Do you see differences in how men and women generally use humor? Women sometimes describe “male humor” as raucous “bashing.” Men are sometimes perplexed at what makes women giggle. Max and Fran, our prototypes for masculine and feminine approaches at work, find different things funny. On the masculine side of the masculine-feminine continuum in the area of humor is “Stir Up.” On the feminine side is “Smooth Out.”
Max’s form of humor involves poking fun at others. Pranks or putting another down can signal friendship. Consistent with the masculine worldview, he uses humor to establish his position, “score a point,” and demonstrate his status over the one he is “putting down.” Max also uses humor to test someone—to see if she or he can “take it.”
For Fran, putting another down would violate the priority of maintaining relationships. Fran knows that another woman might take a jab or prank personally and she could lose a friend. Her humor is used to create connections and to smooth out tensions. She is more likely to poke fun at herself than others. Self-deprecation makes it clear she sees her status as equal to that of others.
Below is a summary of the two sides of the continuum in the area of workplace relationships:
Max – STIR UP
Fran – SMOOTH OUT
|Uses humor to create energy, stir things up||Uses humor to bond, smooth things out|
|Laughs at others’ predicaments||Is self-deprecating; laughs at own predicaments|
|Uses humor to challenge or “one up” another||Uses humor to comfort, connect|
|Uses personal jabs to show approval, liking||Finds personal jabs hurtful|
|Uses pranks||Dislikes pranks|
Does this help you understand an incident that once perplexed you? Share your experiences and stories about humor in a comment!