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How to use humour as a strength at work

Woman with red short hair in blue shirt and a big pearl necklace with hand covering her smile


A burst of laughter from the other side of the floor. 

'Literally NOTHING is that funny', I said. 

Enter Mrs Grumpy herself. Not happy to be there. Couldn't understand why ANYONE would burst out in such an undignified explosion of laughter. Especially at 9 o'clock in the morning. 

Yes, I was a right bundle of laughs back then. 

And yes, I was as surprised as you to learn that Humour came out as a core strength of mine. The need to lighten the mood, to make everyone have a giggle, was STRONG. 

Now, in my coaching sessions and during Pick 'n Mix events (you know, my community for creative, multi-passionate women), there is regular laughter. We often have a good giggle, lighten the mood, break the ice, lighten the heavy subjects. 

But sometimes some of my clients - who also find that Humour is one of their top strengths - say 'But how can I use that at work. How can Humour be a strength?'

Which made me think: How CAN humour be a strength? 

You see, first of all I'd like to say something about what Humour actually is. Because it's not (always) about cracking jokes. It's not comedy (unless - of course - you work in comedy). 

No, it's more about using humour to diffuse a situation, to lighten the mood, to make people feel engaged because they're having a giggle, to make people feel better. 

Can you see where this is going? 

You see, I think of humour as one of the KEY tools to build rapport. To make people feel at ease. To make situations feel not so HEAVY. 

I think there are LOTS of benefits to using humour in the workplace:

  • A lighter mood

  • Less stress

  • Easier to build rapport 

  • Better working relationships

  • More engagement with your team and wider organisation

  • Feeling more 'at home' at work

  • Enjoying your work more

  • Being more relatable when you're in a leadership position

I could go on.

Of course there are a lot of pitfalls to the use of humour too. Here are some:

1. Use your emotional intelligence

In other words: read the room. It might be that not everyone is ready to have a great big roar of laughter at 9 o'clock in the morning (just saying).

People may have a different sense of humour than you.

Oh, and also, try to keep it non-offensive (so you may want to consider staying away from certain topics). 

2. How to use humour as a woman

Have you heard them? 'Women are less funny than men'. <Deep sigh>.

It's not true of course.

But what IS true is that - again - you may want to consider your audience. Self-deprecating jokes may make the people around you think that, indeed, you're not as good as you say you are. <Even deeper sigh>.

But the use of humour itself? Nothing wrong with that!

3. How to use humour as a leader

A study by Harvard Business Review found that leaders who use humour are 27% more admired and credible and their teams are 15% more committed.

But yes, it is most effective when it is about telling memorable anecdotes, lessons about mistakes to avoid and being able to laugh at yourself (rather than - say - performing a one woman comedy show). 

More and more people are understanding that not everything has to be deadly serious. 

In fact, more and more studies show that deadly serious workplaces are less likely to 'play', innovate and come up with new things!

Which makes me believe that HUMOUR is IMPORTANT! 

And not only for at home and when you're out with friends. 

But an IMPORTANT asset to have and a major contribution to your workplace. 

AND it makes you happier too! 

Win-win all the way. Right? 


Tineke Tammes supports professional women in making successful transitions to careers of Freedom, Flexibility and Fulfilment! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artistnever-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler.

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