We constantly see (white) men climbing the career ladder by doing (stereo)typical fella stuff: going to happy hour with top brass, taking credit for my ideas (I AM TALKING TO YOU, BRUCE), golf. Whatever the route, there’s one thing seen—and valued—as a constant: Humor. Employees who are perceived as funny—particularly when they are male—are valuable. In fact, 91% of executives believe that having a “good” sense of humor is key to career advancement.
For women, however, the path is not as clear. We might muscle our way into drinks or golf, but funny women don’t seem to be appreciated in quite the same way at work (and in general). For one thing, according to SCIENCE, when men say they like women with a sense of humor, they mean women who laugh at their jokes. PLUS: At work (and in general)—”men are more free to bomb,” says comedian Allison Goldberg, who works with Jen Jamula at GoldJam Creative to bring comedy and creativity into workplaces. “Men are just given a lot more leeway for everything. A guy bombs and people forget it, a woman does and people don’t.”
So, while you may have been trained to think workplace humor is just for the boys’ club, but it’s actually an essential tool for women trying to get ahead—if you wield it right. Here’s why:
Trigger Warning: Situations in which women could make other people laugh, situations in which women are portrayed in remunerative pursuits outside of the home, situations in which women say words and are considered people.
Good leaders are funny.
Having a good sense of humor at work allows others to see you as more relatable. A well-timed, work-themed joke will earn you the attention and affection of your fellow employees. It makes you seem confident and laid-back, someone they’d trust as a leader. Just ask Hillary Clinton. JK JK JK (SOB).
Being funny improves communication.
Employees can feel intimidated coming to the boss, or even to a project lead. What’s a good way to appear approachable? Hint: It’s not by smiling, dead-eyed, into the break room as you pass by. It’s by being present, noticing how much effort people are putting in, and making your peeps laugh when it’s needed most. This can usually be achieved by making a joke about a terrible client or customer, but you didn’t hear that from me.
Humor creates bonds within teams.
Laughter in the workplace creates a more relaxed environment overall. A more relaxed (yet still rigorous) environment tends to place less emphasis on maintaining a work-order hierarchy and more on innovation. This means that no one has to be the Jerry/Gary/Larry/Barry of any workplace and you can have an office full of Aprils. AMEA: Always Make Everyone April.
Humor boosts creativity.
Crazy thing about people: When they feel respected and valued, their problem-solving skills increase. It’s this crazy little thing called humanity. Anywho, if you want to create a positive environment where your team solves problems and accomplishes goals, your best strategy should be to not treat people like the stray pills and faded receipts that live at the bottom of your purse. Make ‘em laugh, folks!
Being funny is an asset.
Making others laugh aligns with other positive traits like confidence, competence, and intelligence. A great joke literally has the power to trick your co-workers into thinking you are a good person. No one will have any clue that you don’t recycle and you lied to your doctor about your alcohol consumption.
Moving up in your career doesn’t always have to be so cut-and-dried and, well, businesslike. You can have total competence and a relaxed demeanor. This doesn’t mean conforming to what you think your dude co-workers want you to be, or that you should constantly prowl your office looking for yukks. (Here’s a good rule: If someone is already crying, don’t make jokes about them to others. It rarely lands.) But it does mean taking a risk and being yourself. TL;DR: If you are laughing and having a good time while doing your work well, others will take notice. My hard-earned money’s on this: If people like being around you, people will like promoting you.
Christine Page is an associate producer, writer, and lover of craft beer.