Workplace humour at the expense of another can lead to workplace conflict

workplace humour

There certainly is a need for humour and light hearted banter in the workplace to improve team morale and cohesiveness. Typically one employee stands out as the stand up comedian guaranteed to make the crowd chuckle.

Over time, it becomes evident if everyone warms to this employee because they have a great sense of humour and keep the workplace atmosphere positive OR everyone tries to avoid this employee because their humour is crude and comments often offensive. This inevitably leads to workplace conflict.

When the latter occurs, we question why the team manager allows the offensive comments to continue in the name of humour.

Managers must display leadership to prevent workplace conflict

Humour that is offensive because it is either discriminatory (refers to one or more protected attributes like age, sex, gender, race, religion etc) or belittles or degrades fellow employees should not be tolerated.

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Perhaps the comedian’s colleagues and/or team manager tolerate this type of office comedy because they find the jokes funny, they believe humour (of any sort) will bond the team, or because they don’t understand workplace policies and legislation regarding inappropriate and unlawful behaviours.

Any manager or HR Officer who is aware that such jokes/comments are being made in the workplace but does not act to curb inappropriate behaviour could be vicariously liable for damages suffered by staff if they believe they have been bullied, harassed or discriminated against.

We recommend that all employees attend compulsory training on the prevention of bullying and harassment and managers attend training to fully understand their responsibilities. Call us today to see how our training can lead to positive change in the workplace.

About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.

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