Q. This may sound like a silly grievance, but do hear me out. A good deal of the friction between me and my supervisor arises from the fact that my supervisor doesnt have a sense of humour. I myself have an enormous sense of humour and love to utilise it whenever I can. But whenever my supervisor is present, she either looks at me in pure terror or pure confusion whenever I make some sort of funny comment, and it drives me crazy. But on an even greater level, my supervisor once yelled at me for saying something in jest to a co-worker. The co-worker chuckled and didnt give it another thought, but my supervisor thought it was inappropriate.
How do I deal with a supervisor who has no sense of humour? Because its a real morale killer for me.
A. I sympathise with your desire to bring levity to the workplace. We all tend to take our jobs too seriously, especially during tough times like these. It is a mistake, however, to allow your morale to be dependent on whether your jokes get a laugh from your supervisor. You cannot very well complain to human resources that your supervisor does not think youre funny. If she is not a receptive audience, then you should either restrain yourself from making jokes when she is around, or accept the fact that your humour will not always be a hit.
You should also reflect upon whether your banter is entirely appropriate. If your supervisor does not laugh at a joke, it does not necessarily mean that she doesnt get it. If she seems terrified or confused, it may be that she feels offended and is struggling with how to respond without either encouraging you or hurting your feelings.
For purposes of harassment law and your organisations anti-harassment policy, it does not matter how you intend your humour to be perceived. It is enough that it offends someone in your workplace, potentially compromising that persons ability to thrive professionally.
Without knowing what you said to make your co-worker chuckle and your supervisor cringe, I cannot tell you whether it is the type of remark that would normally rise to the level of a policy violation. However, I can assure you that, if your supervisor thought the joke was inappropriate, other people in your workplace probably thought it was inappropriate, too.
If your supervisor is not responding to your humour, you should ask her why. Open a dialogue about how she perceives you and the jokes you make. If you approach her with an open attitude and a genuine willingness to examine your own actions, the walls between you will start to come down.