No Laughing Matter: Corporate Jokes Fall Flat for Women

U.K. researcher finds boardroom humor isn’t well received by women in charge

by Lesley Kennedy • Reporter

Want to get ahead in the corporate world? Leave the stand-up routine at home.

So says one recent U.K. study that finds jokes and witty banter made by men in the boardroom were nearly always met with laughs, but for women, a little humor (usually the self-deprecating kind) was met with silence 80 percent of the time, undermining performance, London’s Guardian reports. Ouch.

“My research has shown that male managers use humor to demonstrate and display their leadership of a team,” Dr. Judith Baxter, researcher and linguistics pro, tells the newspaper. “Their male subordinates will also use ‘display’ humor to impress a male boss, because it shows they are on the same wavelength . . . When women managers use humor, it can misfire. This is partly because it is less culturally acceptable for women to use humor and partly because women haven’t traditionally been part of the leadership tribe. It is not that women are less funny: They tend to use humor differently.”

Baxter tells the Guardian women are more comfortable using humor at work with a pal rather than as a management tool.

“What should senior women do about it?” she tells the newspaper. “They should learn to develop the running gag or light, teasing banter with male and female colleagues at appropriate moments, such as the beginning and ends of meetings, passing in the corridor or while making a cup of tea.”

And watching some Kristen Wiig YouTube videos couldn’t hurt, either.

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First Published Tue, 2012-05-22 09:24

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