When is it not ok to be funny at work?

It’s International Joke Day today. Yep, it’s a thing. That’s so funny right?!

It got me thinking about the role humour plays when we are at work. It’s a fabulous uplifting way to create energy and connection. Laughing stimulates organs that release endorphins to our brain. It activates and flushes out your stress responses and stimulates circulation – which reduces tension. How’s that for a sell for laughing?

It can also be used as a way to avoid conflict or the tough stuff. We call it ‘monkey’ behaviour. When things get tense, or weird or we feel conflict arising we might default to being a monkey. Cracking gags and using sarcasm to ease the tension. That feels like a clever way to use it right?! Well it can be, but it also might not be. 

If we always default to our monkey behaviour then we might never get to the source of the tension. We might not get to solve it because we feel too uncomfortable in this space. 

The other way we might use humour is when we blame it for a comment we made and not take responsibility for it.

I had a conversation recently with a couple of mates who are Mums. They were telling me that their teenagers can often retort with; “It was just a joke Mum” or; “I was just being funny. You need to lighten up”. Of course, my teenager would never say that. (Not when she might be reading this blog).

In this case we are blaming the other person for not seeing the funny. If the joke is at the expense of another then I am tipping it’s not really that funny. At its worst it’s a form of gaslighting. Because you are making the other person’s ‘lack of humour’ the problem.

Bottom line. If we are hiding in humour to avoid conflict or using it as a weapon – then it’s not funny. Work needs to be a place where people feel safe to play and think and work with each other. Let’s do more of that.

Happy funny and a hilarious International Joke Day to you all!

If you liked this then you might like to attend my upcoming event on Embedding a feedback culture. You can find out more and register here.