We recently taught a one-hour course on how to reveal and engage your whole self at work, and during the discussion about what specifically we hide from others, one participant said he hid his sense of humor.
A funny thing to hold back, true?
Most people enjoy laughing, especially at work where toiling can be so serious. The participant offered that he’s shy with it because his sense of humor is dark.
Ah, dark humor. It’s defined by dictionary.com as “a form of humor that regards human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable, or that considers human existence as ironic and pointless but somehow comic.”
As in revealing most parts of our selves, we’re likely to attract some people and repel others by bringing a dark sense of humor to the job. Yet is there a net gain by opening up? For an answer, we look to the published research.
Sarcasm can be a form of dark humor, and a recent study by Ella Miron-Spektor in the Journal of Applied Psychology concludes that sarcasm enhances creativity at work.
Sarcastic comments need to be actively made sense of, as they stand at odds with the true situation, such as giving high praise to mediocrity. Parsing such paradoxes by looking at them in different ways might kick us into a mental gear ready for complex thinking.
So you might kick-start your colleagues’ creative problem solving by showing your sarcasm on the job. Can the same be said for a generally dark sense of humor? We’d like to think so.
And is there a way not to harm anyone on the job with your biting sense of humor? Yes. As long as you’re working to bring your whole self–which includes your active listening skills and compassion for your coworkers’ feelings–you’ll remain aware should a teammate become upset by your humor.
From there, you’ll moderate your self, because you know that feeling free to exercise your whole self at work brings privileges, and responsibilities.
Date: March 1, 2012