Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Etiquette of Laughing

Are you confused about what to do when somebody at the office cracks a joke? Do you laugh or report them to HR? Never fear, Mr. Office Etiquette has come to your rescue with: the etiquette of laughing at jokes in the office.

If the person delivering a joke is your boss, laugh. Laugh long and laugh hard. As a general rule, regardless of what your boss just said, laugh. The exception to this rule is if the last thing out of your boss sounded like, “Urp!” In this situation, laughing out loud is discouraged.

If the person is attractive to you, you should laugh but not as hard as if the person was your boss. Make up for the smaller laugh by ending the laughter with a smile and eye contact. A long smile, mixed with friendly eye contact, says, “Please find me as attractive as I find you.” It never works, it just makes your cheeks hurt and your eyes water but all the dating magazines recommend it.

If the person is a temporary employee, don’t laugh. In fact, pretend you didn’t hear the joke. With temps, you can get away with walking out on them mid-joke. Who cares? What can the person do?

If the person is a consultant, don’t laugh. They are not paid huge sums of money to crack jokes. They are, in fact, paid huge sums of money to do nothing. Make them earn it.

If the person delivering a joke is your friend and the joke is not funny you are obligated to laugh. This shows your support. Imagine you were cheering for that person at a baseball game and the person had just struck out. Laughing at the joke says, “Nice try, you’ll get ‘em next time.” Not laughing at the joke says, “You just lost us the championship game, you idiot. No Christmas card for you, Grinch.”

If somebody just made an off-color, rude, racist, or sexist joke, tell them you are offended and didn’t appreciate that joke. If you really don’t like the person, report them to HR immediately. This will earn you respect. Be sure to remember the joke and crack it with your friends when you’re off the clock – and then feel free to laugh as hard as you want.

If somebody is telling a long joke I can guarantee that they will forget the punch line. You will laugh harder at them for trying to remember the punch line than you will three days later when they finally remember and deliver the ending…at which point you can’t remember the joke anyway. Do not include them on your Christmas card list. This is your revenge for allowing them to waste your time.

No matter how funny your joke is, nobody in the company who ranks above you will laugh. This means, your boss, her boss, etc. The ironic thing is that you will hear them recycle your joke at the next meeting and you will be required to laugh heartily at it. Don’t expect any credit for it…not that you do since you are used to the fact that they get the bonuses because YOU work the unpaid overtime.

The funniest joke at the office ranks a 3.5 out of 10 in normal circumstances. This is because 1) at the office you and your coworkers are generally sober, and 2) most of the office employees (ok, ALL of the office employees) are nerds. Nerds laugh at jokes that rank 3.5 out of 10. Outside the office, you only laugh at jokes that rank 6 out of 10. Think about it.

(Tag line: Mark Palenske has spent a career figuring out when to laugh at jokes in the office, which might explain why he has so often been demoted.)

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Life is just too funny to be taken so seriously