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Being Funny at Work Could Get You A Raise: The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Humor

The successful use of humor can increase how confident and competent people see in you in the office, but one bad joke can cause your status to plummet, according to recent research.

You probably know by now that one of the major keys to success, whether it be in dating, at the office, or just life in general, is confidence. What you may not know, however, is that one of the ways to appear more confident, and even more competent, is to be funny. Seriously.

This is especially true in the workplace, according to research from professors at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School. The researchers studied the relationship between humor and status, particularly in social situations and hierarchical office environments. They found that when used deftly and appropriately,  a sense of humor can actually enhance your status in the workplace and make you seem more confident and competent to your co-workers. But make no mistake, the use of humor in the office is risky, because if a joke fails or is considered inappropriate, your office stock will drastically plummet. 

So how can you let your co-workers know you’re a funny guy, and still avoid telling any bad jokes? 

“Since it is a really important skill set in our daily lives and a really important managerial skill, I think it could help for people to try to take classes. They could do improv classes that could get them more familiar, more comfortable with delivering a joke,” says co-researcher Brad Bitterly. He also says it’s important to remember that “in novel situations with unfamiliar others, you might not have a good read on how your joke is going to be received.” In other words, if you’re not sure whether or not someone will “get” your joke, or worse—be offended by it, don’t tell it. 

Somewhat ironically, the takeaway from the research is that humor should be taken seriously as a tool to help navigate social interactions and establish yourself within a professional hierarchy. So the next time you’re in a meeting with your boss, consider working in a bit of humor or a well-timed joke, and you just might just set yourself up for a promotion. And if you’re already the funniest guy in your office, but still looking to build confidence, check out these easy confidence-boosting behaviors and tips.

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