The original study found that while women who employ humour during their ‘9 to 5’ working day run the risk of appearing to “pander to the lads”, if they execute a joke well they can create a positive atmosphere in the workspace.
So, we set out to see if humour really is ‘laddish’ territory with a series of online questions put to a sample group of 100 people, made up of 81 women and 19 men on their attitude towards women and humour at work.
Regardless of gender, 74% said they frequently used humour in the workplace, with only 25% of them stating that they “sometimes” joked around at work.
When asked if humour was linked to a woman’s success at work 27% said yes, 35% disagreed and 37% sat on the fence with a “maybe”. Some comments on the question demonstrated that there maybe some element of risk in a woman using humour in a professional context: “Women often try to endear themselves by being one of the lads,” and “Humour often allows women to be seen as ‘one of the lads’ and she therefore becomes more included and liked.”
One person polled thinks even outside the workplace a funny woman might struggle: “I think there is still a stigma attached generally to women being funny”. Another believed a woman might use humour to “’soften the blow’ as she has to be careful not to be seen as ‘ruthless’ and ‘bossy’”.
It’s not all bad though according to some who took part in the survey: “Humour can show a sense of confidence, which is related to success.” And: “Humour is a trait prized in and by all genders.”
When it came to humour and male success at work 32% thought the two were linked while 37% disagreed and 30% stuck to maybe. The comments on the question displayed a different culture for male workers: “humorous men are liked/respected in the workplace”, “men are highly regarded for their use of humour.”
A decisive 84% said it was not unprofessional for a woman in authority to tell a joke, with only 16% voting maybe. However one person polled said: “Humorous women are not taken seriously in the workplace.”
85% agreed it was not unprofessional for a man in authority to tell a joke, however 2% said it was. There was a suspicion that these jokes might be more offensive “If it is of a sexual nature and makes people uncomfortable then yes [it is inappropriate]”.
97% agreed that positive humour improved communication in the workplace and 92% agreed that it increased productivity. However when it came to the question of whether or not fewer women than men use humour in the workplace 52% agreed and 48% disagreed. 91% agreed that good leaders use humour effectively.
Dr Sharon Cahill of the University of East London who led the initial media review commented: “The results of this survey illustrate some of the research that we reviewed.
“Primarily both men and women perceived that there should be no difference in how men and women use humour and most respondents said that they did use humour at work. However, there was still some prejudice against women (both by themselves and others) in using humour in the workplace.
“Men were seen as no more likely to use humour but that it might be better received. Most respondents agreed, however, that humour used positively could be a very effective strategy for leaders and increase workplace productivity.”
This article was originally posted on 2nd May 2014