Humor and Professionalism in a Professional Environment

photo of people doing handshakesPhoto by fauxels on

If you’ve seen my recent posts on social media, you know that I’m pretty frustrated right now. I’m about to break it down as to why I’m so angry, frustrated, and disappointed.

20+ years in tech, I’ve spent a lot of my career mentoring other helpdesk technicians, software developers, and budding software architects, helping them in their career transitions. When it comes to mentoring, my favorite topics to mentor on are non-technical. Why do I like mentoring on the non-technical skills? Because this audience struggles with them and has been burned too easily when left to their own devices.

photo of people doing handshakes
Photo by fauxels on

Professionalism is something I stress with those I mentor. You may recognize some of the people I mentor because they are in my audiences at conferences, supporting me while also learning from me. They aren’t there to learn the technical topic I’m presenting – they’re there to learn how I present, how I engage with the audience, how I get past all the nerves. When we’re not talking at conferences, we’re talking over Discord or texting. We’re talking about how to handle work situations with grace and patience. We talk about walking the lines of professionalism and what not to do in the workplace.

A bunch of business people from various races laughing about something - generated by Microsoft Image Creator

We also talk about humor. Many of those I mentor have dry humor. Many have dark humor. Many are sarcastic. We talk about how humor is received in certain situations. Where can using humor work well? Where can using humor hurt? In a professional environment, humor can be a useful tool but it can also backfire and cause issues.

There have been those who like to push their boundaries by using crude humor. Crude humor, also called off-color humor or vulgar humor, is all about getting laughs from topics that are generally considered rude or impolite. These topics often include:

  • Bodily functions: bathroom stuff, bodily fluids, etc.
  • Sex: sexual acts, innuendo, sexual organs
  • Insults: jokes that put someone down based on looks, intelligence, or other characteristics

Here’s why it’s seen as unprofessional:

  • Creates a hostile workplace: Jokes about sex or bodily functions can make people feel uncomfortable or even harassed.
  • Not inclusive: Crude humor often relies on stereotypes or making fun of certain groups. This can be offensive and alienate people.
  • Undermines credibility: If you crack a crude joke in a professional setting, it can make you seem immature or unprofessional. It can be hard to take someone seriously if their go-to humor is bathroom jokes.

There are plenty of ways to be funny at work without resorting to crude humor.

A group of professionals reacting to a crude joke - some laughing, some appalled, some mortified - generated by Microsoft Image Creator

This is where my anger and frustration comes in. I was in a community where mentoring others happens. There were incidents earlier that angered me due to crude examples. Then, a Code of Conduct appeared, which gave me a slight glimmer of hope. But then the “Not to test the Code of Conduct, but…” guys appeared. 🙄 These are also the guys who had crude examples and don’t seem to know when to hold back inappropriate humor in a professional environment. 😠 Now, I’m done interacting with that group. They aren’t ready maturity-wise for me to even come close to talking with them.

There is a time and a place for certain types of humor. However, if you can’t manage those boundaries, if you can’t seem to grasp that some of this just isn’t right, know that your immaturity will not settle well in some professional environments. If you don’t listen to that word of advice, you may have to get burned in the process. 🤷🏻‍♀️

By sadukie

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