Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Light Humor in the Workplace is a Good Thing According to MU Study

In this day of political correctness and workplace harrassment concerns, it is commonly believed that kidding around at work isn’t a good thing.

Well, turns out that some light humor is good in the workplace according to a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, who has examined how workplace humor affects the working environment.

Chris Robert, assistant professor of management in MU’s Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business, said that humor – particularly joking around about things associated with the job – has a positive impact in the workplace.

Occasional humor among colleagues, he said, enhances creativity, department cohesiveness and overall performance. The conclusion was made by examining theories on humor and integrating literature from a wide variety of disciplines that touch on the subject. Several hundred sources were analyzed by Robert and collaborator Wan Yan, a business doctoral student.

“Humor has a significant impact in organizations,” said Robert, who also teaches psychology in MU’s College of Arts and Science. “Humor isn’t incompatible with goals of the workplace. It’s not incompatible with the organization’s desire to be competitive. In fact, we argue that humor is pretty important. It’s not just clowning around and having fun; it has meaningful impact on cohesiveness in the workplace and communication quality among workers. The ability to appreciate humor, the ability to laugh and make other people laugh actually has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.”

So see, it turns out that I was doing the right thing all those times that a previous boss told me to "stop being funny."

Do learn more about the results of this study visit

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

First Amendment Expert and Freedom Forum director to speak on secrecy, security in Springfield Nov. 5

Paul K. McMasters, an expert on First Amendment and freedom-of-information issues, will discuss “Secrecy versus Security: Can Democracy Function in the Dark?” at Drury’s Diversity Center at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.

The Center is the historical Washington Avenue Baptist Church now situated on the Drury campus.

McMasters began his journalism career at the News-Leader in 1960, working his way up to editor of the morning paper over the next 19 years.

He went to USA TODAY in 1982 and worked there until he moved to the Freedom Forum in 1992 as executive director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he worked to educate and inform about First Amendment issues that arise in Congress, the courts, the media, and other areas of public life.

This program is co-sponsored by Peace Network of the Ozarks, the Diversity Center, and Drury University Pre-Law Program. It is free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Programs, Handouts Help Take Mystery Out of Missouri’s Sunshine Law

James Klahr spoke about Missouri’s Sunshine Law to 40 people during two different sessions in Springfield on Oct. 11. His willingness to answer questions, and the information handouts he provided, helped to take some of the mystery out of this state law.

To view the Powerpoint Presentation that he used for the program go HERE.

You can also download the Missouri Attorney General’s Sunshine Law booklet HERE.

Readers might also find the Sunshine Law Policy template available HERE useful.

Here are a few highlights of what Klahr had to share:


The Missouri Sunshine Law is designed to ensure public access to government decision making and access to the records dealing with those government decisions.

If a board or a commission has five committees working for them, all of the subcommittees are also subject to the Sunshine Law.

“Your board has to have a reasonable written Sunshine policy or you are already in violation.”

“Liberal construction of the law is to be the policy which means the presumption in the state law that the records are open to the public. If there is a gray area and you can’t decide if something is open or not, then you should err on the side of making it open.”


“Closed sessions have to be on the agenda as well as the reasons why that closed session is being held. If the board is listing the same laundry list every meeting then they are getting lazy. It needs to be specific … not just an umbrella they can apply at the last minute in case they want to go into closed session.”

As of 2004, there has to be minutes taken in closed sessions. Those must show the votes taken by name. There are certain exceptions to the Sunshine Law that allow for closed sessions. Roll call vote must be known 72 hours later. Should also be note of the motion made.

“Boards are authorized to close portions of the meeting in narrow situations … but not required to do so. There can be good reasons to do so … but the law does not require it, it just authorizes it in certain situations.”


If electronic records are retained they are public record, even if the document is retained for a short period. If it is available when the request is made then it must be shared.

In terms of e-mail, transitory e-mail (like setting up appointments) doesn’t have to be retained. But if the e-mail relates to policy or the business of the office, these need to be retained. The type of document does not matter. It is the content that makes these relevant. Courts have not addressed the issue of deleted e-mail and the electronic record.

“E-mails are public records because they are generated from tax supported equipment. The hard question is whether or not e-mail is related to public business.”


“The opportunities to violate the Sunshine Law have always existed and perhaps technology is providing more ways to do that. We have councils sometimes that will go into closed session for one reason but discuss other topics …”

“How things are handled is a big part of this. The appearance of how things are done can raise red-flags. Because of that, the assumption is that you should err on the side of openness. There has to be a trust factor and people need to be held accountable.”


Official minutes of a meeting are not required to be a transcript.

Members of the public have a right to get draft minutes of a meeting even before they are voted on or approved but they should be marked as draft.

Requirements for minutes are very vague which is why it is so important for citizens to be able to record what is taking place at the meetings.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sunshine Law Programs in Springfield on Oct. 11

The Ins and Outs of the Missouri Sunshine Law, a 1-1/2 hour unbiased educational program will be presented to the public and professionals at 2 p.m. and repeated at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11. It will take place in the first floor classroom, University of Missouri Extension, 833 Boonville, Springfield. The program, sponsored by the Missouri Attorney General's office, University of Missouri Extension--Greene County and the Southwest Missouri PRO Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, will be conducted by Missouri Assistant Attorney General James Klahr. All attendees will receive a copy of Missouri's Sunshine Law booklet. A Q & A session will follow the speaker.

For more information, contact David Burton.