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  • Tamar Balkin

What Is Appropriate Humour In The Workplace And Can It Improve Wellbeing?

Updated: Mar 15, 2023


"I only wanna sing A song that's happy That's why I only wanna walk a street that's sunny I only wanna see the side that's funny"

I Only Wanna Laugh by Dusty Springfield (Click here for the song)



"I thought I was going to pull a muscle I was laughing so much. My new colleague is hilarious, it seems the office vibe is lifting despite this being our busiest February on record. "

coaching client


Regular readers would know the psychological benefits of a good laugh and the multiple benefits of a bit of fun at work (click here for my blog).

According to a recent meta-analysis, using humour appropriately in the workplace can increase the likelihood of the following positive outcomes:

  • Strengthen the sense of unity within a group

  • Improve leadership effectiveness

  • Build trust

  • Boost morale

  • Create positive interpersonal relationships across the o,

  • Enhance a positive workplace culture,

  • Increase productivity

  • Greater work satisfaction

  • Improve employee confidence

  • Increase trust in leaders.

  • Reduce gaps in social power and status

  • Advance employee psychological well-being

  • Improve work engagement and job satisfaction,

  • Increase organisational citizenship behaviours

  • Smooth the adjustments associated with organisational change

  • Increase innovation and creativity

  • Integrate new employees

Interestingly large proportion of executives believe that employees with a good sense of humour perform better.

What conditions are essential for humour at work?

  • Psychological safety

  • Kindness

  • Self-awareness

  • Empathy

  • Good relationships

  • Time

  • Trust

  • Tact

  • Appropriate reward and recognition practices

Why does humour have such a positive impact?

Regular readers would be familiar with the conservation of resources theory of well-being, that our well-being is a see-saw between demands and resources. Good humour serves as a resource whereas poor humour can be an emotional demand. The contagious nature of emotions enhances the reach of this positive experience and the broaden and build theory of positive emotions, suggests that this joy will only expand over time. Humour can serve as a key interpersonal resource and enhance team well-being.

Can you study humour and still have fun?

Psychology professor Richard Wiseman is famous for conducting large-scale research into unusual areas of psychology, like deception, humour, luck and the paranormal. In 2001, Richard Wiseman teamed up with the British Science Association to carry create a ‘LaughLab’ – the scientific search for the world’s funniest joke. in his new podcast," on your mind" he uses his entertaining presentation style to share intriguing discoveries about humour. (click here for the podcast) I highly recommend you listen, you will definitely laugh and you may even learn something interesting along the way. For those who prefer to read click here for his research paper.


Final thoughts:

“humor is a double-edged sword”

Rosenberg, C., Walker, A., Leiter, M. and Graffam, J

Despite all the benefits of humour, caution is always essential. People have varying senses of humour, shaped by both personal and cultural factors. When humour causes offence, embarrassment or ridicule it can cause a great deal of harm. I have a hunch that my readers are rather astute, so click here and send me your favourite joke.

Please click here if you would like to read my past blogs.


References: more available on request

Rosenberg, C., Walker, A., Leiter, M. and Graffam, J. (2021). Humor in Workplace Leadership: A Systematic Search Scoping Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. doi:


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