Early in my HR career, I was ‘that guy.’
I’d try to add a little irreverence and humor into the normal boring HR communications we had to send people to get employees to chuckle and pay attention, but the problem was, my ‘humor’…it didn’t always go over so great.
Not all employees found ‘my humor’ funny. Some even found it inappropriate for the context, or got confused since they’d never experienced an HR communication with some benefits humor. The first time I did it, I ended up spending more time explaining myself in follow-up emails than I would have if I’d personally gone to each employee individually and told them directly what I wanted to say!
Yep. It was a complete failure.
But, I’m a little like Popeye. Remember the old cartoon character’s favorite saying, I yam what I yam? My personality is to want people to smile and laugh, so I didn’t give up on the idea of making my communications less boring and more fun.
Instead, I just tweaked my style a little. I made a point to stick to stuff that most people would find funny, and not so many people would find confusing or inappropriate. I’m still not perfect, but I’ve learned a few things that I think could help you integrate some humor into your HR communications–and especially your upcoming OE communications – without going overboard:
#1. Sarcasm is lost on most people.
The use of sarcasm can be super funny, but it shouldn’t be used in HR communications because it’s so hard to interpret for many people. Plus, the reason sarcasm is funny is because you’re usually saying the opposite of what you want, or what is true. You definitely don’t want that in writing in an HR communication!
#2. The humor you use should be rated G to PG at most.
Have you seen any kid’s movies lately? They’re super funny for adults to watch, and safe for kids to see. That’s the sweet spot. If my kids, or your kids, heard or read this communication, would you feel it was appropriate? If so, you’re in the right ballpark.
#3. Only make fun of an executive if you’re 100% sure they’d find it funny too.
Let’s just say, I have a ‘friend’ who didn’t do this and apparently some executives don’t find it funny when they’re the butt of a joke sent out to all the employees! Okay, that ‘friend’ might have been me. And that executive still won’t talk to me.
#4. Profanity can be fun, but, just, NO.
It seems silly to even have to point it out, but as we get five different generations into the workplace, you can never be sure what’s going to offend or not. So just steer clear of potentially controversial stuff completely. Swear words. Social-issue humor you think will make you seem really edgy. All that stuff. One misplaced word can make totally lose you credibility with an entire part of your workforce.
#5. It’s never funny to dump on someone’s beliefs.
In America, the majority of folks believe in Christian-based religions. In fact, in some places, 99% of your employees are probably members of Christian-based religions. But even if you feel nobody in your little world is going to take offense, that doesn’t give you liberties to make fun of other religions or (non-)beliefs. You can be funny without offending.
If this is making you wonder what IS safe territory, let me tell you: making a little self-deprecating fun of HR! Our employees already see us as the police or as their Work Moms, so why not play to that a little? It’ll endear your employees to you because they’ll begin to view you as someone who ‘gets it’ – which is exactly what you want.