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How Being Funny Can Help You Get (or Lose) the Job


Humor has the potential to ease social situations when used in the right context and in the right spirit, and where do we need that more than in the office? Workplace humor can be tricky, however. While it can help alleviate stress, increase bonhomie, and make you a sought-after colleague, it can also brand you as insensitive, unprofessional, and crass. The content, subject, and intent of your jokes can make or dent your image.


(Photo Credit: Jason Hargrove/Flickr)

In a 2013 survey commissioned by CareerBuilder that included 2076 hiring managers and HR professionals across industries, 27 percent agreed that if they had two equally qualified candidates for the job, they would likely consider the one with a better sense of humor.

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“Applicants who take themselves too seriously are more likely to have difficulty overcoming obstacles,” says Michael Kerr, president of Humor at Work, at Forbes.

Here are a few tips to make humor at the workplace work for you:

1. Use situational humor that’s appropriate. Humor has the potential to ease a tense situation when used correctly. An intelligent and humorous discussion can be very engaging and enlightening at the same time. It can also be used as a great ice-breaker at events, for networking and making new connections.

2. Be sensitive to touchy topics. If you are working with multicultural teams or offices around the globe, be a bit more sensitive to the topics you choose. Honor the company’s code of conduct at all times and stay in line with the company culture.

3. Use humor to build trust. Kerr says that humor often reveals the authentic person lurking behind the professional mask. He explains that numerous studies suggest that people who share a healthy, positive sense of humor tend be more likable and are viewed as being more trustworthy.

4. Don’t bully through humor. Don’t target people as the subjects of your jokes, especially in a belittling or disparaging way.

5. You don’t always have to be funny. Sometimes, when people realize that they’ve developed a reputation for being the fun co-worker, they begin to stress over keeping up their image — to the detriment of productivity and job satisfaction for all involved. Humor should not be too much of an effort, especially when it’s not your job to be funny. Don’t make the situation too tense if you’ve run out of funny things to say.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think humor is valuable at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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