Moving up the corporate ladder sometimes calls for a change in the way one acts at work.
QMy husband is friendly and well liked by most who meet him. But I worry that he jokes around too much at work, forwarding funny e-mails, telling jokes, teasing co-workers and instigating minor practical jokes. I doubt he's rude or offensive, but he's still a bit of a clown. He is sensitive to criticism, so I'm not sure how to address this. He works in management and is being considered for a promotion to another, much larger, division. He has never managed such a large staff. In my experience, people who display a more serious attitude are taken more seriously and treated a bit more respectfully. I have a feeling he's going to have to learn the hard way to tone down his demeanor. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could explain this in a way that would make sense to him?
ASteven M. Darien, chairman and chief executive of the Cabot Advisory Group, a Bedminster, N.J., firm that advises corporations on workplace issues, said, "I can tell you from personal experience that this type of behavior can end up very tragically."
Darien said "this woman's instincts are good." He said that in today's workplace "you have to be very careful" about the jokes you tell and the behavior you exhibit. "You never know. Someone you least expect can file a suit" alleging that you have created a hostile work environment.
"As you go higher in any organization, you need to be a little more serious," Darien said. "While you've got to have a sense of humor, if you really want to be taken more seriously, you've got to be more and more careful about what you say and do. You don't want to stifle a good personality, but if his jokes and demeanor are frivolous, he'll be viewed as frivolous."
He said if the wife does not think she can get this thought through to her husband, she might enlist one of her husband's colleagues to make the point.
-- Kenneth Bredemeier
E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.