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Humour at workplace goes a long way to release tension among employees, relieve stress, help an employee deal with a bad day and even boost productivity. This humour becomes even more lit when it comes from your boss. S/he creates a relaxed office environment as opposed to the uptight, no nonsense boss who doesn’t joke around. This kind of a boss will make employees coil quietly on their desks appearing to be busy on their computers. To some extend this kind of a boss is perceived to suck all the energy out of the room.
According to Larry Hughes’ research published on Emerald Insights journal, humor breaks up tedium, eases tension, and helps foster team spirit – and his study also indicate that funny leaders create trust and improve performance among their employees.
However, as much as office humour is the ‘in thing’ in modern office setup, research has shown that bad jokes can have a corrosive effect on the target group. Especially when leader tells bad jokes it is seen to undermine the organization’s objectivity.
Workplaces are bound by rules and expected behaviours and code of conduct. Employees usually do understand what is and what is not permissible from their leaders/managers. When leaders make bad jokes that subvert social norms, it shows that the organization has abandoned the very thing that binds their behavioural norms.
Humour should be in its very sense meant to create light moment, and it is a desirable quality for both men and women, but when not done right can actually land you into a legal tussle. What you may think is funny at workplace may actually be illegal. The law protects minorities, persons with disabilities, women, and all employees from harassment, slander, and discrimination at work.
Suing for harassment is actually very easy because the law doesn’t specify a clear cutline as to what is harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work. According to a professor of Law at UCLA School of Law Eugene Volokh, “even speech can be punished as workplace harassment if it is: “severe or pervasive” enough to create a “hostile or abusive work environment” based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability (including obesity).” Good leaders and colleagues will always shun from uttering jokes such as relating to or having religious connotations, sexual orientation, ageist and sexiest jokes, weight related issues and/or physical appearance, tribal jokes, racial statements among many others.
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