Funny Business: 5 Tips on Workplace Humor

A little workplace humor can make a big impact. Here's how to safely flex your funny bone at the office.

Laughter can make hectic days slightly easier to handle, while reducing the physical symptoms of stress. But a good guffaw can benefit the overall health of your office, too. 

Laughter enlivens the workplace, tames tension, sparks creative thinking and makes meetings more tolerable, all of which are vital to a successful creative firm or department. When crises arise, humor can be employed to restore perspective. (For instance, the TCG Blog team has occasionally exchanged links to ridiculous listicles and wacky creative projects when we're having a rough day.)

To soothe problems, workplace humor must be used in a positive, productive way. Here are some tips:

1. Go with your gut. Even if you think you know your audience's sensibilities, tread carefully. Each colleague likely has a different idea of what's funny, which can create a dangerous gray area between appropriate and offensive. Be very careful with off-color humor. If you think to yourself, "Hmm, I wonder if I should say this?" that's a clue you shouldn't. My advice: Take a moment, ponder what the impetuous Michael Scott from The Office would have done – and then do the opposite.

2. Don't use humor to criticize. Using workplace humor as a vehicle to vent or mock is no laughing matter. Saying, "Oh, I'm just kidding" or "Can't you take a joke?" after making a mean-spirited wisecrack at someone else's expense doesn't negate the snide comment. If you have to address a problem, be straightforward instead of sarcastic.

3. Poke fun at yourself. The safest target for a witty barb is you. For example, I've been known to meander during conference calls. But I've also been known to mock myself for said rambling. Being able to laugh at your own quirks (hopefully) shows that you're self-aware and don't take yourself too seriously. While you generally want to project the image of being confident and capable, a well-timed self-deprecating comment can be endearing.

4. Don't force it. Not everyone can tell a good joke. If cracking one-liners doesn't come naturally, use other ways to show your lighter side. Simply smiling and laughing along with jokes or witty comments can demonstrate you have a good sense of humor.

5. Watch what you write. Conveying your sense of humor with the written word isn't always easy because recipients of your messages obviously can't see your face or hear the tone in your voice, making it difficult to discern whether you're kidding. And adding a smiley face rarely clears up the confusion. :-)

Does your office enjoy a little levity? Share your workplace humor tips in a comment below.

Related post: How to Be Happy at Work: Rediscover the Joy of Creativity