Rules of Using Humor in Personnel Management
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” once rightly said Mark Twain.
Humor is often used as a weapon. It can impact people so badly that we sometimes simply refuse to apply this effective mean of influence.
Someone is given this gift of communication by nature and someone considers him/herself completely deprived of it. However anything can be learned, even the ability to joke. Try these recommendations.
The first requirement
You can laugh at a separate character trait, a specific act or statement of a subordinate. But you should never turn someone’s whole personality into an object of ridicule. It is unacceptable to use the old trick of unscrupulous people: to defame or ridicule someone instead of trying to refute their arguments.
Never laugh at something that a person cannot fix. You mustn’t smile or joke about your subordinate’s unusual last name, physical weakness, medical conditions, obesity, unusual body proportions or stuttering. It is also unacceptable to ridicule subordinate’s object of sympathy or love.
It is not recommended to be the first one to laugh at your own joke. While telling a funny anecdote an executive should be, if possible, restrained, otherwise it will clearly demonstrate the positive attitude towards the joke and upsell it as something wonderfully witty. And it can cause a reaction opposite to the expected one.
The comic occurs when the ending of an anecdote or a story contradicts what has been said before, when the final or conclusion are unexpected. The greater the contradiction is the stronger the emotional reaction is.
When an executive begins to laugh before the end of the joke he or she unwittingly lowers the contradiction’s effect. Comic effect gets sharply reduced. “If you want to cause tears – cry, but if you wish to cause laughter, never smile.” the Italian proverb says.
Vulgar coarse jokes are unacceptable. They are a consequence of poor culture, underestimation and disregard of subordinates’ personalities; it is just a result of edification which has nothing to do with wit. Vulgar and crude jokes lead to sustainable conflict between the superiors and the subordinates. Such Faux Pas impacts people painfully, provoking them into serious conflict with colleagues and superiors.
Do not laugh at accidents, subordinates’ involuntary blunders, forgetfulness or clumsiness. This kind of joke can hurt or cause a conflict with an executive. It is hard to say that a person even has a sense of humor if he or she laughs at an old woman falling or an old man running through puddles after his hat at a windy street or a colleague sitting down on a broken chair and falling. To avoid mistakes, we must distinguish between the comic and the funny. They are not the same.
Accidental, superficial, and especially easily fixable shortcoming cannot and should not be an object of derision. After all, if they are not conscious, it is enough to just point them out politely.
Jokes and humor are better to be put in the form of friendly criticism or gentle reproach, but not ridicule or punishment. Irony and mockery can seriously hurt a person, strengthen an already existing complex, cause or intensify a conflict with an executive.
Satire is a form of denial and condemnation. Applying to anyone means of satirical mockery is quite a severe punishment. It can cause feelings of humiliation, shame, resentment. The joke in this case should contain elements of mild and friendly criticism that is more of a reproach than a punishment.
If you joke with people, you have to be prepared for the fact that sooner or later you will hear a joke aimed at you, and in this case getting angry or taking administrative measures towards the joker is unacceptable. The only correct response for the executive is to laugh at him/herself with the subordinates.
You always have to be ready and not scared to respond to a witticism, to be the first one to laugh at your own failure or miss (in a way this is a form of self-defense), to support and guide subordinates’ humor, and to not suppress their attempts to joke.
Laughing at yourself is a great form of self-defense. We knew one high school teacher with a heavy stutter who when noticing students’ smiles at the first lesson would say "You should not laugh at a stutterer. The stutterer gets ill and eventually dies." And usually this was enough. After laughing with the teacher at his joke the students usually stopped paying attention to his speech defect.