Humour in the workplace — there are big benefits to having a laugh at work, but joking around can also be risky.
We all love to have some fun in our working lives. And there are often opportunities to make light of challenges and crack a good joke, especially when team members share triumphs and failures on a daily basis.
And there’s no question that one of the reasons Dragons’ Den is so popular, is that every Dragon has a well-developed sense of humour. A couple of weeks ago, Kevin told two young girls pitching for investment that he can only tell the truth about bad business ideas, because he was once hit by a lightning bolt.
“Is that what happened to your hair?” asked Robert.
“Maybe that’s why you’re not tall,” zinged Brett.
And this week a woman pitches for investment in her baby-related business by giving every Dragon a doll to hold.
“Give me your baby,” Arlene says to Kevin. “I want to spank it.”
They like to have fun in their workplace — and who doesn’t?
But humour can also be risky. Obviously jokes about race or sex or religion are unwelcome, and sometimes even an innocent joke can go wrong.
As a teenager, I worked at The Bay. For some reason, if one of my co-workers returned from a break and asked if anyone had called, I would say “Yes, the boss phoned. You’re fired.”
I know — it’s not funny — but what can I say? I was a goofy 17 year old! Luckily they knew it, and usually at least smiled at my kidding around.
But one time, a salesman I’ll call Bill returned from lunch and asked if there were any calls. Pretending to be reading from a message on the desk, I made my usual crack. “Yeah the boss says to tell you you’re fired”.
Bill’s face fell — he looked like he’d seen a ghost. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” I blurted, apologizing as fast as I could. Bill was relieved, but definitely seemed shaken as he returned to the sales floor.
The next week I heard that Bill had been fired. I realized that he’d probably been told he was on probation, and my stupid “joke” sounded very real to him. Needless to say, I felt awful.
And it taught me a lesson. I still love to be playful and good-humoured at work, but I am careful to do so in good taste.