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I have always been an outgoing guy, who likes to make jokes and be funny. Although this is apparent to everyone I meet, whether it be at a party or just participating in a conversation.

It's just who I am. Now when I was in ninth grade in a new school, where nobody knew who I was. I was trying to make friends like any other freshman would in a new school - high school no less. So in class I would joke around talk to people trying to make friends; I used the skills I had cracking jokes making people laugh etc.

Now when the end of the first semester rolled around our school was in the habit of highlighting the students that made it to the honor roll in front of the entire school in the gym. No they had two levels of of recognition honor roll and high honor roll. Now the usual suspects go up and claim their two minutes of fame.

Then high honor roll came around, my name was called out utter silience hit my friends' faces wondering how I managed to achieve this when i am always joking around and just didn't see me as intellectual person at all. Regardless of whether or not my report card read like someone screaming for dear life (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA).

I was always well liked and enjoyed surprising people, when they would underestimate me; I relished it in. I always enjoyed shocking people, and making them eat their words. Something I always lived with.

Now after graduating I have title which designates me some respect depending on which social circles you hang in (heres looking at you designers). I am afraid that my outgoing nature is going to cost me a promotion, or management not seeing the entire person I am.

It has burnt me in the past while in university working for people who only saw the light hearted joking I put forward, and putting other people in positions that I was better qualified for.

As a programmer, I know my work will speak for itself but they might see the joking as irresponsible or ignorant. He lack responsibility, all the things associated with people who make jokes.

Should I stifle myself so people see how I truly am? Or continue to wait for the opportunity to shock them, that don't always present themselves, since there is no honor roll at the end of the semester.

Please and thank you,

xoxo Gossip Girl (just kidding)

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"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" is more likely what your report cards say. –  muntoo Dec 12 '10 at 4:24
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AAAAAAAAAAAA was referencing my good grades. I don't think H would be a letter grade given. –  dustyprogrammer Dec 12 '10 at 5:20
    
Ha! @garbage, I think you missed @muntoo's joke. Talk about irony... Wait, is this irony? –  AviD Dec 12 '10 at 8:36
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Don't worry. When you start the professional work, your joking will reduce. –  Manoj R Dec 17 '10 at 7:06
    
Nobody's going to pass over you because you're funny. If you just think you're funny, but you're not, however, that'd would make you socially awkward, in which case you will probably have a problem with promotions. But if you really are funny, then you'll do just fine! :) –  Jonathan Sterling Apr 20 '11 at 15:03

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It probably won't matter. Wouldn't for me.

I've worked with people with or without any humor. I even worked with people with dreadful personalities, and in the end the skills matter the most. Sure that might be the one tiny thing that will make the chances of another candidate for said promotion a bit higher than yours, if you tend to push the humor a bit too far (and a bit too ... off-topic, maybe? Or always coming up at the wrong time). For instance, I had a co-worked recently ask me if my prolonged week-end in France was worth it and I had enjoyed doing nothing while they worked so hard. I sort of had to reply that it depends how he would my grand-father's death to be "worth it". Matter of timing... Still, he couldn't know. (and I sort of enjoyed replying that because the look on his face really just turned it around. Definitely wouldn't blame him, it was priceless).

It won't make your promotions a complete no-go.

There's a lot of things I'd despise more with someone than them having a sense of humor (even a bad one). Ego might be one thing. Lack of skills another.

Managers will pick on a lot of weird stuff to not promote you, but cracking jokes usually isn't on the list, no. Or your boss doesn't have a sense of humor but has a stick up somewhere. I'd even understand it a bit more if they use your background or personal life as a reason, but your humor, that would be really weird.

