The Workplace Comedian

Does it help or hurt to be the “funny guy” or gal at work? Does it gain you popularity at the expense of your career? When does workplace humor cross the line?

These are just some of the questions that staffing firm Accountemps recently asked – and got answered – in a recent survey of Chief Financial Officers.

According to Accountemps, seventy-eight percent of CFOs interviewed said an employee’s sense of humor is at least somewhat important for fitting into the company’s corporate culture, with 22 percent stating humor is very important.

“A sense of humor can boost moods and improve connections among colleagues,” said Mike Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps. “Creating a positive and friendly work environment can lead to higher levels of employee engagement and productivity.”

Steinitz added, “Not all business matters are funny, but a little levity can go a long way, particularly when it comes to defusing tension or recovering from a minor mishap. There’s nothing like a joke to put people at ease.”

Accountemps offers these rules for using humor in the workplace:

  • Show your personality. When used appropriately, humor can help build rapport with colleagues. Interviewing for a new job? Consider weaving in some wit to build chemistry with the hiring manager and show that you are approachable – a trait of a good leader. As an added bonus, it can help alleviate nervous jitters.
  • Consider the circumstances. Comedians know timing is everything. While a chuckle or two can help diffuse stressful situations, cracking one-liners during a serious meeting is an unwelcome distraction.
  • Use the right medium. Be cautious when using humor in an email or instant message – it might fall flat or be misinterpreted because the recipient cannot see your facial expressions or hear the tone of your voice.
  • Laugh with them – not at them. Never use humor at the expense of others, and be mindful about sarcastic or demeaning comments that can be off-putting or offensive.  Poking fun at yourself is safer; it shows that you are self-aware and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Keep it G-rated. Steer clear of inappropriate or negative remarks that could make someone feel uncomfortable. If you’re unsure of how your joke may be received, keep it to yourself.

Sound advice, indeed. Remember, the workplace of today can be a sensitive place. Humor that may have been considered acceptable in the past may get you a quick trip to HR these days. Be careful, but don’t forget to laugh.

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