Three words that can end the office clown’s career: ‘That wasn’t funny’

“My wife accused me of being immature. I told her to get out of my fort!” If you think this is funny, you will probably read this article. If you don’t, you likely will think less of the author and move on.

At least that seems to be the conclusion one can draw from a recent study on humor and how it impacts perceptions of individuals, especially in the office.

Did you hear the one about the guy who made people laugh at the office? His co-workers are more likely to see him in a positive light – more confident, trusted, a person they want to work with.

Before running off to work to be the office clown, keep this in mind: Researchers note in the March, 2017 issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that successful humor in the workplace benefits the joke-teller — but only if the jokes are funny.

Bad jokes won’t advance your career.

Attempts at humor that fail are not simply a precursor to awkwardness. An unfunny or inappropriate joke resulted in the joke-teller’s judgement and competence being questioned by those around him.

The study, Risky business: When humor increases and decreases status, primarily involved weighing the results of two jokes: a “funny” one about a dog poo cleaner, and, a “that’s what she said” joke.

The dog poo cleaner joke sounded like this: “Very professional.  After cleaning up the poop, they weren’t even upset when they found out that I don’t have a pet! But seriously, this service is reliable and always leaves the yard spotless.”

The unfunny joke was a response to “are you looking for a challenging position?” – “that’s what she said.”

The fellow who told the funny joke was rated by subjects as “higher status” and confident, an increase of perception over those who were serious or told a joke that flopped.

Researchers used various funny and unfunny jokes to further test their theories and came up with the same results.

Ultimately, if you can make people smile in an office setting, crack a couple of (decent) jokes and find humor in a situation, your co-workers will think highly of you.

Conversely, peppering co-workers with bad or inappropriate jokes will not only leave your colleagues questioning your sense of humor, but your competence and trustworthiness as well.



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