What happens when Karen and a boomer crash into each other?
Even though several studies say that we perceive our humorous coworkers as more self-confident and competent (smarter too), telling jokes might sometimes feel like walking on the edge. Tell an inappropriate one, and your relationship with the boss or work friend can be ruined.
What’s more, instances where we make a sloppy comment, something said in jest without bad intention can harm our company’s culture and have long-lasting effects on it.
Sometimes inappropriate jokes are just a result of poor word choice and improper timing. However, in some cases, teasing and joking conceal an attempt to put someone off guard. These behaviors quickly become problematic since they’re a source of toxic work culture, and HR or the boss must intervene.
That said, we decided to explore the phenomenon of office jokes and see how they translate to remote environments and chat rooms. We will see what are the benefits of joking in the workplace, but also which chat rules we might be breaking and how to correct this.
Benefits of using humor in the workplace.
It makes work much more enjoyable. People enjoy working with people they like. Humor in the office helps break the ice and allows people to get to know their boss and each other better and on a more personal level.
It has stress relieving properties. Usually our muscles tense when we’re stressed, which can be the cause of physical discomfort. A good laugh comes as an antidote for this as it relaxes muscles with the effects that can last up to 45 minutes.
It cuts through tension. Humor in the office can serve as a fantastic tension breaker, since people who laugh as a reaction to conflict usually use convergent thinking and are able to find multiple solutions for the present problems.
It boosts creative spirit. Humor is one of the most important parts of creative thinking as it helps in lowering internal critics, and allows people to play with new ideas.
It increases employee morale. Employees enjoy working with people with a great sense of humor. A job should be fun, and employees should look forward to coming to work each day. Humor in the workplace allows the creation of this atmosphere and makes a tight-knit community of engaged people.
Increases productivity. Humor and people who share funny stories create a joyful atmosphere that promotes interaction and thinking outside the box and boosts the creative spirit. All of this, in combination, leads to greater job productivity.
Inappropriate office jokes are nothing new
Many people cover prejudices and animosities with “humor” that sounds innocent on the surface, but it has a deeper meaning with the potential to hurt others' feelings. Usually, when somebody says something nasty, and others get offended, we can hear excuses along the lines that people are being “too sensitive” or “not funny”.
There are various reasons why people make poor jokes in the office. Sometimes it's about ignorance, while on other occasions might be the indirect expression of feelings or pure malice on the job.
One thing is sure - inappropriate humor isn’t acceptable and it shouldn’t be tolerated. That said, here are some ways to deal with inappropriate jokes:
- Educate your employees. Cutting down inappropriate jokes means going to the root of the problem. Sometimes, as we’ve already mentioned, inappropriate jokes are the result of ignorance and unawareness that some things shouldn’t be joked with. Educating your employees on diversity and inclusion can successfully decrease the number of inappropriate jokes in the office, as it will boost their self-awareness.
- Discourage inappropriate jokes, and don’t be afraid to start from the top down. To be effective, change needs to begin from the top. That said, make sure the upper management is asked to stop if you notice they practice verbally abusive speech disguised as jokes.
- Don’t be too strict Rules are usually there for a reason, and they should be followed. However, unintentional mishaps do happen, and we shouldn’t overly-chastise someone for an unintentional slip. Instead, make sure to implement a way employees can flag incidents anonymously and have a talk with people whose name comes up frequently.
How and when to joke in an office chat?
- Determine when it’s appropriate. The success of a joke depends much on the timing. Just as you wouldn’t share the same juicy joke both to your friends and your in-laws, you should pay attention to when it is an appropriate time to joke in an office chat. Don’t try to lighten up the situation by mentioning your boss's favorite food during serious, project-related discussions, as you’ll just clog the chat and break the stream of important job information.
- Think about the place you’re going to place a joke. Chat applications allow us to communicate with coworkers and clients in real-time. They resemble many spoken conversations, but they’re not quite the same as your boss can read them, or you can be told off if you share something inappropriate.
- Think about what you’re joking about. Don't let your tongue be quicker than your thoughts. Think hard before your share something funny, especially on the job. Different people come from different backgrounds, and their experiences and sense of humor vary greatly from person to person. You never know which trauma someone went through and what might come as offensive and provoking to others. The most important thing is to remember that coworkers aren't your friends, and they're less likely to be forgiving of your reckless jokes. That said, think twice before you place a joke, and make sure the topics you find funny aren't provoking anyone.
- Think about whether your jokes are inclusive enough. A diverse workforce brings a wide array of benefits. However, it also increases the chance some jokes will "hit close to home". The truth is - many funny things have a discriminatory element. Yes, some people that belong to minority groups tend to laugh about themselves. However, that doesn't mean they'd approve of the same joke said by someone who doesn't belong to the same group. When we make jokes about ourselves, oftentimes, we try to heal trauma as a way to relieve ourselves from the stress it causes. We're far from saying that workplaces should be sterile and ban all jokes, but maybe we should just pick our laughing topics carefully and think about others while placing them in the first place.