Humour in the workplace: What is appropriate? (Guest commentary)

Laughter is only the best medicine if the jokes aren't hurtful
By David Jacobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/15/2008

When it comes to humour, there is one basic rule: Anything that excludes, separates people, puts someone down or ridicules others, destroys self-esteem, uses stereotypes of groups, encourages a negative atmosphere, offends others or lacks awareness of others’ feelings, is inappropriate.

Appropriate humour is inclusive. It brings people together. It is shared with all. It decreases prejudice by focusing on the universal human experience. It encourages a positive atmosphere. It builds rapport and trust. It is based on caring and comes from a place of love. It is supportive and builds confidence. It can be self-effacing, role modelling how to poke fun at oneself without being negative or too self-critical.

There is also a distinctive difference in the health benefits of positive and negative humour. Positive humour as outlined above has positive physiological effects on one’s body and mind. Negative humour has not been found to have these same health benefits.