Wellbeing & Health

Inappropriate Jokes in the Workplace

4 Mins read

Inappropriate jokes in the workplace may often come as offensive and hurtful. Whether you or someone else were made a joke at, I am sure you have heard defensive phrases such as:
– “You’re too sensitive”, or
“Don’t take everything so seriously”.

These phrases come usually after a negative response to an inappropriate joke. Regardless if it is a not-so-well-thought joke or actually has a mean perspective behind it, these jokes can harm the work culture and lower an employee’s spirit. In this article, we will classify what makes an inappropriate joke, how to handle it, and describe some examples.

What Makes an Inappropriate joke?

Current situations (cultural, political, racial…) and a variety of other circumstances can classify a ‘simple’ joke into an inappropriate one. If someone jokes around the below-listed factors, then HR or managers should probably put some attention to it:

Violent Factor

In 2019, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health noted that almost 21,000 workers were victims of violence. Nevertheless, women, girls, minorities, LGBTQ, and other groups have alarming rates of violence cases. We believe that violence is nothing to joke about, since many people may have a triggering reaction to it.

Sexual Factor

Regardless if it’s an innocent joke, sexual-related jokes are classified as inappropriate jokes in the workplace. Many workers may consider even sexual comments as sexual harassment, and according to US Law, they do have a right to do so. 

This way, we advise avoiding such inappropriate humour from the workplace so that no person can take offense or feel uncomfortable.

Bullying & Negative Emotions

Jokes that aren’t appropriate for the workplace frequently have malicious intent. To uplift themselves, employees and bosses point out others’ weaknesses or undermine their confidence. A worker who experiences such jokes could consider the workplace a hostile environment.

Sadly, many companies fail to acknowledge the harm it does to others or they accuse the target of lacking a thicker skin. While there isn’t necessarily anything that businesses “owe” their employees, they are nevertheless required by law to keep them safe – employee safety includes emotional and psychological abuse as well.

Inappropriate Joke

Negative Comments on Religion, Ethnicity & Sexual Orientation

If the workplace is open-minded enough and doesn’t take offense to jokes or comments on religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, that’s a whole other topic. But, many people do get offended and considered these topics as material for inappropriate jokes in the workplace. Diverse teams especially should be careful to avoid these topics as much as possible.

Addressing Inappropriate Comments In the Workplace

Significant negative effects of harassment and discrimination at work include higher employee turnover, lower productivity, and higher legal expenses. A manager might be tempted to speak with individuals if the problems only affect a small number of people, but this may not be sufficient. It’s a good idea to mandate that individuals at all levels of your firm attend sexual harassment and discrimination training to make sure that everyone on staff is on the same page about proper workplace humor. A company-wide training program makes sure that everyone is aware of their rights and has the confidence to step in if they witness unacceptable behavior.

If you have a difficult time bringing everyone together for training because of remote workers, numerous locations, or other issues, search for a virtual training solution that can provide your team with consistent training materials. Any training program should not forget to include management since they have a crucial responsibility to play in preventing harassment.

Handling Inappropriate Jokes in the Workplace

A program that educates and promotes empathy toward other employees is an excellent method to deal with inappropriate jokes in the workplace in addition to harassment training. With the aid of these programs, workers can better comprehend the negative effects of inappropriate humour in the workplace by putting themselves in other people’s shoes. 

Discouragement of Inappropriate Jokes from the Management

No amount of training will be effective if management is observed making offensive jokes or remarks about staff members in meetings or other setups. Make it abundantly clear that no one will tolerate verbally abusive language.

Avoid Overreacting

No zero-tolerance rules, please! There will always be occasions when somebody says something regrettable or tries to make fun of something hurtful. What you should look out for is a pattern of jokes and offensive humour that is more hurtful than humorous. Provide anonymous reporting options so that staff members can report events, and keep an eye out for recurring names. Make sure you’re prepared and equipped to address issues when they arise since harassment is never funny.

Establish it as a Company Value

Take closer look at both the formal and informal business cultures to remove this kind of harassment in your workplace. Any customs that might legitimize harassing or discriminating behaviour ought to be re-examined.

Examples of Inappropriate Humour in the Workplace

Many jokes might not be suitable for the office. Here are a few general illustrations:

  • Immigrant or race assistance-related joke: That has nothing to do with the tasks at work, and it can irritate someone who struggles to make ends meet and receives no assistance of any kind. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the laughing employees are familiar with the private matters of the entire race.
  • Women body count jokes: Not only is it improper, but it may also generate problems for the business if the “joking” employee has already violated the employee against her will at work. Even if the jokes have nothing to do with the workers’ relationships, they nonetheless open the door to sexual harassment allegations.
  • Disability jokes: Disability is intended to be a private concern. The right to reveal another employee’s disability to other employees is not one that managers or employees have. So, if someone hears it and is offended, they may decide to report it as concern for the disabled employee.


Humour in the workplace shouldn’t involve anything that makes people feel unpleasant or bad. To maintain harmony and a healthy work environment, ensure that professionalism is part of daily conversations and language as well.

Read More:

Job Mapping: Top 3 Free Templates
Employee Handbook: The Non-Compete Clause
Strategic Performance Management

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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