Does Humor Help or Hurt a When Used in a Professional Staff Meeting?

Ever been in a professional staff meeting and another nurse/healthcare professional tells a joke or a story the teller thinks is really funny?  If the tone and content of it is perceived by any of the staff as critical, ambiguous or sarcastic, especially if one staff member is the butt of a joke, it could cause hurt feelings.  Obviously that joke or story would not help create a harmonious team spirit in the meeting but rather could help cause a rift in the team instead.

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How to Utilize Humor to Help Increase a Feeling of Teamwork and Deal with Stress

  1.  Before sharing a joke or story ask yourself how all of the other professional staff members might react.  HINT:  Religion, politics and any hint of racism, sexism or other commonly considered negative “isms” are topics to avoid and in healthcare we know there is a myriad of cultural diversity among staff.
  2. If anyone else tells an “off color” or any other insensitive “funny” story, be brave and let them know it is uncomfortable for you.  If it is material that causes hurt to you personally, let them know you feel it is hurtful.  HINT:  Try not to come across in a too outspoken way, which might cause more hurt feelings and depending on the role of the teller could be a risk for you,  but rather use an assertive statement that usually starts with letting the person know what was hurtful, such as:  “When you told the joke about women/nurses, etc.”. . . followed by an “I” statement:  “I felt disrespected”.  Then end with what you would like the person to do or refrain from doing next time, such as: “please don’t tell that type of joke again”.
  3. Some jokes may be slightly “off color” but the whole team may feel okay with it.  HINT:  It is important to self-examine what makes you feel hurt, putdown, etc. for yourself or any group of people.  Even if you think you are the only person in the room who feels that way, remember if anyone of the team has issues with a borderline “off color” story they have the right to speak up.  HINT:  Often you find you are really not alone in your feelings so when you take the risk to speak up others many times will support you.

Use of humor is one of those behaviors that can be a soother, energizer, stress reducer or a tension maker.  Both the material and tonality in the delivery contribute to how it can affect others.

Become self-aware how you use humor and what you feel is healthily funny at work as humor can be used to help reduce stress and build a healthcare team spirit or can be wielded in a way that can help split the team apart!

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