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Funny at Work

I used to own a donut-making company, but I got fed up with the hole business.

I used to be a banker, but I lost interest.

I’m thinking of starting my own business as a watchmaker.  That way, I can set my own hours.

Funny at Work

Work is often a humorless endeavor.

Whether we’re earnestly attempting to solve big problems or striving for profits, jokes and laughter often seem out of place.  But some levity can actually help us achieve those serious goals.


Research shows that leaders with any sense of humor are 27% more motivating and admired than those who don’t joke around.  Their employees are 15% more engaged, and their teams are more than twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge.

Humor at work does translate into improved company performance.

Studies even show that something as simple as adding a lighthearted line at the end of a sales pitch — like “My final offer is X and I’ll throw in my pet frog” — can increase customers’ willingness to pay by 18%.  So a bad dad joke can literally help you get paid.

Why Humor Works

Part of it is that shared laughter accelerates a feeling of closeness and trust.

For example, when pairs of strangers were prompted to laugh together for five minutes before completing a self-disclosure exercise, their interactions were viewed as 30% more intimate than duos who performed the exercise without laughing first.

Even reminiscing about moments of shared laughter causes couples to report being 23% more satisfied in their relationships.  Research by Gallup shows that one of the greatest drivers of employee performance is having a close friend —one you laugh with — at work.

More Humor at Work

There are several reasons humor at work may be a good idea.

First, humor is a learned skill.

Everyone is funny in their own way, and it’s possible to both hone your sense of humor and learn to deploy it more effectively.  We need to remember that people appreciate almost any kind of silliness, provided it’s not hurtful or offensive.

Second, there are different types of humor styles.

There is bold and irreverent.  There is understated and lighthearted.  Next is sarcastic and nuanced.  And finally, there is expressive and charismatic.  To be good at interjecting humor in the workplace, it is best to understand your natural style and work to develop it

Finally, figure out where your humor style fits, and then work (cautiously and slowly) to let it evolve.


Interjecting humor into the workplace always comes with a fair amount of risk.  You may not be fully aware of everyone’s sensitivities so always consider the risk of crossing the line of appropriate/inappropriate/very inappropriate with specific topics.

Equally important, however, is the misunderstanding that the joke is the main point of the interaction.  Humor should not be the main course of your interactions with others but should be more akin to being a valued condiment.

The Bible

Too often, we forget that God created humor.

Take, for instance, the story where some young men mock old Elisha for his baldness in 2 Kings 2:23-24, and the prophet gets his curmudgeonly revenge with the help of 2 hungry bears.  This anecdote is funny in modern eyes, partially because the young men mock his baldness, partly because of the brevity of the story, in part for the “instant karma” involved, and in part because the antagonists are “boys.”

In Luke 1:62, Zechariah returns home after his vision in the Temple, and God has rendered him unable to speak.  Despite that, his friends and relations make signs at him as they try to discover what name he wishes for his son.  God took his ability to speak, not to hear—these people could have easily spoken to him.

When we encounter humor in the Bible, we need to see it as a means to engage the passage we are studying more thoroughly.  The humor is there to remove our preconceptions and biases.

It works just like we use it in our personal and business lives.  It breaks the ice, so to speak, and allows us to hear a passage in-depth, free at least in part of our previous understandings and insights.

Humor at work is in the same light. 

We spend many hours with our co-workers, and a sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, getting along with people, and getting things done—so use it wisely.

And that is no joke.