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Showing Off Your Sense of Humor 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.

The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, incorporated three different experiments and suggests demonstrating your sense of humor 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 Humor Increases and Decreases Status | Journal of Personality and Social Psychology via Harvard Business Review

Photo by Eugene Kim.

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