Note that it also depends how high up the ladder you want to go. Customer facing people can find it a bit awkward if you say the weirdest stuff to clients (I had a boss like that once... he was so weird and wry that I couldn't work in the same room as him or I would eavesdrop on all his phone calls. But I loved him for it, quite the opposite of what you are afraid of. It was incredibly refreshing to have someone not care about a customer over-reacting to a joke or a non-PC statement just for the fun of it. Whenever he saw the potential for a wry or dry joke, he'd go for it... except when big contracts were on the table. Restrain matters a bit). Can also be awkward if you start managing million-dollar projects and you don't show sensitivity. That's the kind of stuff that gets printed in the papers. In that case, yeah, I'd turn it down a notch.

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it happens, and now that i am working for a software company, new kid in school wondering what foot to put forward. Its the worst wishing you had played your hand another way. Sorry to hear about your grandfather. –  dustyprogrammer Dec 12 '10 at 0:26
    
@gargbagecollector: Thanks. Not a problem at all, it's bound to happen to each and every one of us. Regarding how to play your hand... maybe, but it also feels so great when you hold it til th end and you get lucky. If you get where you want to be while being who you really are, then it's the best thing that can happen. Not being who you really are might get you there, but will you be happy if you need to restrain yourself all the time? –  haylem Dec 12 '10 at 0:42
    
I won't as well liked socially, but I will guard my professionalism and how I am viewed by employees, its not limiting a part of myself at all. its just putting forth another side more. I will never compromise who I am for a position. :) –  dustyprogrammer Dec 12 '10 at 1:54

If you're an outgoing, friendly guy, I cant imagine why you'd think that'd hurt promotion chances. There arent many areas in life where that will actually hurt you.

One of the great things about programming is that it is very results oriented. If you are good at what you do, it'll show. Thats primarily what managers will care about. And if you're a social guy, the kind that everybody likes, all the better for you. Why would you think that would hold you back?

If some of your future colleagues cant handle that you're outgoing and find humor in things... thats their loss. Personally I've never understood humorless people. But they are out there.

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At work, ask yourself what the point is of what you are saying at any given moment. In theory, you are there to help a team of people create something. SOMETIMES humor can break the ice, help the team work together better, defuse a difficult situation. But MOST of the time humor is used to get attention, just for the sake of getting attention. The only people who do that at work are stand up comedians.

So the fact that you have a sense of humor is a good thing; it means you have more tools to use than someone who does not have a sense of humor. If you don't use your other tools when needed, then, yes, you will just be seen as a joker. But if you help the team to move forward in getting the work done, both with humor and humility, then you will be showing the true attributes of a leader, rather than just someone who stands out.

It's not the humor that's killing you, it's the inappropriate use of it.

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I learned the hard way. It is better to be diplomatic, and nice, than to be funny (and laugh alone).

Humor has its place, just don't let it get the best of you.

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You are not in college any more - your work life and personal life can start to become quite different, and that is ok. By the way AAAAAAAAAA will not impress everyone. I knew someone with a photographic memory who got straight As but was not that smart. Harvard is full of kids who were #1 in their high school. There are people out there much smarter (and or harder working) than you or me. Do not be surprised.

So, how you act should depend on who you interact with, sometimes you need to slow yourself down and try to match the person that you talk to - this is a subconscious demonstration of "I am with you". That other person might not have much of sense of humor (in your eyes), but I think it is vital that you laugh at their jokes when it seems natural. That is just how it is. Programmers are not the most social type. Heck, you can run into some tech prodigies with half-Aspergers syndrome, I kid you not. Others might be going through a nasty divorce or cancer in a family - bound to happen to someone in a large place. Then your jokes will not be appreciated. You need to learn to adjust on a case-by-case basis.

Now, are you an extroverted person? If so, you need to try to understand introverts. Most of the programmers are. I myself am on the introverted side, particularly when sober. Too much extroversion from someone can leave a certain impression on me; I just can't help but form one.

I think that people who are quite loud when they talk risk being disliked by someone, particularly when they are new. It is much easier to adjust when most of your conversations are 1:1. Finally, if you want to become a [good] manager, then you will have to learn to listen, and compliment other people on their achievements and not dominate them in a discussion. Good managers get stuff done, make their subordinates feel smart and good about themselves, and are not being "tall poppies". Particularly in a managerial position, caution is quite important.

