Could Being Funny At Work Help Your Career?
- Humour can help women gain influence in the workplace, finds new research from INSEAD
- INSEAD’s research team looked at the use of humour across 2,407 TED talks to examine how using humour affects their influence
- The study found that humour made the talks more engaging and influential. This was particularly true for female speakers
“I wrote the episode of The Office this GIF is from,” wrote Mindy Kaling in a viral Tweet, calling out a Twitter user who used a comedic Michael Scott gif to express his unhappiness with her casting in a new Scooby Do prequel Velma.
This Tweet went viral, with people calling out the hypocrisy of people saying women aren’t funny but enjoying the TV shows written by women.
“Men will tweet ‘women aren’t funny’ and then go watch an episode of The Office written by Mindy Kaling and be like ‘this is real comedy’,” wrote another Twitter user.
Women – so the stereotype goes – are not funny. A recent study published in the journal of psychology found that 63 percent of men are considered funnier than women.
When it comes to work, however, research has suggested that people generally prefer to be managed by people who have a stronger, positive sense of humour and these employees are generally more satisfied with their jobs.
As women continue to be underrepresented in high status positions, can women benefit from being funny in the workplace?
Can women benefit from being funny at work?
Humour can be a powerful tool for women, helping them gain influence in the workplace, finds new research from INSEAD Business School.
A presentation at work that makes you laugh will make the information shared more memorable and more influential, revealed Ella Miron-Spektor, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD Business School. This is particularly true for female speakers.
INSEAD’s research team looked at the use of humour across 2,407 TED talks to examine how this affects their influence. TED talks are videos from expert speakers on a variety of topics, including education, business science, tech and creativity. The talks reach a global audience and the speakers use humour to get their point across.
To determine how influential the talks were, the research investigated multiple indicators of influence, including:
- The number of views
- How inspiring the talk was
- The perceived leadership qualities of the speaker
The study found that humour made these talks more engaging and influential.
Professor Miron-Spektor says, “These findings are consistent with research, showing that women are rewarded when they violate agentic stereotypes related to competence. Our discovery underlines the power of humour as a means to extend one’s influence and deliver a successful presentation in the digital age, especially for women.”
What type of humour should you use at work?
If humour can enhance your chances of success at work, you may be wondering what the best types of humour to use in the workplace are.
There are four established humour styles, according to psychologist Professor Rod Martin.
- Affiliative: Using good-natured humour to enhance your relationships with others
- Self-enhancing: Using good-natured humour to enhance yourself
- Aggressive: Using humour to enhance relationships at the expense of others
- Self-defeating: Using humour to enhance relationships at the expense of yourself
These types of humour styles fall into two categories: social vs self, and positive vs negative.
Positive humour includes both affiliative and self-enhancing styles, both of which can generally enhance work outcomes and increase openness and creativity. Contrastingly, negative humour, which includes aggressive and self-defeating humour, was found to have a negative effect on happiness in the workplace.
The style of humour used can reveal a lot about the individual, says Professor Martin. For example, affiliative and self-enhancing humour are liked to extroversion, while self-defeating humour is linked to neuroticism.
Interestingly, men are more likely to use aggressive and self-defeating humour than women, the study found.
However, INSEAD’s deeper analysis on the TED talks within social science discovered that the type of humour used didn’t impact the talk’s influence, but the perceptions of speakers’ warmth and competence did.
Has humour helped you in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below.
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