Does Being Funny at Work Pay Off?

Let’s say that it depends.

“Humour surely helps control the climate in the workplace”, explains the organisation speaker; Izzy Gesell.  In fact, positive humour fosters a warm and welcoming environment; the lack of it, on the other hand, could mean a total absence of conversation and communication. Humour is indeed fundamental in the workplace as is boosts morale; stimulates creativity and definitely eases stressful situations.

The Wall Street Journal reported recent studies show that “being funny”  – in the appropriate manner and measure – helps shape a positive image of ourselves within an organisation; helps create a stronger bond between co-workers which ultimately, impacts positively on effectiveness, productivity and support.

A study from Colorado University found humorous statements apparently make us seem more confident and memorable. Why? Because people feel like telling jokes – especially in the workplace- is risky and they perceive people who take this “risk” as more confident and competent and as a result with a higher social status. Such people are also more likely to be selected as the group leader.

Also, when jokes are funny, they make you laugh because the punchline is unexpected, right? If there’s a person in your workplace who has a reputation for being humorous, you might find yourself looking forward to the next time you see them.  Let’s say for example that you work with Jamie, and Jamie has a reputation for being funny. You may go into a meeting thinking, “I’m looking forward to hearing Jamie’s opinion.” Why? From your experience, you know that Jamie always comes up with a witty remark and a unique perspective. Indeed, the ability to make humour is highly associated with intelligence and creativity, two very valuable skills in our society.

All in all, humour is a highly desirable trait. A good sense of humour supports good communication by removing barriers between management and non-management staff, facilitating awkward communications, softening the emotional tone of communications, and more. It is also a powerful ally in conducting effective meetings. Chris Robert, assistant professor of management at the University of Missouri-Columbia, tells in an interview with Bloomberg: “Almost nothing makes you more comfortable than sharing a laugh about something universal, like kids. So sometimes humour works exceedingly well – also – across cultures to make people feel better about each other and about doing business together.”  Breaking the ice with a laugh or a light-hearted statement is a tool I also experience to be useful, working in a variety of different cultural environments, I find humour effective in setting a positive tone for a conversation or meeting.

To conclude, humour is surely a trait and a skill each of us should be working on in order to develop stronger work relationships, higher perception of ourselves and can even help us with prospecting clients or customers! However, it is always important to know where the line is between being funny and being offensive and inappropriate. In fact, exaggerating this trait may be seen as counterproductive in the workplace, distracting the group from the focus of their job. Also on a personal level, the individual often being inappropriately funny could be labelled as a “clown”, his or hers reputation could be significantly lowered by their peers and their insights may not be taken seriously or be as impactful.

After reading various studies and experiencing first hand, I would say – as with almost everything – use your sense of humour smartly and in measure and it is will definitely have a positive influence in your career!

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