Maybe I sound like someone with no balls. However, coworkers come in all shapes, sizes, from diff cultures and walks of life. All you want to do is to show up, get stuff done, not to piss anybody off, and go home and enjoy spending your paycheck on family matters.

There is someone at my company who is a "bag of laughs". I love him for telling us how it is, and I often truly enjoy his unique non-PC humor. However, on occasion he mentions things that should not be brought up in a work place, such as women, religion. When you do joke around, make sure that it is sanitized and victim-less humor.

I myself like to crack jokes, and my humor with people I know well can be aggressive, non-PC, not victim-less. I learned the hard way to not bring this explosive stuff to work. I ignore gossip, do not talk about politics or religion, discuss female colleagues with other coworkers. Reasons are a combination of pointless/offensive/dangerous.

Hopefully you can see where I am coming from. Lifting everybody's mood through the right kind of humor will make you liked, but there are other approaches as well. Being too cocky or too funny or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can make an unpleasant impression. So, learn about the people that you work with and adjust. Try to make it about them. Everyone loves positive attention.

So far you have been too focused on how smart and funny you are. That may be the case, but keep all that good stuff for the people close to you. At work be more flexible, slow down if needed. If someone just lost a relative at work, your honest, but perhaps unoriginal words of empathy would be appreciated. Your jokes would not be, if the timing is wrong. If someone is raising $ for their relative with cancer - give them a good amount like 100$ or more. This will pay off 10x or more. $100 is only 1-2 hrs of a good programmer's time.

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Do not change your personality for a place of employment. This ain't 1953, you won't be there 25 years and get a gold watch. However, you will be with yourself in 25 years, so change your job to suit your personality, not the other way around. That's the best thing about programming: As long as we go through Keynes inspired Fed driven bubble and burst, every few years, you can make a move.

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+1 for this. Sure, we might have to make compromises to get work in difficult times, but at the end of the day you need to work at a place where you can be you - don't change yourself to fit the place, it's obviously not the right place. –  Nick Bastin Dec 12 '10 at 5:40

humor is a great quality to posess; but it's not always appropriate to let out ;-)

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Are the type to poke everyone or can you be diplomatic at work? If the former then I think the lack of sensitivity here may cost you some promotions as part of being in management is dealing with politics, at least that is my impression from having seen various managers in my working years. If you can be diplomatic then you may move up the food chain as this is part of being a chameleon that is required for some of the higher positions unless you manage to join a friend in a start-up to get a power position.

If you do know Gossip Girl, think of this as the difference between being Blair and Serena. Serena is more likely to poke everyone and get burned while Blair will hold back to get that top social spot if you want a more direct example. Yes I watch shows marketed to teenage girls and am aware of possible flack I could get for this but I believe this situation merits revealing this part of myself in a logical and rational fashion.


Making jokes all the time can come across as someone that doesn't understand that there may be a time and place to be serious and sensitive. The poke was in the general sense of getting a rise out of people, which may not always go over well as some may see this as an intrusion where you are forcing humor upon them. While this may be overkill in terms of explaining my answer, I'd think for some people this may be needed. People can have a variety of senses of humor and in some cases a joke may go over rather badly especially if there is vulgarity or nudity involved, like for example some of Kevin Smith's humor regarding various sex,drug, and bodily function jokes if you've watched "Clerks" or "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."

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I don't watch gossip girl but I understand what your saying. I also don't poke at anyone I make jokes about things in common place I am very astute in that sense of course. :) –  dustyprogrammer Dec 12 '10 at 0:23
    
Again I am very aware of people feeling and different points of view. I rarely tell jokes that in poor taste. I just being perceived as the funny does have its down sides, like a stated in the question. –  dustyprogrammer Dec 12 '10 at 5:22

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