palekar

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