I was at a meeting the other day when a colleague chimed into the discussion with an extrememly off color, inappropriate joke. A few people laughed, a few did not. After the meeting ended and most of the participants had left, a female colleague confided to me that she thought the joke was extrememly insensitive and it made her feel uncomfortable for the rest of the meeting.
“Then why did you laugh?” I asked.
Her response: “Because most of the people laughed, I didn’t want to feel left out, I didn’t want to come across as being uptight or hyper sensitive.”
In other words, she succumbed to “jeer pressure.” Sound familiar?
Now of course there are people who are hyper-sensitive and who do read things into people’s comments that have no bearing on what the person actually intended to say.
Conversely, there are people at work who cross the line with their humor and risk building walls instead of tearing them down. Often they just need a gentle reminder, perhaps some one-on-one coaching about why their attempt at humor misfired.
And maybe the simplest approach of all is to encourage everyone around them to not enable their inappropriate humor by succumbing to jeer pressure.
Michael Kerr, www.humoratwork.com
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