Being Funny at Work Has Different Perceptions for Men and Women

By: Lauren Mineau

Women in leadership roles often have a mixed bag of things to deal with. They’re expected to act as a leader but sometimes criticism comes when they self-promote or they are perceived as pushy.

According to a new study, women being funny on the job can lead to problems, not laughter. Researchers from the University of Arizona and University of Colorado Boulder tested how people attending a presentation view humor. The researchers asked people for responses after they saw a presentation given by a woman or a man; both used humor during their presentations.

People viewed the female presenter as “disruptive” or distracting while the male presenter was viewed as “functional” or helpful.

The researchers designed the experimental study where participants watched one of four videos of a hypothetical retail manager making a sales presentation. In two videos, the leaders used a script without any jokes and didn’t sway from it. In the other two videos, the presenters used workplace jokes like about drones making deliveries instead of people shopping themselves.

The men who cracked jokes were seen as men of a higher seniority level than those who didn’t, while the inverse happened for the female presenters. The women who made jokes were seen as less capable to lead.

While this is only a small sample, the researchers noted that the behavior could be telling of larger perceptions among society as a whole. To read the full study, see this link.