Is It Okay to Be Silly at Work?

7 Serious Lessons I’ve Learned from Being Silly

Sometimes I like to be silly or joke around.

Silly is lighthearted.

Silly makes me smile.

Silly can make others laugh and then we both feel better.

But couldn’t being silly at work be misinterpreted as goofing off, unfocused on the task at hand?

Or people might just think I’m weird? Or worse… UNPROFESSIONAL.

To clarify, I don’t wander around wearing a big red nose or telling jokes about 3 guys walking into a bar. My silly is more like:

Occasionally coming up with alternatives acronyms for Industry Terms, such as HIPAA = ‘How I Probably A__ A__ ‘


Maybe turning a buddy’s office nameplate upside down


Using Animal Zodiac as part of my weekly status

Ah…. That last one sounds pretty weird right?

Could my urge to act silly be bad for my career? Not everyone gets my humor. Will people think I am wasting time while being paid?

But… I work in IT. It’s a field with a lot of boring topics. If I present information in a high-energy, offbeat manner, it’s easier for people to follow along, rather than zoning out, or falling asleep. Acting a bit silly or fun, might make a presentation, an email, or myself more memorable, right?

And so I’ve gone with being silly, at least from time to time and here are …

7 Serious Lessons I’ve Learned from Being Silly

1) Being silly is like a spice.

A little goes a long way and you need some sustenance to go along with it. If you’re at work, you have to get things done.

I began my professional career as a young mom with a baby to pick up from daycare. I had to squeeze in all my tasks by 5 PM. I was very focused on having productive workdays.

If co-workers know they can count on you to crank out good work, they don’t have to fully embrace your sense of humor in order to want to work with you.

2) You have to be ready to apologize.

I once walked across the hall, into a co-worker’s office and used a teasing nickname to address her. The tone in which she told me that she did NOT find it funny made others’ heads snap up. I apologized. She repeated that she did not find it funny and why. I repeated my apology edging backwards towards the door and then made a beeline back to my own office. This led me to realize…

3) Some people won’t appreciate your humor, but others will.

Try to learn your audience and save the quips for people with a matching sense of humor. One buddy at work complained to me that I had not sent her “any pictures” for a while. I jumped into Google images and my image editor and sent her something like this…

but with the particular technical specification that she was slogging through as the name.

4) Silliness should be light-hearted and good-natured.

It’s not focused on putting people or things down. Part of the reason my cross-hall co-worker took offense was my teasing was a bit of a putdown. I had grown up with my mother saying, “We only tease the ones we love” and I had thought I was teasing, but since that day when I’m at work, I try to avoid jokes that could be taken as a putdown or negative, regardless of friendship or working relationship.

5) Don’t make a joke out of everything.

Besides laughs are bigger when people weren’t expecting humor.

6) Silliness isn’t for everyone, but it’s uplifting and morale-boosting for those who get it.

The Harvard Business Review has published a number of articles on the benefits of humor and laughter in the workplace:

and Fast Company has also covered, The Importance of Being Silly in the Workplace

Neither publication is what brought me to my silly state. It’s just the way I am.

7) Being silly is seeing things from a different angle. It helps loosen up creative juices.

I don’t have any official studies on this, but I know instinctively that when I take an animal image and add a caption to it that I’m exercising a different part of my brain than when I’m trying to resolve compiler errors.

Do you enjoy being silly at work? I would love to hear your thoughts in comments on this article.

If you want more humor in your day today, you can find it at ‘5 Under 5’ and How I Sometimes Amuse My Friends. (Beware, it’s my kind of quirky humor.)

Or for an upbeat, sometimes humorous, look at a serious topic, try my Out-of-Work to Making Money, 21 Comeback Stories Every Job Hunter Should Hear.

Thanks for reading,

Published By

Originally published at

Programmer by day. Author by night. As I put on running tights, I imagine I’m a superhero. Creator of More on me:

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