Is a sense of humour in the workplace good for your career?

By Robert Half on 26th April 2017

Success in the office is no laughing matter. Or is it? While they need to take their work seriously, accounting and finance professionals shouldn’t always take themselves that way — because a sense of humour in the workplace is a good thing.

Humour has a way of connecting people, building rapport, alleviating tension and fostering a positive culture. While professionals should be vigilant that a sense of humour is not a priority, its by-product is worth exploring towards creating a happy work environment. A Robert Half survey found that 91% of U.S. executives believe a sense of humour is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humour do a better job.

So how can you use your sense of humour in the workplace? These three tips can help.

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously

It is always easiest and safest to show humour by poking fun at oneself. Without going overboard, be able to laugh at yourself. This will make you more approachable and easier for people to work with.

Avoid trying to be funny if it doesn’t come naturally, though. Having a sense of humour is about maintaining the proper perspective, regardless of the situation, not firing off one-liners.

2. Laugh with your co-workers — but never at them

Hearty group laughter can reduce stress, improve health and help foster good working relationships. In fact, according to our report The Secrets of the Happiest Companies and Employees, positive workplace relationships are one of the six key drivers of workplace happiness and that's a positive sign as 81% of UK employees get along with their immediate team.

However, targeting others for a chuckle isn't fun at all. Watch the sarcasm, which can be interpreted as demeaning or insulting, and it can actually increase stress. There is a time place for everything, including having a sense of humour.

3. Keep it appropriate

We hope it goes without saying, but it bears repeating: Topics like race, gender, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religion and disabilities are off-limits. Also skip negative humour, which can be defined as any joke that is at the expense of another person, organisation or group of people.

And, no matter how tempting it may be, don’t forward emails containing jokes, “funny” images or videos. You never know what an employee may consider offensive, and taking a chance something will provoke laughter just isn’t worth the risk.

In moderation, a sense of humour is a good thing

While some bosses may be concerned about showing their lighter side to an employee, the ability to smile or have some fun is a valuable asset in the workplace. 

When appropriately used, a sense of humour can restore a day of stress or momentarily distract a fellow co-worker who may be just having a bad day at work. When you work with a team you enjoy, you’re bound to be more eager to satisfy. In turn, you’re more productive. Likewise, if you notice colleagues are distracted or down, you’re more apt to address the matter, rather than walk past it. A little humour at work can show co-workers you think of them as more than number-crunching robots. Just having someone cheer them up can boost staff morale and raise their productivity.

Your good temperament and ability to maintain levity in the workplace will make people want to work for you. They’ll also be more confident coming to you when they need help and in times of crisis. In addition, you’ll be more likely to establish your company as an attractive employer and boost retention.

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