Could joking around at work hurt your career?
Q: I have a co-worker who tells me and whoever is listening at least one joke a day, if not more, and was wondering if joking can hurt your career? It does lighten the mood around the office, but I don’t want my boss to think I am not serious about my job. What are your thoughts on joking around at work?
A: Humor can be a powerful way of creating a good atmosphere at work if it’s not aggressive or offensive.
Naturally the number of jokes being told, and the timing can interfere with your workload that could lead to career issues such as not paying attention to details or managing your time. However, your performance and the results you produce at work should be a big indicator of how serious you are about doing a good job.
Consider talking with your colleague and tell him about your concerns in sending the wrong impression. He might not be aware that you feel uncomfortable at times and could ease up on the number of jokes.
Humor is an interesting skill: An occasional good-humored joke often enhances creativity and overall performance, according to a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia management professor Christopher Robert and doctoral student Wan Yan. Robert said, “The ability to laugh and make other people laugh has physiological effects on the body that cause people to become more bonded.”
From a career perspective, workplace humor often builds trust, strengthens morale and relieves stress. The right dose of humor can help reduce tension and can make difficult situations easier to handle.
A poll of 737 chief executive officers by recruiters Hodge-Cronin and Associates found that 98 percent favor job applicants with a sense of humor. In addition, 84 percent of 1,000 executives, in a survey by Robert Half International staffing, believe employees with a good sense of humor do better at their jobs.
Jokes in poor taste or at inopportune moments that rouse concerns about professionalism, respect or maturity can derail a good career path and cause unnecessary tension. Workplace humor requires being aware of your audience and being introspective.
For example, an employee once described a new manager who introduced himself to his team by making jokes for about 10 minutes. They wondered if he was trying too hard to be liked, nervous or perhaps overcompensating, or not serious about his new undertaking.
Joking or laughing at your own shortcomings can be a good way to make people feel at ease; just don’t laugh too much at what’s critical to your success.
Kimberly Thompson is a board-certified counselor. Send questions to email@example.com or Houston Chronicle, P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210. Visit her blog at www.blogs.chron.com/careerrescue.