The Funny Guy Gets the Job

Having a Great Sense of Humor in the Workplace

For job seekers or those looking to make their way up the corporate ladder, being qualified or having a degree is no longer enough. A sense of humor is a must.  Maybe job seekers and aspiring professionals should spend more time on their standup than that Powerpoint.

Accountemps just released a survey with nearly 8 out of 10 executives stating that having a great sense of humor is an important part of fitting into a company’s culture.  Job seekers, add the bulleted words “funny man or woman” directly to your list of skills and qualifications stat.

Having a Great Sense of Humor in the Workplace

I find the survey results hilarious (hence the humor) and peculiar at the same time.  Accountemps which provides staffing for the accounting and finance industry surveys executives finding that employees should have a sense of humor in their career bag of tricks and in accounting no less, an industry where workers are not known for their brilliant and humor-filled personalities.

But those employees who are funny at work and casual are fun, well-liked, and more engaged in the workplace,  making them likely candidates for management and career progression. Unless, of course, you follow the Dilbert Principle where leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow.  According to this principle, employees who can’t do the job are promoted into corporate leadership positions because they are incompetent, not funny.

I’ve written about this topic before.  These corporate slackers woo the boss, make the right corporate connections, and show up at just the right time shaking hands, kissing babies, and tell a well-placed joke to seal the deal.  They’re perfect corporate management material making the art of corporate politics look easy.

Humor at Work: Finding the Perfect Mix

As cynical as I sound, I believe there is a mix.  Employees that receive promotions or are considered for career progression within an organization must be competent, funny, qualified, and be able to lead and motivate a team beyond the standard quirky email or manager imposed deadline.  For managers and those leaders who are on their way moving up the corporate ladder, the employees, the disengaged workforce are not the typical Generation Y that you would expect.  They are workers who range in age from 30 to 65 who cut across Generation Y, Generation X, and the Boomer Generation.  That equates to nearly all of your workforce.

Gallups’s data from their 2011 October Employee Engagement Survey goes beyond just generational topics and your engaged workforce.  The least engaged worker is not that Bachelor’s degree college grad but the highly educated workforce or high school grads that leaders and aspiring managers should be worrying about.

Millennials Being Funny at Work

Except that they aren’t.  Most managers and organizational leaders don’t follow Gallup or even give a damn about your employee survey. They’re busy passing the buck and blaming their team’s staffing and turnover problems on one culprit, the lazy Millennial.  Granted, those Millennials are a challenge.  I know because I am one, and working with someone like me who questions authority, chooses flexibility over boatloads of cash, and uses Facebook at work is a problem.  I’m disengaged, bored, and probably applying for jobs via the company internet.

The secret sauce to being an effective manager and landing that big promotion is working with not against employees including millenials and employees from all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels.  Working with them and developing a employee retention strategy on an individual level instead of across the board.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Darci says

    This is so true… The last two jobs I interviewed for I honestly believe that I killed it in the interview because I was funny and personable. Its important for employers to know that you don’t let the job get to you.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Thanks for the comment. I think many job seekers are so desperate to find work because they are unemployed or because their current work situation is so unfavorable that they try to be someone they are not in the interview whether its for an internal promotion or a new job. Being funny but mostly being yourself sets you apart and develops creditability and a strong personal relationships with your interviewers, your employees, and team members at the office.


  2. Ron Culberson says

    I totally agree. In fact my business is based on the concept of Do it Well, Make it Fun. We should seek excellence first and make the process of our work more fun! This combination is very powerful because it gets the job done but makes the experience more enjoyable. Unfortunately, not many people, especially managers, get it.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Thanks for the comment. Managers who don’t get it is exactly the reason why I will continue to write about this topic. I hope the study and this post get shared at the office place. If I help one manager turn it around, then we’ve made some headway.




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