I enjoy jokes and laughing, and sometimes I make fun of myself with self-deprecating humour.

I've begun to think that this might have a negative impact on my personal brand - that is, how I am perceived by others. I'm beginning to think that some people avoid me after hearing me joke about myself - I do not know why, however.

Is it a good idea to make fun of yourself, and if not, what are the boundaries for such humour?

  • 2
    can you give example of joke you made? it would be better so we could see if the jokes are really embarrassing for example
    – Kepotx
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:04
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    This would really depend on the culture, atmosphere and relationship with the people you joke around with. Could you please include all 3 and some examples of your jokes as @keptox suggested?
    – Isaiah3015
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:54
  • Are you asking about this specifically in a workplace context, or just in general? If the latter, then I recommend asking at Interpersonal Skills instead.
    – David K
    Aug 2, 2018 at 15:14
  • I think an example situation would be helpful. Especially if the person who heard the joke ever worked with you before. A person who barely knows you other than your name, might not realize you were making a joke about yourself and think you are incompetent and unable to perform the task they asked of you.
    – Dan
    Aug 2, 2018 at 18:43

3 Answers 3


It's not about the joke, it's about communication. It's about reading the room, reading the other person, and knowing enough about your relationship to know a joke would be appreciated - because you have that kind of relationship.

A poorly received joke is a good way to hurt your standing in their eyes. A well-received joke will do the opposite.

We were once raising money for a colleague's going away gift. I jokingly suggested to the CEO we should buy him a PornHub gift card. Take a guess how stupid I felt for the rest of the week.

Read your audience. If in doubt, keep it shut.

  • 4
    Thats not a self deprecating joke, it was a joke at someone elses expense which can be (and in your case was) perceived as distasteful. I think he means something more like "d'oh I'm such an idiot, how did I miss that!" type jokes.
    – solarflare
    Aug 3, 2018 at 5:35
  • 1
    @solarflare You are correct, but the principle stands.
    – rath
    Aug 3, 2018 at 8:33
  • +1 for the example and the gift suggestion :) Mar 15, 2019 at 14:29

Agreed that company culture is a HUGE element -- my husband works with more blue-collar types, so everyone razzes everyone else and themselves.

In my jobs, when I worked as a computer-tech, I could rag on the machines/systems that I handled, but no one else's. (I could complain about how I needed to restart the WinNT servers, but not mock the VAX machine for still being around, or the *nix servers for being whatever.)

As a writing teacher (college, mostly women colleagues, mix of adjunct and fulltime), it (seemed to me) rude to respond to "how's the semester going" with "Great!" -- instead one tended to state how overworked one was, or behind on grading, etc. We could self-deprecate how little of our own writing we were doing, but not the quality of it.

Some of my friends would treat all self-deprecating humor as a call for help (and try to seriously assist you, especially if they have a psychology or social work background) or fishing for compliments (especially if they know you mostly in an artistic/crafty context).

It sounds like you may need to assess both the culture of the specific workplace, and the norms of your industry. Be careful you're only denigrating things we all sorta wish we had more of (money, time), but not the quality of your work or work ethic.

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    Sometimes self-deprecating humor comes off as thinly veiled cries for help to others too. It may not be the case, but delivery is not the same as intent.
    – Summer
    Mar 15, 2019 at 14:04

As you said your perception is your brand.

In professional environments where there is a level of competition I absolutely agree with you that making jokes at your own expense will weaken your brand at best and make you look like an idiot who knows he's an idiot at worst.

The exception is certain professions where there may be a certain amount of joking around as part of the culture and coping mechanism for dealing with the stress of the job (ie emergency services).

Regardless of what you saw in the Patch Adams movie, no one is going to respect an professional wearing clown boots.

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