Ice Breaker Or Deal Breaker: Jokes & Humor In The Office

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woman-office-laughingAs the office has become a second home to most women in the workplace, the amount of time spent on the job can sometimes be monotonous, boring and stagnant. Whether you are in the corner office or working in a cubicle, many tend to leave their place of assignment to fellowship with other co-workers or colleagues. Discussing current events, last night’s reality television shows or telling jokes around the water cooler have all become mechanisms used as a break in the day and to also get to know one another better.

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Based upon an article on About.com and according to research from Professor Christopher LeGrow from Marshall University, workplace humor can help people de-stress, but it can often be offensive. Around 70 percent of people polled reported that workplace jokes they’d heard centered around making fun of co-workers based on factors like age, sexual orientation and even weight.

Additionally, 40 percent admitted that they themselves had made fun of a co-worker’s age or weight. Other popular workplace joke topics included jokes based on accents, personal hygiene, and work behavior (like poor attendance, asking the wrong questions, or working too closely with the boss).

Here are a few things from About.com to think about before telling that joke that may not be so funny after all:

  • Think of The Message: Ask yourself what the point, or underlying message, of your joke is. Are you using humor to say something that you wouldn’t say to someone without the joke attached?
  • Know Your Audience: If you’re teasing someone about a physical feature, a scar, for example, do you know them well enough to know if they are comfortable enough with that feature to be matter-of-fact about it, or would mention of it be hurtful?
  • Leave Serious Topics Alone: Don’t joke about topics that are controversial or painful to someone else, like death, physical disabilities, sexual harassment or racial inequalities (or race in general). Just don’t do it.
  • Be Careful of Politics: While a surprising number of people make political jokes, it’s very important to know your audience, and avoid making political jokes that would offend someone of a different ideology if they’re part of the group. Something that sounds hilarious when Jon Stewart says it might sound crass coming from someone else.
  • When In Doubt, Leave It Out: If you’re not sure how a joke will be received, it’s best not to tell it. Some people say that society is too “politically correct” or that people offended by certain jokes are “too sensitive”, but it’s about respecting the people around you. Nobody wants to be made the butt of jokes, and it’s best to joke about a neutral topic.
  • Emulate Seinfeld, Not The Office: Reruns of Seinfeld, or any of his stand-up routines, provide perfect examples of (mostly) inoffensive but hilarious comedy. Everyone can relate to these jokes because they generally target human nature, the quirks of society, and don’t single out groups based on features like race, sex or other features. Seinfeld makes us laugh at ourselves, and not at the expense of others. Steve Carell’s character on “The Office,” however, gives perfect examples of what not to do. From belittling people, to constantly adding sexual innuendo by saying, “That’s what she said!” to singling out people based on weight, sex, race and other offensive features, “Michael” is hilarious because he constantly does exactly what you shouldn’t do!

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.

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