Showing Off Your Sense Of Humour At Work Can Make You Seem More Competent

Showing Off Your Sense Of Humour At Work Can Make You Seem More Competent

Professional environments may seem like the last place to try out your latest joke, but a recent study suggests jokes can make you seem more confident and capable — even if your joke flops.

Photo by Eugene Kim.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, incorporated three different experiments and suggests demonstrating your sense of humour with appropriate jokes increases your status among colleagues. Allison Wood Brooks, one of the study’s leads, shares some key takeaways from the experiments at Harvard Business Review:

First, don’t be afraid of a flop. Bad jokes — as long as they are appropriate — won’t harm your social standing or affect how competent people think you are. They may even increase how confident you seem.

Second, it is almost always advisable to tell an appropriate joke. A well-executed appropriate joke makes you seem more confident, more competent, and higher status. A flop only makes you seem as inept as a serious response.

Finally, don’t make inappropriate jokes with unfamiliar audiences. Even when executed successfully, they don’t confer a boost to your perceived status or competence, and when unsuccessful they can do serious harm to you and your career.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this advice, but this study helps solidify it. If you can keep your jokes clean, let ’em fly. Unless, of course, you’re around people who don’t know you at all.

Risky Business: When Humour Increases and Decreases Status [Journal of Personality and Social Psychology via Harvard Business Review]


  • Showing one’s sense of humour and laughing out loud may work in certain circumstances and may have positive effects on one’s life and behaviour but it does not work every time.
    It simply diverts your mind and makes you late to actually submit it.

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