Is humour in the workplace dangerous ?

February 19, 2018 3:58 pm Published by TeamRH

Humour in the workplace is not necessarily deemed positive. But why? We have compiled several simple rules from our experiences in HR and from our research on this vast topic.

Today, as a CEO, I always work with an air of humour. Apparently, I am the only head of industry that does the One Boss Show.[/vc_column_text]

A forenote: prohibited subjects

There are a number of topics that are difficult to address with humour in the professional world: politics, religion, race, ethnic minorities, sex…

For example: a ‘funny’ story about sex could embarrass certain audience members for whom this subject is strictly personal.

Humour in the workplace should not target such subjects.

The studies of rod martin: 4 types of humor… not all of them are suitable in the workplace!

This Canadian psychologist has classified the types of humour found in the workplace into 4 main categories and in doing so, he simultaneously invites us to identify whether they are suitable in the workplace or not.

Aggressive humour: To be avoided

An employee leaves the office at 16:00… you say ‘what was the point in staying the afternoon?’… Everybody laughs at your quick wit, except the target… They arrived at 7:00am.

Humour that boosts your self-image: Very dangerous

The manager is already more likely to be criticized because they are hierarchically above other workers. Throwing around little remarks to reiterate their power is rather difficult for other employees to tolerate, as they are already under boss’ orders all day.

Self-depreciation: To be used with caution

You will be laughing at yourself, for example your bad fashion sense, small frame or linguistic errors. But you should take caution when making fun of your own incompetence, because you risk your competence subsequently being mocked: the skills that justify your position in the team.

Associative humour: Finally!

Together, we will make fun of people outside of the workplace community. The suppliers, clients, bankers… we can laugh at them and get away with it because they are not here and at the same time, having a common target can be a lot of fun.

Hermann indicates that each individual has different psychological preferences and therefore, different people will react differently in situations, being attracted to one section over another.

Ned hermann goes further: psychological preferences

Americans have a capability of vulgarization and simplification that borders on genius… or the caricature… according to our American friend Ned Hermann, dissects the brain into 4;

On the left of the brain: Reason

On the right of the brain: Imagination and creativity

At the top: Reflection is at its peak

At the bottom: Memory and emotions

He narrows his study down to 4 areas, to which he associates professional characteristics and key words;

How to communicate in the light of psychological preferences

When we communicate, our speech must adapt according to the type of individual we are interacting with. If you wish to connect with an individual with strong emotional qualities, a nurse for example, you should not necessarily use the same words or the same arguments as when talking to an accountant.

Good orators know exactly how to adapt to their audience: using statistics for the Reasoners, innovative ideas for the Imaginative individual, emotion and human values for the Emotional individuals and a well-structured speech for the Organisers.

Well the same applies for humour.

We finally understand why the humour of Pierre Desproges does not please everyone… especially the Reasonable Organisers.


To conclude

Using humour in the office is not a black and white matter. Certain topics must be avoided, focus should be placed on the style of humour (self-depreciative and associative) and above all, it is crucial to respect that everybody is different and therefore, a touch of humour will not be to everybody’s taste.


Our advice

Using humour comes with risks: Take care!

If you wish to use humour in the workplace, rather than embarking on a risky humorous adventure, take advantage of work parties to introduce a specialist sense of humour, as it is more acceptable to approach certain subjects outside of the workplace. Although – be sure to choose a tasteful sense of humour as resect (even in humour) is a golden rule in human resources!




About TeamRH:

TeamRH, a recruitment firm in Paris, is a leading player in the legal and financial sector. We work with a national and international clientele, helping them to strive for a top performance. Our consultants benefit from an extensive knowledge of the market and of legal professions in order to better understand their task. We also offer Career & Life Coaching sessions (stress, demotivation, professional strategies to handle burn out).

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