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Humor Assignment: Workplace Humor- “Good or Bad?”


Task: There is a strong social assumption that workplace humor is welcome and enjoyed by everyone. Critically examine whether all workplace humor is good humor.


According to the study ofBitterly& Brooks (2020) considered in the humor assignment, Humor is something that majority of people use and enjoy instinctively which means that humor is good for humans. Scientists have proved that a strong sense of humor releases the stress out of people making them less depressed and anxious. Humor increases the levels of beta-endorphins making a human mind more relaxed and feel good to keep the immune system functioning. As humor can be enjoyed at any place with any person, it can also be enjoyed at a workplace. Humor often works when it violates the general norms, but it must be a tasteful humor. Although tasteful humor can lead to success at work but not employees are expected to crack meaning jokes with wit on a regular basis. There are workplaces that welcome and encourage humor as its one of the most important forms of expression. When workplace humor is shared openly, it tends to encourage people to work freely and be more productive.

Research on humor assignment suggests that workplace humor makes a working environment more relaxed even when they are not a part of it (Caudill&Woodzicka, 2017). Majorly employees are more comfortable sharing jokes with their colleagues rather than their bosses as hierarchy plays an important role.In this cutthroat competitive business world, organizations find themselves immersed in the global war for talent. Therefore, their current workforce can be the best weapon at disposal which means that organizations are going to put more effort in mitigating the issues of employee engagement and collaboration in coming years. The efforts will also be focused towards motivating the employees to enjoy their time at work and be productive to have greater chance of success. Humor is a simple form of expression that eases the human mind along with releasing tensions at workplace. As human nature suggests, some people might use humor to be taken more seriously and recognized at work, whereas some people might hold back due to the fear of offending someone (Jiang, Li&Hou, 2019).

There is a thin line between delightful and unprofessional humor that must always be maintained. People often have the tendency to take themselves way too seriously and that is why not all jokes work with everyone. For instance, the lighthearted nature of an employee might offend any senior manager. On the other hand, the same humor can work well with co-workers. Everyday work requires some humor to keep the environment light and this can be accomplished by leaders to inject humor into the workday. As opined by Balazs,,(2017), Humor can be taken as an advantage to help build a positive work culture, build the brand, and attract and retain employees. Other benefits include group cohesion, increase in productivity, higher retention, stress management and profitability.

As per the research by Alkahlan, Al-Dossari& Al-Qahtani (2020), The Iceberg Theory of Culture can be appropriately suited for workplace humor. This theory underlines the fact that the meaning of humor can be different for different people. For instance, in a workplace, a manager constantly comments on his employee’s weight. This lighthearted nature might seem fun to some, but the employee feels uncomfortable. Similarly, when coworkers joke about the leadership of their bosses, it might offend them to a great extent. The Iceberg theory considered in the present context of humor assignment states that one can only see the tip of the iceberg which means they may only see what someone eats, how they dress and what language they speak. However, there is a whole set of underlying values that also needs to be understood. Since majority of organizations operate globally, they recruit employees from different cultures and geographical locations. Even after working on the global front, there is cultural difference underneath. However, it is not important that cultural differences are inter-national or inter-state to cause issues. A person from a one department may have issues with a person from another department within the organization. Therefore, these issues can be mitigated only when a positive humor culture is developed in an organization either at individual or team level. Humor can be broken down into two axes- social vs. self and positive vs. negative. This helps to categorize types of humor and accordingly identify which will suit better for the team. The Social vs. self-axis states whether the joke is on the joke teller or on the joke receivers. Whereas, positive vs. negative axis is about whether the joke is on the positive side or negative side. Nevertheless, whatever humor people decide fits, it must be understood that humor can be taken differently by different people and therefore, managers at workplace must act as models for behavior at workplace.

The reasons behind assuming humor as one of the keys to success at workplace are listed below.

  • First and foremost, humor at workplace can potentially act as a good stress buster. Despite number of issues and problems at work, there are employees that have a sense of humor and are reported to deal with less stress and anxiety. Humor offers a cognitive shift in how a person perceives their stressors. Since laughter is the best medicine to stress, managers can also support positive humor without offending or deceiving any other employee.
  • Secondly, a person with good sense of humor will aim at laughing with someone rather than laughing at them. Till the time there is no malice in the joke made on someone, it can be enjoyed by everyone.
  • Third, humor can be humanizing as it brings both managers and employees to realize the fact, they all seek common ground (Gimbel, 2017). However, appropriate boundaries can be set to not step on the wrong foot.
  • Fourth, humor can allow a company to be stand out and provide better customer services. This will make the customers more loyal and the jovial workplace environment will encourage employees to increase their productivity.

The discussion on humor assignment concludes that workplace humor is universal, yet researchers are still finding ways to understand how it affects employees’ behavior in organizations. The truth is that all human beings love to laugh as it is good for their mental, physical, and emotional health. Humor at workplace is often seen as a stress buster but maintaining the thin line between funny and offensive becomes extremely important. Managers can help navigate these issues and act as role models under their leadership. A positive nature and working environment are likable by everyone making employees, coworkers and managers to be more trustworthy. This will not only allow to break the ice but also build relationships in the workplace, especially as creating meaningful relationships are critical to success at either individual, team or organizational level. Nevertheless, researchers are still identifying better ways to utilize humor at workplace to bring enthusiasm and a positive work culture. ?

Alkahlan, H., Al-Dossari, A., & Al-Qahtani, L. (2020). The Iceberg Theory: A Critical Reading of AA Milne’s Tale Winnie The Pooh (1926). International Journal of Language and Literary Studies, 2(2), 242-256.

Balazs, S., Kuchinka, D. G., Mantz, T., & Bracken, D. (2017). Creating an Innovative Workplace: Effects of Humor Style and Supervisor Support. European Journal of Management, 17, 37-48.

Bitterly, B., & Brooks, A. W. (2020). Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work. Humor assignmentHARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, 98(4), 96-103.

Caudill, A., &Woodzicka, J. (2017). Funny business: Using humor for good in the workplace. Humor, 30(1), 43-62.

Gimbel, S. (2017). The Ethics of Humor: Can't You Take a Joke?. Leadership, 4, 4. Jiang, T., Li, H., &Hou, Y. (2019).Cultural differences in humor perception, usage, and implications. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 123.


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