As I have said in the past, I have been in the software development industry for nearly 10 years now. Currently I am working for a consulting firm which means I am often placed at various clients around the city in need of Enterprise Microsoft Solutions. I have worked for some pretty big clients and I have talked to some pretty important people at those clients. I have learned a very important and undeniable truth, humor helps.
I will not deny that it’s more important to be serious when its appropriate. You should not crack jokes in front of a Vice-President, CEO or any other high ranking personnel. However, I think its also important to allow the lighter side of your personality to come through and I believe this for two reasons: building rapport and dealing with stress.
It’s rare when I leave a client that I don’t have well over a dozen people coming to me to say farewell. I know one of my strengths is building a good rapport with everyone. I believe its my humor that helps build these relationship. How many times is it suggested that a joke be used as an ice-breaker? Humor is a natural ice-breaker, it helps quell nervous behavior. Granted I don’t walk into a client the first day and start making jokes, I think its important to warm up to people first and find out what kind of humor is appropriate. The wrong kind of humor will have the opposite effect.
Every workplace will go through periods of high stress. It’s inevitable. The curse of professionalism is the better you are at your job the more work you are expected to do in a shorter period of time. If you are going to survive the day you need to have a way to let go of the stress. When I notice my team is really stressed out, that is usually when I increase the jests. Similar to ice-breakers, the humor quells the nerves and helps relieve the tension, even if its only temporary. I say its far better to laugh in the face of stress instead of wanting to hang yourself.
Remember, humor is a tool and just like any tool, if used improperly can cause more harm then good. If you joke too much then people won’t take you seriously. If you say the wrong thing, make the wrong joke, that can have an even greater adverse affect. This is why I take some time to get to know the people I am working with first.