06 Jul Humor in the Workplace: Do’s & Don’ts
Humor holds a ton of power; the power to unite, and the power to divide. Social laughter is one of the ways people connect with each other, so it makes sense that, in a work setting, it could help with team bonding. However, some humor can cross lines and come off as insensitive, so we have to be mindful when cracking jokes with colleagues.
Bringing humor into the workplace can be really beneficial to the whole team. Tasteful humor increases connectivity, boosts morale, and can even help individuals establish strong leadership.
Bringing humor into the workplace can be really beneficial to the whole team. Tasteful humor increases connectivity, boosts morale, and can even help individuals establish strong leadership. One study found that humor is one of the top 2 most desirable traits in leaders, along with a strong work ethic. In fact, leaders with a sense of humor are seen as 27% more motivating than those without. Leaders use their sense of humor to spark enthusiasm among their team, leading to higher engagement. While there is a risk involved with bringing humor into the workplace, it can easily be mitigated with a bit of mindfulness and some basic guidelines.
While there is a risk involved with bringing humor into the workplace, it can easily be mitigated with a bit of mindfulness and some basic guidelines.
DO Find Common Ground
Laughing brings people together because it indicates a shared worldview, so try to find topics that everyone can relate to. When looking for common ground, be sure to stay neutral and steer clear of polarizing topics such as politics or religion. Instead, consider the city that you/your colleagues live in, the daily tasks you share like making coffee or sending emails, or trending topics like pop culture references or working remotely.
DON’T Poke Fun at the Expense of Others
Making someone the butt of your joke, whether that person is in the room or not, is never okay. Not only will it make that individual feel hurt, it will also probably make other people uncomfortable. Plus, it will reflect poorly on your character and if you are a leader, the culture you are creating. If you solicit jokes at one person’s expense, then everyone else knows that they could be next. Instead, lift people up and make them feel comfortable, not judged. (P.S. Making mean jokes at your own expense count’s in this DON’T category!)
DO Choose Your Timing
There’s a time and a place for humor. Sometimes, it can help lighten a heavy mood, but other times it’s inappropriate to even try. It can be hard to define this grey area outright, but using your best judgment should work to keep you out of trouble. Be sensitive to the headspaces around you, and act accordingly. Timing is everything when it comes to humor, and overlooking it could lead to some uncomfortable situations.
DON’T Make a Joke if You’re Unsure
Try to make a habit of thinking twice before making a joke. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure whether or not a joke could be taken with offense, then just steer clear of it altogether. The last thing you want is for your joke to backfire, so try not to leave room for error. If this means making fewer jokes, so be it. But with time and attention, it should become clear what territory is safe.
DO Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is the best way to consistently land jokes, so take time to familiarize yourself with each person’s style of humor. Also try to learn what topics they’re sensitive to. Take that into account, and choose your language accordingly. The same joke, worded differently, could have dramatically different effects.
DON’T Forget to Read the Room
When you make a joke, it’s important to gauge people’s responses. If everyone’s laughing, then you’ve likely hit the jackpot. You can run with that topic and keep it in mind for future jokes. But keep in mind, if you are in a position of power in your company, people might be laughing because of your role. So be extra aware of body language and simply use good judgment. And, if people look unamused, or uncomfortable, then you should either stop right there and immediately apologize. Don’t continue making/building on jokes that have been ill-received in the past. Humor is situational, so being tuned into your immediate surroundings is key.
Keeping these tips in mind will help your humor be an advantage, both in and out of the workplace.
Laughter is contagious and much needed right now! So, using humor in the workplace is a great way to keep things fun and lighthearted, and build trust and camaraderie. And, the great thing is that we don’t need to be in person to laugh together. Keeping these tips in mind will help your humor be an advantage, both in and out of the workplace.
Shaara Roman is founder and CEO of The Silverene Group, a culture consultancy that helps companies align their people programs with business goals.