Humor Tips for the Grumpy Boss

people in a business meeting
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This is one of the classic workplace characters – the grumpy boss.

Mind you. He or she is not evil or wicked. They are just grumpy – bad-tempered, irritable, annoyed. They have this unique skill to say the most pleasant of things and still manage to upset people.

The grumpy bosses however add to the workplace humor. Employees make fun of their mannerisms. The grumpy boss is always a topic of discussion during tea breaks, office lunches and team outings.

the grumpy boss comic strip
The Grumpy Boss

Humor is a great bonding ingredient. Perhaps one of the most effective. When people laugh together, they form a bond. Bosses too need the element of humor to connect and bond with their teams.

Humor comes easily to some. Some people have a better sense of humor. Everyone loves talking to them. Humor is also credited for our psychological wellbeing.

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” – Bill Cosby, famous stand-up comedian, actor and author.

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States

“I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.” – Frank A. Clark, lawyer and politician

These three quotes signify the importance of humor at workplaces – overcome challenges, leadership and problem solving.

How can a grumpy boss add humor to his arsenal?

the grumpy boss cartoon
The Grumpy Boss Needs Help

Play along

Being grumpy does not mean stupid. It’s no surprise that employees have some fun at your expense behind your back. They mock your mannerisms. They quote you and say some mean things. Bosses get their share of undeserved criticism too. It’s all right.

Add more fuel to the fire. Let there be more smoke.

Repeat the behavior, statements and mannerisms that the team finds funny.

One of my bosses would often say “I don’t give a shit about it” whenever something did not work out or when we missed a deadline.  A disclaimer – he was not a grumpy boss. The phrase is not funny, however, whenever he would say this, a couple of us in the team would burst into an uncontrollable laughter. He would say this in team meetings or during reviews. He knew the reaction and would sometimes just play along.

You too should learn and practice to play along.

Find your guinea pigs

As the humor is for the team, let them contribute. Identify a couple of guinea pigs in the team.

Every team has one or few such characters who enjoy being picked on. Remember – nothing mean or insulting. Assign them a nick name or pick on one of their annoying habits. Call them by their nick names during team meetings. Add some drama to it if you may. Simple enough but makes people smile.

Again, don’t be mean and do not insult or embarrass them.

Research and quote from books or famous people

We are lucky to live in a world where information is available and accessible to all. Look for some funny team management, problem solving, management, HR and leadership quotes from famous people.

Use these quotes in your emails, internal chat groups and meetings. Use sporadically and do not repeat.

Here is one for you – “Do not underestimate your abilities. That is your boss’s job.” Say this with your usual grumpy face when assigning targets to your team.

Practice Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the most sought after modern day management skills. People love stories.

Share humorous and funny incidents from your college or earlier work experiences. If you’ve led a rather uneventful and boring life, borrow stories from books. There are plenty.

Share these with your team during tea breaks and informal gatherings.

These also help you drive your points to the team. These make them aware that once you were in their shoes. These stories help you take off the grumpy mask every once in a while and connect with your team at a deeper level.

Learn to laugh at yourself

Do not take yourself too seriously. This quote sums it up right: “When you are the first to laugh at yourself, everyone else laughs with you ~ not at you.”

As you get more aware of your mannerisms, reactions and characteristic responses that your team finds funny, laugh at yourself and surprise your team. They will join in the fun. Share that light moment with them and create a bond.

Remember, this will be a constant work in progress – WIP as you would call it in business jargon. As long as you are on the right path, WIP is fine. Humor for sure is the right path.

Thank you for reading. Let’s share a few smiles.

By Nitesh Verma

Founder - Business Management Blog

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