"He who can laugh, still has energy in reserve." Every time the boss cracks this joke, most of the employees smile only faintly. What is funny the first time becomes unnerving at some point.
But, the boss's mediocre jokes aside, humour in the office can fulfill an important purpose. In the best case, it supports creativity, reduces stress and can make tense situations disappear.
"Humour works primarily through change of perspectives," says Katrin Hansmeier from the German Institute for Humour. To do things differently, think illogically and surprise the other person - that makes us laugh. If humour works, it can inspire a team. And another benefit of humour is that if you can laugh with someone, you will work in harmony with them.
But not every joke is equally well received. Humour in the workplace should be used emphatically, says Hansmeier. The basic rule is: "Always let the other person appear in a good light." If there is a good rapport between colleagues, a caring send-up of a situation is OK. Some find it funny to exaggerate a colleague's work ethic by calling them the "workplace hero" or "my knight". "If I'm on the same page with the other person, it works out lovely."
But there is potential danger with dirty jokes and constant boasting - at least, that is, if colleagues do not know each other well. Fellow employees should consider carefully what makes the other laugh. If in doubt, it is always better to bite one's tongue, says career adviser Rene Gabriel. Otherwise a bad atmosphere can develop.
Employees will quickly cause an embarrassing situation with condescending remarks, agrees humour expert Hansmeier. She recommends using sarcasm, mockery and cynicism sparingly. Insinuating remarks are taboo, warns humour coach Margit Hertlein.
One should always be able to feel the basic underlying friendly attitude and humour should never go below the belt, says Werner Schienle of Creative Communication Consult.
So far that's the theory: but what to do if a colleague repeatedly makes fun at others' expense? Raise the issue with that person, says Schienle. Remaining silent will heighten the danger of a new mockery attack. And if you yourself make a joke that you shouldn't have? It's best to apologise quickly.
Generally, it is better in business life to refrain from joking. "Funny pictures in an important presentation come across unprofessionally," says Margit Hertlein. Amusing emails might be intended well, but they are time-consuming during the work process.
Everything depends on the context. For example, a comment like, "Do you have a half day off?" if someone leaves the office earlier than usual. One person's reaction might be to make a grim face and be annoyed, feeling he is being criticised. Another person might laugh and wave a happy goodbye. So, different people take the same joke in different ways. AAP