You’re Paid What You’re Worth.” One of the biggest myths is that what we’re paid reflects our performance, argues Mr. Rosenfeld, a professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.

In theory, workers should be paid based on how much money a business generates thanks to their work, and for some rainmakers that may be clear. But that’s often not the case. Mr. Rosenfeld blames several structural factors for undermining the tie between the value workers contribute to their employer’s revenue and their compensation, including noncompete agreements, opacity around salaries and company performance and market concentration.

Beyond that, Mr. Rosenfeld makes the provocative contention that measuring most individual workers’ performance is fruitless. “For many jobs today, the whole effort to measure marginal productivity is misguided — not because the right tools haven’t been developed, but because there is no way to disentangle the productivity of one worker from that of others in the organization,” he writes.

He argues that even when it’s possible to tie individual performance to revenue, as with salespeople and lawyers, performance-based pay has deep flaws, such as generating cutthroat competition between colleagues.

If performance-based compensation is so problematic, what’s the alternative? One possibility is to link pay to the performance of the whole company. Profit-sharing programs, where companies give a percentage of earnings to employees, were common in the United States before the 1980s, but have mostly disappeared since.

Mr. Rosenfeld also suggests an approach unlikely to have fans among younger workers: pay based on seniority. It strips managers of their ability to play favorites, diminishes the impact of bias and rewards experience. “Seniority-based pay ensures we’re paid for our improvement,” Mr. Rosenfeld argues.

has historically supported raising the minimum wage to $15. And even that level falls short of providing workers with income sufficient to cover basic expenses in many parts of the country.

As Walmart was reminded very clearly, investors aren’t necessarily on the same page as the general public when it comes to better wages. That’s shortsighted. Researchers including Zeynep Ton, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, have shown that companies can be just as profitable when they pay higher wages, thanks to benefits such as better quality goods and services and lower staff turnover. Also, when workers struggle to make ends meet, it holds back the economy because they consume less.

On top of that, fair pay is a critical foundation for a fair society. Now is a good time for resetting assumptions about why we’re paid what we’re paid, and how compensation is determined. New approaches exist for those who are open to them.

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Why Bringing Humor to Work has Serious Benefits

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Humor: Serious Business,” which shows aspiring executives and entrepreneurs how to leverage laughter for better relationships and business results. They’ve also distilled their findings into a new book, “Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is A Secret Weapon in Business and Life.”

But can people really be taught to be funny at work? Should people be taught to be funny at work?

If you explain a joke, its force disperses. The whole point of “The Office,” after all, is that it’s agony to work with a self-appointed comedian. And the framing of humor as a tool of self-advancement is somewhat unsettling, evoking the image of a sociopath calmly studying the human psyche’s soft spots to exploit them for professional gain.

Humor at work is much less about wisecracks than about levity: the shared moments of lightness that propel relationships forward and balance the seriousness of labor.

more motivating and admired. Their employees are more engaged. Their teams are more likely to solve a creativity challenge. There’s all this evidence around the R.O.I. of humor.

And then the failure myth: People think that failing at humor is going to have these huge repercussions. We teach our students that it’s so much less about telling jokes. It’s about cultivating joy.

rule of three” or contrast or exaggeration to get the outcome they want — which is, in this case, laughs. It’s just like how athletes know the exact form that they should use.

That’s a good analogy. You can have a healthy, happy life as someone who exercises regularly but never crosses over into athletic competition. It sounds like it’s also fine to be a person who appreciates humor but prefers not to be the one cracking jokes.

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:

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