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Southwest Airlines is certainly a sterling example of effective use of humor in the workplace. This is evident in its marketing, to be sure. But, it’s gotten even more buzz from the impromptu uses of humor by its employees. In fact, CEO Herb Kelleher has been quoted as saying, “What we are looking for, first and foremost, is a sense of humor…We hire attitudes.”

A quick search of YouTube and you’ll find a number of examples of humorous riffs from Southwest flight attendants. My favorite is this rap a flight attendant used to impart FAA-mandated inflight instructions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv1qvtQ3sgs.

Some other examples of Southwest’s on-the-job high jinx include:

  • “There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only four ways out of this aircraft…”
  • “This is a long flight, so if you’re travelling with children this evening…we’re sorry.”
  • “To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle and pull tight. It works just like every other seatbelt, and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”
  • “In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, margarine cups will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child…pick your favorite.”

Southwest certainly distinguishes itself from other airlines with its use of humor. It also makes itself and its people more memorable by having a little fun. Using humor is a proven methodology for making your message more palatable and easier to understand. What’s more, it makes dry information – even boring safety lectures that most of us business travelers have heard countless times – more compelling. While most airlines now use taped presentations, to my mind, Southwest’s original, in-person delivery is much more effective. Ultimately, passengers are listening and more importantly remembering the information that is conveyed. Clearly, it’s working for Southwest.

I’ll leave you with one last flight attendant funny: “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation, and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”