While the “office clown” is fun to be around, he or she is also a huge nuisance, taking up people’s time with recounting stories and jokes endlessly. They also get sent by text and email so you never miss a single one of their antics. It is not that we should never have fun in the workplace. That would be counterproductive. It is just that there is a time and place. During breaks, who doesn’t like some good repartee? People who are witty are most often the most admired. Be sure you understand the difference between wit and vulgarity.
The issue for fun-loving types is not to let clowning around descend into buffoonery. It is okay, for example, to play a few harmless practical jokes, but it is not couth to mock people about their weaknesses, especially the boss. Jokes must be tasteful or they should remain out of ear range in the office. Sexual jokes may be funny to some, but you can offend others. If you don’t know the difference, than cut it out.
People like a good laugh and the office clown can raise spirits during down times. We need their upbeat presence more than we need a doom and gloom advocate. So, clearly there are two sides to this story. Wisecracks are a no no, but a light-hearted pun is amusing. There is an old saying that all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. A little teasing is not mockery; a little tomfoolery is not farce. The point is that there are degrees in so far as humor is concerned. Like the class clown, the office version makes for an enjoyable time. There are unwritten rules, however, that must be learned.
· Never strive to hurt someone’s feelings intentionally.
· Don’t humiliate someone with a flaw or handicap.
· Make it a group experience that doesn’t exclude anyone.
· Use humor that is light-hearted and acceptable in mixed company.
· Choose the right time and place. It is never appropriate to laugh about illness or death.
· Don’t interrupt meetings or conversations with jokes you simply must tell. It can wait.
· Make sure people know your humor is all in fun, never vicious.
I remember in one office a few years ago, the “clown” was the graphic designer. He had a gift for making funny birthday cards using the person’s face on a pre-existing image. A Vice President would be transformed into Dracula, for example, or Darth Vader. Always an amusing caption finished the concept perfectly. Everyone loved the cards and waited attentively for the next birthday. This, indeed, was a very creative approach to office humor.