February 19, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 78  

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London to ban jokes?

By Mark Weir
Gazette Staff

Workplace humour is all for shits and giggles isn’t it? According to a recent motion passed at London City Hall, that may not be the case after an incident involving a city employee.

A city hall employee was vacationing with his wife in Alberta when he received a false document from a fellow employee advising him that he had two weeks to complete a major report. The document appeared genuine, as it had been certified by the city clerk’s office, and he took the bait.

The episode apparently caused such a disturbance that the employee has since been on stress leave from his $155,000 job, citing heart palpitations as the reason for his absence.

“We’re not trying to remove workplace humour,” said Stephen Bahm, London City Hall manager of occupational health, safety and corporate training. “We needed a policy to cover all activities of discrimination that occurs in the work place.

“We want employees to ask themselves ‘is this an appropriate joke for the workplace?’” Bahm said.

“We like to have fun around here,” said University Students’ Council VP-education Dave Ford. “I once put a whoopee cushion under [USC President] Paul Yeoman’s chair which blew a blood vessel,” he said, confessing it was out of revenge for an earlier episode where Yeoman trashed his office.

Ford said all offices have different cultures that support different types of humour. “Sometimes if you disrupt that [office humour] then people can be less happy and productive,” he said.

Western psychology professor Rod Martin explained that while humour plays an important role in the workplace, it can at times go too far. “Work tends to be a place that we associate with being dull and bringing a bit of play into it [but it] can make work more enjoyable,” he said.

“Sometimes practical jokes can be fun, but it can be really hard to draw the line,” Martin explained, adding people need to look at the reason behind the humour and if it is only being used to make themselves feel better.



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