Thursday, April 29, 2010

Humor in the Workplace

Employment attorney John Phillips looks at extreme humor in the workplace and raises the question of just where the line should be drawn.

A few thoughts:
  • Cruelty is out, especially if directed at a specific person.
  • Anything racial is out.
  • Ethnic or religious humor is another land mine. [A good test is whether the comment or joke could be told in front of an audience of that ethnic group without causing cold sweats or a protest march.]
  • Sexual joking is unprofessional, particularly if it is crude.

That said, most of us have uttered something we later - seconds later in some cases - realize was inappropriate or just flat-out dumb. If your workplace has a climate of trust and we aren't repeat offenders, people should be willing to cut us some slack.

It will be a sad day when humor is banned from the workplace and there are times when the "gotcha" is worse than the initial offense.


John Phillips said...

Thanks, Michael. Great insight.


Michael Wade said...


You are welcome. Thanks for raising the topic.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately my experience has been that some ethnic groups such as whites are fair game, and religions too ("those crazy fundamentalist Christians") but i would guess that each person is sensitive to criticisms of his or her own beliefs.


Michael Wade said...


In many respects, no matter how long we've known people, we are dealing with strangers. There are things going on in the lives of others that we can't begin to suspect. That's one reason why kindness is so important.