G.I. Jobs Virtual Job Fair   |   Apr 25

Virtual Job Fair   |   Apr 25

Using Humor in the Civilian Workplace

By now you’ve probably noticed the canyon-wide range between veteran and non-veteran humor. As a transitioning vet, using humor at the workplace may pose a challenge; you’re accustomed to speaking in a language internal to your respective military branch, but much of what you once knew as a civilian has significantly evolved.

Here are a few tips on using humor in the civilian workplace.

Humorous conversation-starter subjects like current events, films, television shows and who’s who in the zoo of pop culture are continually changing. Many of these changes may seem trivial to the transitioning veteran, but in time can be appreciated as lighthearted ways of ousting stress at the workplace

Veteran-to-veteran humor has a life all its own, boosts camaraderie and need not be cut from your persona. But often, military humor must be copy and pasted into the appropriate setting or environment. Not every individual has grown thick skin — like so many veterans — and many non-veteran civilians find it difficult to understand the forthright, jargon-prone conversations most likely trailed by “you’d have to have been there.”

But just because others may not be able to digest military humor doesn’t mean you should snub humor other than that which you’re used to. After all, you were a non-veteran civilian once, too. Why not develop the savviness to turn one form of humor off and another on.

But how?

Listening is your golden ticket when adapting to what many people are finding funny these days. If you are an active listener (not the in-one-ear-out-the-other sort) you’re sure to be joining in on steam-blowing conversations soon, and more naturally than you may have expected.

A job interview scenario is a good place to begin understanding this process of listening.

During the majority of interviews the clock is ticking, like it or not, and if you can produce a lighthearted comment to bring the interviewer down to earth — who probably has several other taxing tasks to accomplish that day — it can leave a positive impression, especially if there are many applicants. But you must actively listen to the interviewer for queues, such as tone and language, and trust your social instinct.


After sneaking in a lighthearted comment or a caveat to the interviewer’s stab at levity, it’s then best to lay low and allow the interviewer to conduct their process. It’s extremely easy to get carried away with humor, and even if the interviewer is laughing laughter you think to be genuine, they may just be hiding their irritation. Often interviewers just want to hit the wickets of their pre-planned interview and move on, even if you’re a hit. Consider your subtle, neutral lightheartedness as mission accomplished. And smile, you curmudgeon! For some popular interview Q and A translated into common speak, be sure to check out these 8 common interview questions.

As for continuing using humor effectively at the workplace, it’s pretty much the same ballgame, really. Emphasis should be placed on moderation; always consider the environment and know who’s around, because if you’re anything like me, you talk a little louder post-military.

Never forget where you came from