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How to use humour effectively at work

  1st May 2019       Suzanne Sherriff MIRP
 Accounting & Finance, Engineering, Science & Space, Employment, Executive Search, Human Resources, IT & Software Solutions, Office & Commercial

With World Laughter Day apparently taking place on Sunday, there’s no better time than the present to consider how to use humour effectively at work.

There are many advantages of having a bit of fun in the office or on the factory floor. People who laugh together create a bond and when you’re enjoying some humour, you’ll generally be more productive and enjoy being at work. You may even be paid more if you use humour at work, says the Harvard Business review!

It also depends if you’re a man or a woman, according to a study in the US. When a woman uses humour during a presentation, it is seen as disruptive or distracting. However, when men cracked a joke, it was likely to be seen as functional or helpful. In another study ‘across the pond’, one scientist even claimed that negative humour – such as sarcasm – was linked to genes found in British men and women.

We wholeheartedly disagree and instead prefer to think of Britain as a nation who can really take a joke. And if another study is to be believed, then our good sense of humour means we have higher levels of self-esteem, are more positive in the face of challenges and are able to better deal with stress.

However, if humour is done the wrong way or taken too far, you can quickly crash and burn. Here are some ways to use humour effectively at work.

When in doubt, don’t say it

Your idea of funny may not exactly line up with everyone else’s in your office. Something funny to you could be offensive to the next person. When you’re considering a joke, if you’re not sure if you should say it, then don’t. It’s much better to err on the side of caution. Your goal may be to lighten up the atmosphere, but if your joke goes south, it’s going to make that atmosphere even worse.

Laugh at yourself

Being able to laugh at yourself is a great trait. Seeing the humour or irony in situations you find yourself in assures that you’re not offending someone by poking fun at them. Also, being able to laugh at yourself is a good way for people to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously. As with all jokes, just don’t go overboard. You still want your colleagues to respect you.

Stop the passive-aggressiveness

Humour or making jokes about someone is not the way to go if you have an issue with them. Rather, talk with them directly. Mean-spirited joking really isn’t funny, even if people go along with it and give it a chuckle. If you have to say, “I was only joking!”, or you find yourself complaining that “they don’t know how to take a joke,” then you’ve got a problem.

Are you actually funny?

Can you tell a joke? Can you really? Let’s be honest, there are just some people who can’t tell a good joke, and that’s okay. Contribute with a smile or a laugh and be open to seeing the funny side of things and joining in! Be who you are, don’t try to force something when it isn’t natural. Just remember, you can learn how to develop this aspect of yourself.

Think outside the box

The opportunities are limitless for you to come up with a unique way to use humour. From personal choices to office-wide interactions, you can come up with some crazy ways to have fun. If you’ve got an idea, see if you can’t get your manager on board. The more support you’ve got, the greater chance the rest of your colleagues will want to join in on the fun.

Not nearly enough workplaces embrace humour well or at all. Be the change at your place of work and see if you can’t lighten the mood and be the cause of laughter. The health benefits are numerous, the camaraderie building is beneficial and it just makes life better.

Suzanne Sherriff MIRP

Associate Director

Suzanne leads a team dealing with temporary jobs. Having started her recruitment career in 2005, she has over a decade of recruitment experience. Suzanne works across all of the agency’s core industries on temporary, contract and interim roles. She places a big emphasis on delivery and accountability and never gives …


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