The challenge of humor in the workplace for women

MU research shows humor can be complicated to navigate in the workplace for women

April 1, 2022


Kenny Gerling: Workplace humor is great for the office, but a new study from the University of Missouri shows that using humor appropriately can be tricky, especially for women.

Interim Dean at the Trulaske College of Business Christopher Robert tracked the reaction of almost 100 college students after they read scenarios of men and women using humor in the workplace. Robert says that college students were more likely to see women using humor as “foolish” or inappropriate.

Robert: The landscape for using humor is much more complicated for women than it is for men. So, for men status doesn’t really matter very much. The type of humor doesn’t really matter very much, but for women, there are some kind of important nuances and it’s much harder for them to avoid criticism.

Gerling: Robert says that this research could help people learn to check their own biases before making judgements. He encourages people to take a second and think.

Robert: We all might have inherent biases, of course, about lots of things, but even about how we view people who are using humor and you know we might be a little bit quick to make negative judgments about people.

Gerling: For more on this research, visit

I’m Kenny Gerling with a Spotlight on Mizzou

Learn more about the research here

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