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We have a new guy at our office who several times a day makes a funny remark or joke. Unfortunately his jokes are about as funny as small talk is interesting and I am not sure how I should react.

I surely don't want to encourage him to go on with his jokes so I wouldn't want to pretend being amused.

However, ignoring him or even telling him to stop would be very rude.

From the reactions of my other co-workers I can tell that they feel much the same way but with everyone ignoring his jokes he only tries harder.

I am of course aware that his joking is mostly due to being the new guy. It is really obvious (to me) that he is trying hard to be well-liked. But that doesn't go very well.

The jokes make me feel uneasy around him, which creates a distracting environment that interferes with work and creates tension between him and others.

I need a respectful but firm way to speak to him and ask him to change his behavior without alienating him.

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    Take him aside and tell him exactly what you wrote in your last paragraph: "It is really obvious (to me) that you are trying hard to be well-liked. But that doesn't go very well." – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Jul 17 '14 at 14:28
  • Why do you need a firm way? – tymtam Jul 27 '17 at 5:20
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    'his jokes are about as funny as small talk is interesting' - I found your joke unfunny. It's OK, you can keep joking, we'll be OK. – tymtam Jul 27 '17 at 5:22
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Is there anything worse than being taken aside for A TALK by someone who has been saving up their grimaces and objections for days or weeks? With a speech about how, without exception, all your jokes fall flat and ruin the atmosphere in the group room? I never think this is the right way to go.

Instead, I encourage you to put some time into some on-the-spot rejoinders that are polite and unequivocal. This is reasonably difficult, so work on it. Some examples from the top of my head that you will need to improve on:

  • what? sorry [name], but that's not funny.
  • [on repeating or escalating a joke that was ignored.] I heard you, I just didn't laugh.
  • no offense, but I'm trying to concentrate on something here.
  • can you save that sort of thing for another time? It's just distracting me.

I bet this feels kind of mean. So at the same time, try to really ramp up the positive feedback you give him on other things. When you ask him to do something for you (test a fix, for example) say please. After he's done it, say thanks. If he gives you a phone message or tells you about a meeting, look as pleased and happy as you can while thanking him. If he tries to make small talk like asking about your weekend, join in and participate for a few sentences to help him feel accepted and to have a connection to you. And hold your ground on the "jokes".

He may find a level of joking that you can live with. He may stop trying to tell jokes. He may get better at jokes. He may tell you that your jokes don't work either. You may end up having a long private conversation about humor in the workplace and "lightening up" vs being able to focus on hard things. But don't start with that. Start with shooting down the distracting thing instead of ignoring it or pretending you like it.

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I think you identified the crux of the matter in your statement: "... his joking is mostly due to being the new guy. It is really obvious (to me) that he is trying hard to be well-liked..."

So, how about you take him to lunch -- if that's not an odd thing to do in your workplace -- and at lunch ask him how things are going on the job, etc, and after you've listened to him, ask if you could offer a tip for him. Odds are he'll accept, and you can tell him that it seems to you that he is trying a little too hard to fit in, and it's coming across as strained. Give him a tip for fitting in -- think about what might be most appreciated/good in the eyes of his coworkers -- and basically be helpful to him.

I think if you identify the issue and help him to find a better approach, you won't have to say, "Oh, and you're not funny," which really isn't the main issue.

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I need a respectful but firm way to speak to him and ask him to change his behavior without alienating him.

Find a quiet time to talk with him individually.

Explain how his jokes make you feel. Ask him to please stop, at least around you.

Conversation should almost always be the first step in resolving issues like this.

  • Leaving a note would be a good idea. Just state that the jokes aren't funny and he is accepted as a part of the team without the jokes. – Little Child Feb 28 '15 at 3:46

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