Levity in the Workplace: Relief or Source of Stress?

by Susan McGuire

Is Levity in the workplace a source of relief or a source of stress?

The answer depends on the intent and appropriateness of the humor being displayed.

Work can be terribly stressful. With the long hours, constant demands, task juggling, endless meetings, ever-decreasing raises, difficult co-workers, unfulfilling or unappreciated work, physical strains, and low morale in the office, it’s no wonder stress abounds. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to leave for something more fulfilling. Others are not. So what to do?

One simple but extremely effective tack for stress relief is laughter and humor. Who doesn’t like to laugh?

It can be challenging to show your sense of humor in a stressful environment, but it can be done. As much as we might want to joke around or tease one another, work has to get done. And we still need to act in a professional manner.

The key is to exhibit an appropriate combination of professionalism and humor. But what is an appropriate amount of humor? When? Where? How?

It’s interesting how certain people who come in and out of our lives can make such an indelible impression. One such person I first met almost 30 years ago. Her name was Karen. It was early in my career, and I was one of the youngest in our office. Karen was only about 5 years older, if I remember correctly, but she was much more polished in the work place. She was probably one of the most professional people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. I even followed her to her next place of employment. Actually, it was her highly respected recommendation that got me the interview. BUT… she also had a great sense of humor. And she knew how to use that humor to lighten the mood, make her co-workers feel at ease, diffuse tense situations, and to just have a good time while still getting her work completed. It struck me then just how important this fine balance was.

On the other hand, I’ve had the displeasure of working with certain individuals who, though they considered themselves to be the next great comedian, just didn’t know when to exhibit levity or how to do so in an appropriate manner.

These are just a few of the ‘Bad Humor Types’ I’ve encountered
  • The Incessant Teaser – This is the guy who teases you and never lets up. To keep the peace, you laugh it off and hope to move on. But this guy just persists in carrying the “joke” way too far.
  • The Inappropriate Jokester – This guy tells dirty jokes, makes narrow-minded or bigoted comments, or makes fun of your co-workers in a mean-spirited way. He always thinks he’s funny, and doesn’t understand why you don’t.
  • The Repetitive, Redundant, Not-So-Clever Wisecracker — Some of his clever one-liners:
    • “Glad you got to see me” (This guy thought he was debonair and clever)
    • “It’s nice to meet me” (A politician, in my case. Wonder if that was a Freudian slip)
    • “Are you leaving work early again today?” (After putting in 9+ hours)
    • “Are you working hard or hardly working?” (This gets old real quick)
    • “Pull my finger” (Seriously?)

Have you ever encountered not-so-funny Jokesters like these? I’ve found the best way of dealing with these types is to acknowledge their attempt at humor… and move on as quickly as possible.

Some people either don’t have a sense of humor, or don’t know how to share it appropriately. However, it isn’t necessary to be the witty person at work. Just appreciate your co-workers attempt to lighten the mood. And laugh!

Laughter really is the best medicine. Don’t take yourself, or life, so seriously. Lighten up. Find the humor in everyday life. Have fun!


Meet the Author:  Susan McGuire

If you’re ready, willing and motivated to take charge of your health and transform your life, then contact Coach Susan for a Complimentary Breakthrough Session. 

As a Holistic Health Coach and Lifestyle Guide, Susan takes a practical, comprehensive and personalized approach as she supports and empowers her clients to achieve their health and lifestyle goals. Coach Susan meets her clients where they are, and works with them to find the right combination of positive lifestyle and behavioral changes that they can implement with lasting results.

To take the next step towards achieving your health goals, schedule your complimentary Breakthrough Session with Coach Susan:



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