Be Careful When Joking with Staff

Everybody appreciates a good laugh, and nowhere is this truer than in a hospital. The dynamics of a hospital environment are very fluid. People's nerves get frazzled by unreasonable requests, deadlines, scheduling conflicts, and other issues. This stress can build walls between supervisors and their staff. Studies show humor is a great way for managers to connect with their employees and keep them motivated and engaged.

However, the style of humor impacts the way people perceive their job and co-workers. In a Harvard Business Review article, researchers encouraged humor in the workplace but said inappropriate or "aggressive humor" has disruptive effects on the workplace environment.

Managers should be encouraged to be lighthearted and foster an atmosphere of happiness and congeniality. The authors of the study found that humor helps managers communicate with their subordinates, builds a team atmosphere, and increases engagement between the employees and the company. Furthermore, employees who have a healthy relationship with their leader are more enthusiastic, productive, and work harder.

However, when humor goes too far and fails to be funny for everybody, it becomes a barrier between the boss and the employees. A joke taken the wrong way can affect how employees view the managers. The researchers found many subordinates take their cues about workplace behavior from their supervisors.

For instance, a manager who often makes jokes at the expense of the company might be sending the message that he does not care for the company. Or, doesn't have any respect for the company's upper management. This behavior could lead subordinates to have a lower opinion of the same people, have a lower opinion of the supervisor, or have a license to behave badly at work.

In fact, the researchers found that mean-spirited or "aggressive" humor, humor at somebody's expense, led subordinates to have poor work behavior and less engagement with their companies and their team.

There is a place for joking in the workplace, but managers should be mindful of how their jokes and humor are perceived. Above all else, a manager needs a professional demeanor geared towards leadership. Humor is a fun way for leaders to bridge the gap between themselves and their staff, but not at the expense of professionalism.

How do you use humor in the workplace? Have you seen it change the attitude of your team? Have you ever felt affected by your supervisor's humor?