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Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work

Humor and feedbacks

When delivering negative feedbacks, a good way to do it is by engaging humor.

This has two main consequences: on one hand, it makes criticism more memorable and on the other, it softens negative feedbacks.

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Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work

Sarcasm, Self-Deprecation, and Inside Jokes: A User’s Guide to Humor at Work

https://hbr.org/2020/07/sarcasm-self-deprecation-and-inside-jokes-a-users-guide-to-humor-at-work

hbr.org

9

Key Ideas

Humor at work

Being funny can have both positive and negative consequences, in your personal as well as your professional life. And context is always important: when making a joke, for instance, you should definitely make sure the moment is appropriate for such a behavior.

Making the good jokes at the proper moment can help you become everybody's favorite at the workplace. However, making a bad joke can lead even to being fired: so make sure to choose your attitude appropriately.

Humor and its effects on the status

Humor and status have always been tightly linked: good leaders seem to often use humor in order to motivate their team members' actions. As individuals, we tend to prefer, researchers claim, jokes that make us laugh while feeling slightly uncomfortable.

Furthermore, we perceive the joke teller as a self-confident person, who could easily become a leader due to his or her courage to make such a joke. The key point here is that the joke should be appropriate and match the context.

Inside jokes

Making inside jokes usually shows how bounded a team or a group is: their jokes can understood the best by themselves.

However, the moment an outsider integrates the group, it is better to avoid the inside jokes, as this will most probably make him or her feel out of place.

Sarcasm and its use

Sarcasm has often been associated with creative thinking by numerous researchers.

Used when exchanging information with persons who know you well, it can easily lead to an improved communication level. On the contrary, when used in an exchange with persons you do not know well, can actually result in an unpleasant start. Therefore, better avoid it until it is safe to use.

Self-deprecating humor

Self-deprecating humor can be extremely useful when neutralizing negative information about oneself.

However, it should by all means be avoided when talking about core competencies. Knowing when and how to use it can make all the difference during a job interview, for instance.

Humor as a weapon

We have all found ourselves, at some point in our life, feeling uncomfortable due to a question that was asked to us.

The way we answer to these questions is what makes us stand out in fact: showing self-confidence and humor makes the people around us feel happier and trust us more.

Humor and feedbacks

When delivering negative feedbacks, a good way to do it is by engaging humor.

This has two main consequences: on one hand, it makes criticism more memorable and on the other, it softens negative feedbacks.

Humor as tool to cope with negative feelings

Whenever you deal with negative emotions, humor can prove extremely useful. It does not only ease your pain, but it can also
help you cope with tough situations overall. This is mainly because humor makes you focus less on the negative information. However, it is worth mentioning that only positive humor makes people feel better, while dark humor makes them feel even worse. Therefore, when thinking to use humor, take a second to decide on the proper one to engage with.

Making jokes properly

Making jokes properly is actually an art, which can easily lead to solving or creating issues. A particular situation is the leader's one: mastering the art of joking often results in more popularity and trust from the side of your employees.

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Anyone can use humor

Appropriate humor relaxes an audience and makes them feel more comfortable with you as the speaker. 

Humor can bring attention to the point you are making and help the audien...

Developing Anecdotes

The best and most comfortable place to find humor comes from your own personal experience. 

Jot down funny ideas as you come across it that might appeal to your audience - an embarrassing moment that you might not have found funny at the time, or a funny conversation you had. 

Honing the Delivery

Make sure your choose humor is funny to you. First practice with small groups of people. Pay attention to the way your are delivering the joke or quip.

Only use humor in a speech after you are comfortable telling it from memory and have tested it.

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Humor benefits to marketing materials
Humor benefits to marketing materials
  • Humor breaks down walls, shows personality a.k.a. shows a brand's human side.
  • Humor is attention-grabbing. It is naturally colorful and original.
  • People love ...
At its worst, humor is:
  • The wrong joke at the wrong time. It can make your brand look amateurish and unprofessional.
  • If people think you’re cracking jokes for the sole purpose of getting more attention, you’ll be seen as exploitative rather than funny.
  • Humor can cheapen certain ideas or make them be taken less seriously.
  • In some cases, humor can be outright offensive.
  • Key areas to create value with humor
    • Humorous touches can almost always improve a piece that is already valuable on its own.
    • If you’re sure a joke is going to land, it can make an effective advertisement. Test variations of the joke with a small audience first; that way, you can be sure the humor doesn’t cross a line.
    • Brand differentiation. For example, Oreo has long differentiated itself by offering a quirky, tongue-in-cheek voice across its social media platforms. This is especially effective in dry, or otherwise “boring” industries.
    • Personal branding. Elon Musk, for example, has separated himself from his companies Tesla and SpaceX by cracking jokes and roasting people on his own account.

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    Michael Kerr

    In workplaces that encourage people to be themselves--that are less hierarchical and more innovative--people tend..."

