Comedians who tell a poorly-timed joke might have only to worry about not getting the applause they’d intended. In the workplace, on the other hand, a poorly-executed joke can mean the difference between career success and failure.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice telling jokes at work; properly-executed good humor at work can enhance relationships as well as giving some much-needed levity during stressful situations.
Before you design to be the workplace clown though, be sure you’re not committing any of these joke-telling faux pas.
In the business environment, telling jokes that include profanity or sexual overtones can be a big no-no. Don’t tell any jokes about female or male body parts, about sexual acts or the lack thereof. Not only are those jokes off-color, they are very likely to offend someone in the workplace.
Quips about the Boss
You might think you’re in good company by making a joke at the boss’ expense, but if one among you is more loyal than you imagined, this is a sure way to get yourself on the boss’ bad side -- or worse, get yourself fired.
Putting People Down or Singling Someone Out
While on the subject of putting down the boss, don’t do it to anyone in the workplace. You never know which of your co-workers will one day ascend to a management role, or how your mean-spirited joking will affect the productivity of the workplace. What’s more, making fun of others when they’re not in on the joke is just plain rude, and won’t paint you in a good light.
Race and Religious Humor
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because everyone in the room is of the same creed or skin colour that they won’t be offended by your racial or religious humor. Even when it’s self-deprecating, jokes that point out differences between different types of people are just bad form.
Gender or Other Discrimination
Blonde jokes might be OK among your tow-headed friends outside the workplace, but in the office, they’re another signal that you’re unaccepting of others, that you tend to discriminate against people who aren’t like you, or that you’re just plain insensitive.
If you’re seeing a pattern here, it’s because there is one. Jokes that poke fun of people for being different -- whether that’s on account of their race, religion, gender or workplace status -- are not going to help you succeed in your career.
So what’s left?
If you’re looking for ways to brighten up the workplace, stick to safer topics such as animals, kids, or humor that has to do with your line of work. If you’re working in an international business setting, you’ll have to be even more careful about what to say, and you should research the business culture in the countries you’re working in to ensure you’re not committing some huge cultural blunder.
Humor in the workplace can certainly keep things light and make work more fun -- just be sure you’re staying within some general bounds.