Using Humor at Work

Humor in the office is perhaps one of the most undervalued soft skills. The ability to make people laugh, to be vulnerable, and to lighten the mood when things have gotten a little too dark is necessary to keeping morale high in the workplace.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we need to crack jokes at every opportunity. But it does mean that a willingness to look at situations from many perspectives–including the absurd!–can often be beneficial.

Taking ourselves too seriously can make us immune to constructive criticism. When we can’t have a sense of humor about our work, we create a barrier around ourselves: good ideas can’t get in or out. Nobody wants to interact with folks who hold themselves too precious for feedback. We need to be able to laugh at our mistakes, to genuinely welcome feedback, to cultivate an atmosphere of approachability and–dare I say it?–fun.

We need to be able to laugh at our mistakes, to genuinely welcome feedback, to cultivate an atmosphere of approachability and--dare I say it?--fun. Click To Tweet

Some ideas for incorporating fun and humor into your work:

Team Meetings and Presentations

I’ve had great results with funny interstitial slides during presentations. It’s always a pleasant surprise when a presenter throws something personal or funny into the mix–like a slide with a joke, meme, or even calling out something about another coworker, like a birthday or anniversary.

Beware of incorporating extra slides in already-long presentations. Nobody wants to sit through super long meetings–and they won’t be thrilled you added time with more slides. Use your best judgment.

Newsletter and Emails

I love to send emails with punny titles. I’ve had colleagues tell me they look forward to my emails because getting that silly subject line in their inbox made them smile.

I’ve also heard of people changing their email signatures for levity–instead of something serious like “Senior Business Development Manager,” they might change it to, “Convincing CEOs to Join Our Team Since 2011”.

Notes and Personal Touches

When I worked in an office, I enjoyed leaving notes for my coworkers. Small things like Post-Its stuck to a computer monitor that just said, “Thanks for your help yesterday!” really made a difference. It seems that one of the biggest challenges workers face is feeling appreciated: almost none of us feels appreciated on a regular basis. Bringing that level of camaraderie into the workplace can change the way people feel about themselves, their work, and, by extension, you.

Things to Be Aware Of or Avoid

  1. Don’t give people nicknames. It’s tough for some people to speak up about a nickname they don’t like. On the other hand, some people will feel left out by not receiving a nickname. In general, keep it professional and stuck with first or last names.
  2. Don’t joke around with frustrated people. If someone is having a rough day, under a tight timeline, having a significant problem that is affecting their work, that isn’t the time to try to make them laugh. Take them and their issues seriously and either leave them alone or gently inquire how you can help. You can share a laugh later when the crisis is averted.
  3. Keep your jokes HR-safe. Even if you think the recipient of the joke won’t mind, it’s never a good idea to tell work-inappropriate jokes. You never know how it could come back to haunt you. When in doubt, keep it to yourself.

Don't joke around with frustrated people. Take them and their issues seriously and either leave them alone or gently inquire how you can help. You can share a laugh later when the crisis is averted. Click To Tweet

And, as a final HR-approved bit of humor, I leave you with The Twelve Days of Christmas, Office Edition. Happy holidays!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my teammates gave to me:
12 empty Keurig pods
11 meeting invites with no agendas
10 reply alls
9 poorly connected conference calls
8 stolen lunches
7 frantic emails
6 interruptions
FIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE BOUTS OF SNIFFLES, COUGHS, AND SNEEZES!
4 calls in “sick”
3 fresh pens
2 friend requests
AND AN OUTLOOK EXTENSION FOR FREE!