Being funny is a serious career move
Colleagues who make others laugh are
seen as more self-confident, more competent, and higher in status,
according to a series of US experiments.
Twitter chief Bruce Daisley used to
have the wrong photo on his LinkedIn feed, as he explained on the
MediaCom Connected Podcast this month. Instead of his happy smiling
face, for a long time he had a picture of British comedian Bob
Monkhouse, a man who frankly does not bear much physical
resemblance to Bruce.
Not many people are that aware of
Monkhouse these days. Jon Culshaw calls him the "Rolls Royce of gag
tellers". The only joke of his I can remember is this, "They
laughed at me when I said that when I grew up I wanted to be a
comedian. Well they're not laughing now."
Bruce takes comedy seriously. He says
that he "laughs every day in his job", which might be a key part of
his road to career success.
Being funny really drives
Colleagues who make others laugh are seen as more self-confident,
competent and higher in status, according to a series of
experiments by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's
Wharton School and Harvard Business School and reported by WSJ.
The average British worker has over
6,000 meetings during the course of their career. It would be a bit
grim if none of them made you laugh.
The right sort of humour is crucial
During the course of writing The Glass
Wall, Kathryn and I came across a gender divide as far as humour is
There might be a culture of banter in
the workplace that blokes find incredibly funny, and women find
very excluding, even if they laugh along with the jokes.
Creative legend Dave Trott explained
the gender divide with his own joke, "Men insult each other all the
time in the workplace, but they don't really mean it. Women
compliment each other all the time at work, and they also don't
really mean it."
This led us to ask, Do women take
"funny" seriously enough as a career boosting technique, and do men
allow them to do so?
One story that didn't make it into our
book involved a young account director at a creative agency who was
specifically told by her boss (a man) not to open a presentation
with a joke, because it was inappropriate for her status in the
Was it because he thought it wasn't a
funny joke? Or was it because he didn't like the idea that she was
There was a media storm last year when
a City receptionist was sent home because her heels weren't high
enough. Note that the story wasn't about whether or not she was
smartly dressed (no one was suggesting that she was wearing
trainers or flip flops).
This led Times' journalist Deborah
Ross to write, "No woman has been told (as far as I'm aware) that
perhaps, after lunch, it might be a good idea to re-apply her wit
if she wishes to get places... just lipstick and heels".
On the contrary in The Glass Wall, we
absolutely recognise the power of humour for women, both to respond
to (and hopefully put a stop to) uncomfortable banter, and to win
over your audience.
Everyone (regardless of gender) should
consider putting the same amount of effort into devising the
appropriate opening joke for a big presentation as they put into
the rest of the content for that meeting.
By Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation