NAPT speaker gives humor guidance

Craig Zablocki
Posted on July 1, 2007

Speaker and author Craig Zablocki will bring his high-spirited, unscripted comedy to the NAPT Conference and Trade Show in Grand Rapids, Mich., in October. Here, he shares his insight on the benefits of humor.

What's the benefit of humor in the workplace?
ZABLOCKI: There are many benefits of workplace humor. The most gratifying environment is one where people can be authentic, have fun and work hard.

When I speak of humor in the workplace, I always stress having fun versus trying to be funny. Sometimes in our attempts to be funny, we make fun of others, or share rude, crude or offensive comments. So what you want to do is create a work environment where you take the job seriously, but not yourself.

Obviously, in your occupation, taking your job seriously means keeping the buses running safely. It means driving with all your focus, faculties and attention, and managing the students so everyone arrives safely. Taking yourself lightly means that you don’t personalize things — you laugh at yourself, you’re not negative and you care about your co-workers and students.

Southwest Airlines is a great example for your business. The employees love their jobs, they always get the highest customer service marks, the business continues to make a profit, they make the trip fun for passengers and safety is No. 1. The same year they were voted No. 1 of companies to work for, they had the best safety record in the industry.

What is one way that the use of humor can make leaders more effective?
Some people would say Ronald Reagan was a great leader because he had a good sense of humor. He could make fun of himself and put others at ease.

Leaders can use positive humor to put folks at ease by laughing at the crazy things we all do — as opposed to singling people out and laughing at them. They have a tendency to see the cup as half full, versus half empty.

When I work with teachers, I tell them that the top three qualities students appreciate in teachers are: (1) competency — they need to know what they’re teaching — (2) a sense of humor and (3) knowing that they care about them.

It also holds true for you, as transportation directors, drivers, mechanics and others: (1) Being competent in your job is No. 1. (2) Using a positive attitude and positive humor helps you relate with students. (3) Letting your employees and the students know that you care about them promotes mutual respect.

My boss seems very serious. Should I risk using humor on the job?
We all know people who are "terminally professional." People who are always serious can take us down. Yes, use some humor. I find it a challenge to get folks who take themselves too seriously to laugh. Remember that pleasure comes from outside and joy comes from within. Do things, say things, read things, watch things, that bring you joy. Joyful people are contagious.

You can be positive, friendly, and take yourself lightly despite your boss' demeanor. For serious people, it is important to let them know by your actions that you take your job seriously, and let them know by your behavior that you don’t take yourself seriously.

You have worked with school transportation service providers across the country. What have you learned?
I have learned a great deal from folks in your industry. I've been to numerous state conferences and individual school districts across the country over the last 10 years. I find it awesome that all the folks in your organizations are down-to-earth, caring and fun-loving. The pride you take in your jobs is stellar, as is your flexibility to do more with less, to find and maintain the best drivers during the lean times and to still deliver millions of kids per day safely to school — with a smile.

There's no other organization I’ve worked with that has a greater responsibility for the kids in America, and it's obvious that you take that job seriously. I have met so many wonderful people, and I have so many stories that I could share about the dedication and love you put into the job.

For more information on Craig Zablocki, visit or call (303) 830-7996. For more information on the upcoming NAPT Conference and Trade Show, visit or call (800) 989-NAPT.

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