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Texas ISD School Guide
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Humor - Appropriate For Work?
By:Michael Russell

Very few people really enjoy going to their jobs. Let's face it, most bosses are a pain, the work isn't very interesting and even if it is, after a while it gets routine. The days are long and when times are slow, they are even longer. Boredom can easily settle in. Some people try to combat this boredom by bringing a little humor into the work place. What follows are two true stories.

One gentleman worked for a medical software company. It was their slow sales and support season and finding things to stay busy was not easy. So this man, who was also an amateur ventriloquist, brought one of his dummies into work. Fortunately, this guy was very well liked and the people in the office, including his supervisor, all got a kick out of it. The jokes and one liners were flying fast and furious. Everyone was having a good time. Then, one worker walked in who had a terrible phobia of dummies. She verbally abused the other employee and then filed a complaint. The employee was ultimately asked to put the dummy away and never bring it back.

Another gentleman who was working at a business school as a computer instructor held a joke session in the teachers' lunch room. All the teachers were asked to get up and tell their favorite jokes. This was all well and good until one of the teachers told an ethnic joke. One of the people in the room was of this ethnicity and became very insulted. He filed a complaint and a lawsuit resulted against the school.

These are just two of the probably many cases of humor at the work place turning into an ugly scene. The truth is, what one person finds funny or entertaining, another person may find offensive. When that happens, complaints are bound to be made and that's when the trouble starts.

So what is a company to do? Do they allow humor? Do they post rules that no forms of humorous entertainment or even casual talk be allowed? What if two friends are talking in private on the job and are telling each other jokes? What it somebody walks by and overhears one of the jokes and is offended by the joke? Is it the fault of the two employees that a private conversation was overheard? Where do we draw the line when it comes to allowing humor in the work place?

Unfortunately, what many companies do and a big reason why work is such a miserable place to be, is prohibit all conversation on the actual work premises that does not directly involve doing the job itself. People who are caught breaking this rule are given a reprimand the first time and on a second offense are given some sort of punishment. If the violations continue, they are let go.

Fair? Maybe not. But in an age where everyone has to be politically correct or face possible lawsuits it may be the only course of action they can take to solve the problem.

Michael Russell

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