You may not want to exactly channel your inner comedian, rattling off joke after joke at the office, but sometimes laughter is the best medicine, even at work.
In fact, a new Accountemps survey finds that 78 percent of CFOs consider an employee’s sense of humor to be an important part of fitting into their company’s culture.
How to effectively, and professionally, display your sense of humor is another story – whether you’re an employee or vying to be a company’s next best hire.
After all, you never want to offend anyone, so you need to have comedic timing to know when it’s appropriate to make light of a situation, and when it’s not.
Here are several tips to keep in mind when trying to display your sense of humor in professional scenarios:
1. Diffuse (some) stressful situations.
Think twice before unleashing a one-line zinger when people are discussing budget cuts. But, if there is a situation that’s less directly related to money, but still somewhat stressful, light humor can bring levity to the situation.
Use your judgment and ask yourself if this will strain the situation or put people at ease.
2. Leverage the right medium
Refrain from getting your yucks in over email or on the company’s instant messaging system.
Not only can your humor get lost in translation without body language and inflection, but you may also inadvertently offend someone.
And since demonstrating a sense of humor can highlight your personality and build rapport with colleagues, doing it over email won’t be as effective as in person or on a video conference call, anyway.
Of course if your team works remotely, then you really won’t have the opportunity other than conference calls and video calls, but whatever you do, try to refrain from exchanging humor online.
3. Avoid racy humor
If you’re questioning whether or not a comment you’re going to make crosses the line, the mere fact that you’re hesitating means you should not go for it.
Keep things G-rated and steer away from making people feel awkward or uncomfortable as it relates to race, gender and politics.
Think of it like a job interview – there are definitely some topics to avoid overall in the workplace, but on an interview in particular, you should be on your best behavior.
Poking fun at the expense of a broken printer is a much safer bet than trying to get chuckles over something inappropriate.
4. Let your personality shine
As you channel your inner Trevor Noah, it’s just as important to build rapport as it is to demonstrate your wit and charm.
Unleashing a sense of humor in digestible portions can show that you’re approachable, as people become comfortable interacting with you. Plus, if you’re about to enter an intense meeting with unhappy clients or a pitch meeting with investors, for example, breaking the ice with subtle humor can help ease tensions.
5. Poke fun with someone instead of at them
If you’re lightly poking fun at the company or their decision to keep an annual holiday party at a huge hotel but forego annual bonuses, be kind.
You need to be mindful of sarcastic or demeaning comments that can tarnish someone’s character.
Instead of using humor to jab at a leader who made that decision, find a topic that doesn’t target anyone in particular.
6. Make yourself a target instead
Overall it’s best to poke fun at the larger organization or something generic than it is to make jokes at the expense of a specific individual.
And in the case of doubt, always err on the side of caution. That said, if you do poke fun at someone, it’s much safer to do it to yourself. It shows you don’t see yourself as invincible and almighty, especially if you’re a business leader.
7. Be tactful; hold back at first and then ease into it
One of the most important things to remember about leveraging a sense of humor is that, yes, business leaders prefer to see it in a workplace culture, but you certainly need to feel it out during job interviews.
While interviewers are assessing not only your skill set and experiences but also cultural fit, you need to lead up to it. You shouldn’t go into your first job interview making light of a situation.
You need to convey professionalism, tactfulness and seriousness. Plus, in case you’re nervous and want to ease anxiety with a joke, simply tell it to yourself prior to the interview.
If you are typically accustomed to showcasing a sense of humor, that’s great, however in an interview session while navigating nerves and brand new contacts, the levity may fall flat.
During each round of interviews, as you build rapport with the interviewer conversationally and tone lightens, you can begin to assess when it’s appropriate to loosely insert a light laughing matter here or there.
Use it sparingly and assess their sense of humor, as well, knowing once you’re a new hire you can begin to let your inner comedian shine.