Communicate on the Same Wavelength



Can a sense of humor be a problem?

Your Homeland is where people understand your jokes

Miljenko Jergović

The way coworkers joke and what they find funny can determine the productivity of a team, and the financial results of the entire organization.

Why is a sense of humor important?

Teams that laugh are twice as likely to solve their tasks creatively (Mc Kinsey, 2021).

A healthy sense of humor releases hormones that make people feel happier and less stressed. Employees who laugh together are more likely to work well together (HBR 2017). It has also been shown that the presence of humor allows you to complete tasks perceived as tedious, twice as fast (David Cheng and Lu Wang).

What is a sense of humor?

A sense of humor is the ability to express and understand the comical (Martin, 2003). It is a tool used to build bonds with others and it also helps to cope with stress (Bulzak, 2016).

Psychologist Rod Martin (2003) distinguished four styles of humor: affiliative, aggressive, self-enhancing, and self-degrading.

The affiliation type is conducive to a good atmosphere in a group – an employee who is characterized by this type of humor usually relieves tension and creates good relationships in a team.

The opposite of the affiliate type is the aggressive style, manifested in the desire to lower the value of others. It is used by sarcastic people who mask their negative attitude towards the world with jokes.

Another type, strengthening the “I,” is identified by a personal, healthy distance that helps to survive difficult situations.

A non-adaptive variation of the self-enhancing type is the self-degrading type – when someone critically laughs at themself and questions their competences and merits.

Differences in senses of humor

One’s sense of humor is shaped on the basis of childhood experiences, cultural affiliation and personality traits.

For example:

– The Japanese do not often make fun of themselves, unlike the Scots (Hofstede).

– People with an aggressive sense of humor tend to humiliate other coworkers because of their own prejudices and fears.

– People who are characterized by high levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness are less likely to reach for xenophobic and racist jokes.

– Extraverted personalities who are open to new experiences are closer to affiliative humor, which fosters a good atmosphere in an organization (Psychology Today, 2019).

How to joke well?

It’s worth noting that leaders with a sense of humor can count on 27% greater appreciation among employees in assessing their effectiveness in motivating the team. They are also perceived as more inspiring compared to those who don’t joke at all (McKinsey, 2021).

However, being funny is not just about fun – it is also a responsibility and a challenge. Because if we do not take into account the differences between employees, it may happen that some jokes will be misinterpreted.

Therefore, when making a joke, it’s important to pay close attention to the cultural, personality and generational differences between employees. This is a difficult task in diverse organizations – not only for leaders.

Situational context is also important – jokes about an employee who has been fired may not be a good way to relieve tension in a team. Similarly, if a leader’s jokes cross the line of decency, the team receives a message that breaking communication and moral rules is okay (HBR, 2017).

Keep in mind that effective communication does not only mean moving within the area of accepted ​​social norms. It should also contain elements of empathy – also when we reach for a joke. Therefore, if there are ever any doubts in your team about how, with whom and what to joke about – it’s worth reaching for Empatyzer.


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