I've Got Your Back: Utilizing Improv as a Tool to Enhance Workplace Relationships
Positive Organizational Scholarship
Active Constructive Responding
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
As the average American adult spends more time at work than anywhere else, the workplace, and the relationships built therein, plays a key role in overall well-being. With this in mind, many organizations dedicate significant time and resources to improve employee well-being, often in the form of fun, social events. In recent years, improvisational comedy, or improv, has emerged as a popular teambuilding activity due to its foundations in play, spontaneity, and trust. However, improv is more than just fun and laughs. Beyond merely being an energizing teambuilding event, I argue that improv has the ability to generate positive social connections and strengthen workplace relationships by improving communication, collaboration, and interpersonal understanding. Within this paper, I provide a historical overview of improvisation in the theater and applied settings, connecting modern-day improv to organizational well-being via the lens of positive psychology. I then theorize that improv enhances positive, workplace relationships by linking the improv principles of being present, co-creation, and heightening offers to constructs of interpersonal mindfulness, perspective taking, and active constructive responding. This paper culminates with recommendations to culturally embed improv into regular work activities and suggestions for further research. An appendix provides easily implementable, short improv exercises that can be used by anyone to develop positive workplace relationships.