5 Ways Using Humour can Help Women in the Workplace
For years, I hid my sense of humour in professional settings. It wasn’t intentional, but in my attempts to be taken seriously, I’d suppress my laugh and wit.
For some reason I had conflated my fear of being found out as a bit of a lightweight, with my sense of humour – when in fact, my wicked wit is one of my life and career superpowers.
You might even have read about how I got into trouble for laughing too loudly and too much at the office (read more here and be sure to have your say).
It’s all these small infractions and messages (some subliminal, others quite overt) that come into play and can get you second guessing yourself.
Yet when we are more authentic, we’re more powerful and influential.
Unfortunately, it can become a Catch 22.
My own awakening came when a fellow consultant (now friend) said to me “When I first met you I thought you were super intense and a little scary. Now that I know you, I can see you are actually really fun and funny.”
In that one sentence I realised what I had been doing.
I’d let all those invisible scripts, negative self-talk and my fear of being found out, dull my sense of humour in my attempts to be seen credible and worthy, yet at the same time shooting myself in the foot.
MY WONDERFULLY WITTY CLIENTS
Quite a few of the women I work with are also fun and witty. We enjoy a good laugh, we know how to let off steam, and while we also discuss important issues, we know that laughter is indeed the best medicine.
So to help them (and you) I’ve been exploring the two sides of the coin – gravitas (weight) vs humour (light) – and getting the balance right.
This particular article is about the benefits, and the challenges, for women using humour to boost their careers.
FIVE BENEFITS OF USING HUMOUR TO BOOST YOUR CAREER
Research on the use of humour at the office or in presentations suggests that humour can be a valuable tool for women in the workplace, just as it is for men. However, the way humour is perceived and received can be influenced by various factors, including gender stereotypes and workplace culture. Here are five key points based on existing research.
- Humour Enhances Communication: Humour can enhance communication and make messages more memorable. Using humour well will help you capture an audience’s attention and convey complex information in an engaging way.
- Humour Builds Rapid Rapport: Humour can help build rapid rapport with colleagues, clients, or an audience. When you use humour that resonates with others, it makes you more relatable, establishes a connection and fosters a sense of camaraderie.
- Humour Creates a Positive Environment: When done well, humour can create a positive and inclusive work environment, fostering team cohesion and reducing stress.
- Humour Provides a Coping Mechanism: Humour can also serve as a coping mechanism in challenging or stressful situations allowing you to let off steam.
- Humour is a Confidence Booster: Using humour can boost your confidence and assertiveness, enabling you to express yourself more authentically, which in turn, also make you more effective in workplace interactions. And you all know how much I believe in cultivating confidence.
“I want to be an example that you can be funny and be kind,
and make people laugh without hurting somebody else’s feelings.”
~ Ellen Degeneres
A COUPLE OF CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN USING HUMOUR
It’s definitely not all good news and I think we know this intrinsically. Here are a couple of the bigger issues that we need to be aware of.
- Perceived as Less Competent: Research suggests that women who use humour may face a delicate balance, as they run the risk of being perceived as less competent if their humour is not in line with gender expectations. It’s important to gauge the audience and context carefully. If you’re already battling being seen as a lightweight unfortunately too much humour, too soon, might get you labelled as the class clown rather than a serious contender worthy of being paid the big bucks.
- Narrow Socialised Stereotypes: Gender stereotypes can influence how humour is received. Women may be expected to use more affiliative or self-deprecating humour. When we deviate we can run the risk of losing likability.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Watch this space! Next week I’ll be sharing some tactics you might try to help you use humour more effectively in the workplace.