9 months ago I attended a Internet Marketing presentation that began with a 30 second introduction of yourself. This is fairly standard as it’s a great opportunity to identify people to connect with after the event and creates group cohesion. On this particular night, the host suggested that you could add a joke or piece of advice, if you wanted. As we’re going around the room, most people are not including a joke, then this well-dressed man stands up, he’s in his mid-30’s and is a successful realtor. He then caps off his intro with a crude joke about a female giving a man, to quote Bill Clinton, “sexual relations.”
I was absolutely stunned and looked around the room, some people didn’t get the joke and those that did, looked like those cartoon’s where the character’s head is going to explode from steam. This man just killed himself to every member in the room and this was the start of the event. One younger guy laughed out loud and everyone else was in silence. As we work to the end, another man ended his intro by saying, his piece of advice was to know the room and not tell jokes that perform character suicide and everyone laughed.
What Workplace Sense Of Humour Is:
When your boss asks if you have a sense of humor, he’s not asking if you’re a clown. What he is asking is whether or not you can accept criticism, deal with difficult people, and gracefully handle mistakes without snapping people’s heads off when things get stressful. This is the ability to take the inevitable work setbacks in stride and quickly find solutions to continue moving forward.
The modern workplace is a sensitive environment, the jokes that got laughed at during your teen and college years will likely not get the same responses in the workplace and may end in a visit with HR for sexual harassment, personal attacks, inappropriate workplace behaviour. To avoid this, I’ve made a few guidelines that will keep your co-workers entertained and you continuing up the corporate ladder.
Guidelines For Appropriate Workplace Humour
(Warning: Jokes can be deadly, Use With Caution)
1. You Can Laugh At Anything, But Not With Everyone
Know your room, everywhere isn’t a bar and as the realtor in the first story found out, you must assess the environment you’re in and ask yourself, is this appropriate for this group?
2. Don’t Joke About Co-workers
Making fun of a co-worker is funny until they find out, which is guaranteed to happen and when it does, they will not be amused. Nobody enjoys being the joke, especially in a professional environment where you’re there to be judged on your performance. This will create tension and you want to avoid making enemies in a place where you spend a good portion of your time.
3. Avoid Putdowns Of People
Coming up with a great joke about a person is difficult and you probably want to share your masterpiece. Whenever I hear people slamming others, it immediately makes me think that they have low self-esteem at this moment and are looking to make themselves feel better at someone else’s expense. Joking about products, especially a competitors is a much safer way to get humour, be productive and include how your’s in better to maximize this exchange.
4. Use Humour To Make People Feel Good
You’re a leader, not a comedian, your assessment is based on performance, so if you have great material that you need to get out, go to an open-mic night. This is powerful because when placed in a position of leadership, you can use a self-deprecating joke and follow it with praise for what that person has accomplished. The result is that they will view you as a human, be more accepting, and will work harder for you because you are supporting their work.
5. Don’t Force It
This is something I’ve struggled with, having been on a roll, having the audience laughing and wanted to out-do myself, rarely does it work and often leads to a joke that get’s a couple laughs, then fades quickly. There’s something to be said for comedic timing, when you get a good joke in, leave it and walk away. You will leave a positive memory and they will be waiting for the next joke, let the anticipation build.