has said: “The easiest way to be funny is not to try — instead, just look for moments to laugh.” This isn’t about being funny. This is about being generous with laughter. You’re empowering others to use it, and showing up much more as a human — not a clown.

How can leaders ensure the humor they’re encouraging is appropriate?

Aaker: Many people who have used humor to good effect in the past often equate humor with their style of humor. Like, “I just threw out a joke, it didn’t land, I think it would have two years ago, therefore the world is not funny anymore.” The calculation is not that the world is humorless, per se. It’s that we need to better understand the diversity of humor styles that other people have, and better understand — through empathy more than anything else — how to better read a room and understand the dynamics of status.

What’s interesting is that while trust in leadership is plunging — which is a problem for leaders who have used the same old jokes for a while — those organizations that somehow manage to maintain a high-trust environment are thriving.

We know that when employees rate what characteristics inspire trust, their answers are things like, “My boss speaks like a regular person.” We’re living in a time when empathy, inclusivity and authenticity are important for all leaders. Humor is actually a secret weapon that can serve them well.

So how do we keep levity alive on remote teams, when you don’t have the in-person benefits of facial expression and tone — or feel like you have much to laugh about?

Bagdonas: This was such a pressing need that at the beginning of the pandemic that we created a course called “Remotely Humorous,” which is all about having humor in remote teams.

Part of this is creating space for it. We need to have a norm that at the beginning of every call, we just talk like humans rather than jump right into the agenda. We talk about what just happened with our kids, or whose dog is running around in the background or what genuine mishap has happened in people’s lives due to this pandemic.

meetings, email and other workplace absurdities. “Never look for what’s funny,” Ms. Cooper told Stanford students in a guest lecture. “Look for what’s true, and go from there.”

Demi Adejuyigbe

The comedian and writer for shows like “The Good Place” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden” finds the funny in everything, including technology’s tendency to overcomplicate our personal and professional lives.

Amber Ruffin

The host of “The Amber Ruffin Show” has been a writer on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” since 2014. She regularly appears with co-writer Jenny Hagel in the segment “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” where the two women deliver punch lines that would sound wrong coming from a straight white guy’s mouth, in any setting.

What do you think? Is work better when there’s humor or should it be strictly business? Let us know: dealbook@nytimes.com.

View Source