    Michael Kerr
    Why humor is a key to success at work
    • People will enjoy working with you.
    • Humor is a potent stress buster.
    • It is humanizing.
    • It puts others at ease.
    • Ha + ha = aha!  Humor is a key ingredient in creative thinking.
    • It helps build trust.
    • It boosts morale.
    • People who use humor tend to be more approachable.
    • Humor can allow your company to stand out.
    • It can increase productivity.
    The humor effect defined
    The humor effect is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to remember information better when that information is perceived as funny or humorous.

    The use of humor enhances people’s

    Benefits of incorporating humor into learning
    • Humorous information receives increased attention during the perception stage.
    • Improved encoding. Our brain gives preferential treatment to humorous information when it comes to storing it in our memory.
    • The use of humor serves as a distraction from negative emotions, such as anger or anxiety, that people might experience when processing certain information.
    • Reading or viewing something humorous has a positive and energizing effect.
    • Adding humor to the information that you are presenting can make it more interesting to others.
    Different types of humor lead to different outcomes

    The use of positive, nonaggressive humor is associated with 

    • improved learning outcomes, 
    • a relaxed learning environment, 
    • better student evaluations, 
    • an increased motivation to learn, 
    • improved information recall, 
    • an increased degree of student satisfaction throughout the learning process.

    The use of negative or aggressive humor, especially if aimed at particular students, will produce the opposite effect.

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    Humor during a crisis

    For ancient Greek philosophers, humor was something that had the potential to undermine authority and the good order.

    Today, in democratic societies, those in power are mocked and their p...

    The power of laughter
    • Humor, in a way, protects us from life's grim reality. We joke because if we didn't, we'd cry.
    • Humor and laughing are also a social vocalization that includes some and excludes others. Jokes establish who is inside the group and who is not. We laugh with people to belong, and at others to exclude.
    • In our current crises, humor is everywhere because fear is too. Laughter binds us together against a common enemy.
    When to joke

    Poking fun at the ills of the world is only funny if they are considered benign. No one is making memes about child abuse that may increase during periods of enforced domestic isolation.

    Observations about people's behavior can be funny if they poke fun at a social norm in a relatively inoffensive way, such as hoarding toilet paper.

    Scott H Young

    "People don’t judge you so much for who you are as they judge you for how you communicate yourself.&quo..."

    Scott H Young
    Be Funny and Interesting

    • Humor: It takes a lot of practice until you can figure out the natural timing and flow of a joke. Practice makes perfect.
    • Interest comes from having an interesting life. You can be interesting by telling stories  or by simply being quick to bring up an interesting fact.

    Interest is similar to humor whenever people discover something they didn’t expect.

    Tell Great Stories
    • You need to have an interesting point to make it worthwhile.
    • Your most interesting point should be the last thing you say in your story.
    • Keep it short.
    • Keep it personal. People prefer stories about people they know.
    • The more you tell a story the better you get the natural timing and emphasis. 

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    Humor in social media

    Adding humor to your social media strategy can be a great way to get people’s attention.

    If you’re not “humorizing” your brand, product or business, then you might be missing out on a ...

    5 tips to help you get started
    1. Ask yourself WWJD? (What Would Jerry Do?) Take an everyday situation and ask yourself, “What’s funny about this?”
    2. Keep it clean. Steer clear of controversial topics and jokes in bad taste.
    3. Use your wittiness to compete against big budgets. 
    4. Just because your company is serious doesn’t mean all marketing has to be. Poke fun at yourself by doing a parody of your company or your industry.
    5. The best humor comes naturally. Experiment by recording video interviews with quirky customers and employees.
    Being Funny Is a Risk
    • Some people might not appreciate your company’s brand of humor. Make sure the humor fits.
    • Being funny may not work for healthcare, financial services or any highly regulated industry.
    • Try using an online survey to test your attempt at humor against an internal audience before you send it out. 
    The skilled use of humor ...
    • gets a point across, 
    • lightens a mood,
    • is better than therapy for brightening the workplace and energizing all who may come your way.

    The ...

    Good and bad humor
    • Good Humor is Inclusive.
    • Good Humor Promotes Bonding.

    • Bosses and managers who use self-deprecating humor are considered more approachable and human.
    • Bad Humor Is Poison and can affect an employee’s performance or future.
    • Clumsy Humor is a Risk. Your audience might take offence instead of laugh.

    The Superiority Theory

    It suggest that our humor is derived from the misfortune of others, which makes us feel superior.

    That explains for example why a lot of us find it funny when people fall down. 

    The Relief Theory

    The perception of humor is directly related to the release of built up tension. We are set up through tension to get to a release point of humor. And that release has been shown to actually be good for our health.

    The Incongruity Theory

    We find humor when something happens that doesn't fit with what we expected to happen. It's about the unexpected.

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    Limiting Mistakes With Humor

    Humor is a great psychological tool to get and keeping people on your side. Use it wisely, and use it often—especially when you screw up.

    The next time you find yours...

    The Tom Brokaw Method

    ... to recover from a mistake with humor:

    • Acknowledge the mistake. There’s no hiding it now. Everyone saw!
    • Correct the mistake. If it’s necessary, make whatever correction you need to get things back on track.
    • Make a joke. Make fun of yourself. Get everyone laughing and they won’t care anymore.
    • Move on! And don’t bring up your flub again until you’re totally in the clear.