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Benefits and Considerations of Humor in the Workplace

humor in the workplace

Tasteful humor in the workplace is a good thing, according to a February 2021 article printed in Harvard Business ReviewHowever, many people do not express this side of themselves for fear of a reprimand or others viewing them as unprofessional. When surveyed for the Harvard Business Review article, most respondents stated that they appreciate managers who joke around with their team members and would enjoy the opportunity to respond in kind.

Why is a Sense of Humor Important at Work?

More than one in four employees responding to the Harvard survey on the topic of workplace humor replied that managers with this quality help them feel more motivated and engaged. These two qualities go a long way towards increasing employee satisfaction and decreasing turnover, and it costs nothing for managers to be friendly and jovial when the context is right.

Managers who kid around with employees and tell the occasional tasteful joke reap the rewards of improved employee performance. These types of interactions put most people in an upbeat mood that can lead to a greater comfort level with presenting new ideas and higher degrees of creativity. These positive feelings can increase the sense of passion that employees have towards their job.

The Benefits of Humor in the Workplace Just Keep Coming

When compared to humorless bosses with overly serious personalities, those who report to someone with a good sense of humor are more than twice as likely to solve challenges creatively. Laughing brings levity to both typical and urgent tasks.

Co-workers who laugh together cannot help but feel tasks closer to one another. The freedom to laugh at work also improves trust among managers and team members. People with at least one close friend at work whom they laugh with regularly report greater feelings of happiness and satisfaction with their jobs. Managers just need to keep an eye on workplace friendships to ensure they do not become clique-like to the point of excluding or making fun of others.

Forbes Magazine has also published data on the benefits of laughter in the workplace. Humor at work helps to put people at ease and can break up tension when stress levels are high. Laughing can change the way people view a stressful situation and allow them to think more creatively to come up with solutions. Sharing funny experiences as a group humanizes people and encourages greater willingness to seek common ground. 

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Humor Can Be Especially Important in These Challenging Times

Some people may want to create a lighter atmosphere at work but fear it may be inappropriate after the seriousness of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for the past year. The reality is that most people would welcome the opportunity to focus on something lighthearted for a few minutes.

The opportunity for team members to connect in this way is more important than ever with millions of Americans still working from home.

Certain Types of Workplace Humor Are Never Appropriate

Even though having a sense of humor at work comes with many benefits, managers and the HR department also need to set some professional boundaries. For example, those in leadership need to make it clear that jokes involving ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else that contributes to someone’s identity are inappropriate and could result in disciplinary action. The purpose of humor at work should always be to lift others up and not to hurt them in any way. Humor in the workplace should never be at a co-worker’s expense.

Everyone should remember that they are in a professional environment. Leadership needs to remind employees that jokes they can tell their friends over drinks may be in poor taste at the office. Pranks and practical jokes at work may not be the best idea either, especially when the recipient does not appreciate that kind of attention. This type of workplace humor sometimes gets so out of hand that people experience injuries for which employers are liable.

Employee Relations One of Many Services Provided by Axcet HR Solutions

We understand that encouraging people to enjoy their time at work while still promoting a respectful and professional environment can be challenging. Axcet HR Solutions provides complete HR services including employee relations for small and mid-sized employers in the Kansas City area. Please schedule a consultation to learn more about partnering with Axcet HR Solutions for the most effective HR strategies.

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Written by Laura Dowling, SPHR