Every office has the funny one someone who breaks the tension with a perfectly timed joke or witty one-liner. If this jokester is a woman, it works to her disadvantage and could even get in the way of a promotion, according to a new study. According to the study by a group of researchers at the University of Arizona, women who are funny at work aren’t taken as seriously, and could even have their careers be slowed down by it. The study, which surveyed 300 people, found that funny women are seen as “less effective” and lacking in leadership skills.
The researchers, led by Jonathan Evans, say that funniness doesn’t of men in the same way it does women—it raises the status of male employees. They argue that this double standard is a result of ingrained gender stereotypes.
The study was based on two groups of Americans, one consisting of 96 people, and the other of 216. The first group was shown a fictional resume of Sam, a clothing store manager, as well as a video featuring this fictional Sam, according to a report by Pacific Standard magazine.
Here’s the catch in half the videos Sam was a man, and in the other half, she was a woman. Both of the videos featured Sam giving a presentation wherein they made jokes. The participants were asked the degree to which they think Sam’s humor help or hinder the performance.
While male Sam was, a huge hit, making participants chuckle, the story was different when it came to female Sam. “Female humor was judged as more disruptive than male humor,” the researchers wrote in the study published by the Journal of Applied Psychology. “In contrast, male humor was judged as more functional than female humor.”
The other group of 216 participants saw four videos— two where both the Sam’s made the presentation without jokes, and two where they made jokes. They rated how they thought the performance was, where to believe Sam ranks in the food chain of the organization, and how well they think Sam will do in the organization.
The researchers report that participants believed that male Sam’s status is higher because of his use of jokes, while female Sam’s condition was diminished. Male Sam was also considered to have higher leadership potential, with female Sam seeing the opposite result.
So, why is this humor gap so steep amongst men and women? The researchers believed that this is a result of the stereotypes associated with men and women.
Men are thought of as natural leaders, so their humor is seen as “part of their managerial master plan,” according to a report in The Cut.
On the other hand, the researchers said, “Working women are stereotyped as having a lower dedication to work, because of their association with family responsibilities.” This means that when women make quips at work, they are perceived to be not taking their jobs seriously enough.