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When office humor is no laughing matter

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Laughter can often be not only the best medicine but also the best management tool. Creating a fun, enjoyable workplace culture can make your job easier in a whole range of areas. But it's also part of your job as a manager to know when workplace humor goes too far.

Here are some guidelines for you and your team:

Keep it to yourselves. There's no upside to telling jokes or pulling pranks in front of clients or customers. Even if they're not offended, they'll feel excluded, or annoyed that you're not focusing on providing the service they expect. Save the more boisterous humor for internal gatherings.

No touching. Physical humor is best left to the professionals. Again, even if someone's not offended by unexpected physical contact, they may not find it funny, and just like your mom always said, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. This includes pranks—like booby-trapping someone's office—that involve potential safety hazards.

Danger zones. Obviously, racial- or gender-based humor brings up all sorts of potential problems. Too many enterprises have discovered, too late, that what seemed like joking to one employee was perceived by another as harassment. The same is true of humor that makes fun of other people's physical appearance, height or weight.

There's probably no need for you to issue policies that outright ban the above types of humor in your workplace. But as the manager, you get to set the tone. If you gently make clear when a certain joke or prank is more troubling than funny, you'll set the expectations for your team without being a killjoy.

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