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Humor in the workplace. What’s okay and what will get you fired?
David M. Jacobson - LCSW -- Expert on Leadership, Humor & Health David M. Jacobson - LCSW -- Expert on Leadership, Humor & Health
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Tucson, AZ
Friday, February 17, 2023


The basic rule is that any humor that is exclusive, separates people, puts someone down or ridicules others, destroys self-esteem, uses stereotypes of groups, encourages a negative atmosphere, offends others or lacks awareness of other’s feelings is inappropriate.

Appropriate humor is inclusive. It brings people together. It is shared with all. It decreases prejudice by focusing on what we all have in common It encourages a positive atmosphere. It builds rapport and trust. It is based on caring and comes from a place of love and kindness. It is supportive and builds confidence. It can be self-effacing, role modeling how to poke fun at oneself without being negative or too self-critical.

Research has shown that there is a distinctive difference in the health benefits of positive and negative humor. Positive humor as outlined above has positive physiological effects on one’s body and mind. Negative humor has not been found to have these same health benefits.

Dealing with negative humor:

What should I do when someone at work uses inappropriate humor around me and I don’t like it?

There are several responses open to you depending on the type of person you are or mood that you are in.

  1. The make them think approach: You can asked them to retell the joke or story again using themselves as the main character instead of the race, religion, nationality or sex they used in the joke or story. Most will say, “Then it is not funny.” Exactly!
  2. The direct (assertive) approach: You can simply state that you don’t appreciate that kind of humor and would they please not use it in front of you. Reply, “I don’t find that kind of humor amusing.”
  3. The indirect approach: Choose not to laugh or smile at the end of the joke. You may go as far as putting on a frown or an angry face if that’s how you feel.
  1. The educational approach: You could choose to educate them by explaining the differences outlined above between inclusive and exclusive humor. This will permit them a face-saving response. For example, you could say something like “I’m sure if you were aware of how mean-spirited that joke makes you sound you wouldn’t use it.”

Any of these responses could be done privately or in a group. The peer pressure of a group would have a stronger impact on the person and let others know how you feel about offensive humor at the same time.

Most people offend others and tell poor jokes out of ignorance. We all have different tastes in humor, like we do with food. What is offensive to some is funny to others.

In certain professions there is gallows humor and other types that the general public would not understand, but really serves a healthy purpose as a coping mechanism in a stressful and dire workplace such as an emergency room, combat or law enforcement situations.

David Jacobson is a professional speaker on leadership, team building, humor and health and overcoming trauma. He is the former Chief of Social Work of the Phoenix VA where he assisted in improving their mental health system. For over 30 years David, has provided his expertise on leadership, humor and health related topics to audiences around the country and served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. He has been featured internationally by various media outlets, including magazines, journals and television from London to Seoul, Korea. He is the award winning author of "7 1/2 Habits To Help You Become More Humorous, Happier & Healthier." This book describes how he accomplished a 50 miles unicycle ride inspite of severe arthritis to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation.

David Jacobson suffered many losses early in his life including a diagnosis with a severe form of arthritis at 22 in 1980. Since then, he has become a living example that you can accomplish anything if you truly believe in yourself. Through his years of struggling with chronic pain, he developed humor techniques that got him through the hard times. He now teaches these skills to audiences around the country in his keynotes and workshops which as entertaining as they are educational.

His many honors include a "President's Award" from Flashnet Marketing, Inc. , A Lifetime Achievement Award and a "National Hero Overcoming Arthritis" award by the Arthritis Foundation National Office and the Wayne Washburn Memorial Award which reads as follows "We all need someone or something to inspire us to bring out our best. You are that someone"

For the past twenty years, Mr. Jacobson has worked as a hospital administrator in addition to his writing, and speaking career. 

News Media Interview Contact
Name: David M. Jacobson, MSW
Title: President
Group: Humor Horizons
Dateline: Tucson, AZ United States
Direct Phone: 520-982-6868
Main Phone: 5209826868
Cell Phone: 520-982-6868
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