25 Sep 2017

Self-deprecation at work -- harmless fun or more harm than good?

Highlighting our professional insecurities could be more damaging in the long term than that quick laugh is worth

Ciara Kenny
Ciara Kenny The Irish Times, Ireland
Source: The Irish Times
Self-deprecation at work -- harmless fun or more harm than good? - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Have you ever joked about your competence in front of colleagues, or during a presentation? I know I have, but studies show that if I was a man, I would be far less likely to put my skills and ability down in front of others.

Self-deprecation is a “disarmingly effective tool” in the workplace, but there’s a warning: if you are a woman, keep your put-downs, as men do, to your appearance or taste in food.

The advice she received from a reader, following a column in which she joked about being “bumbling”, “useless” and “inept”, was that women should never make self-deprecating remarks about their “core expertise”. Readers could come away from her article “wondering why they should take any advice from someone who is useless”, the letter-writer advised.

In many workplaces, women still face a constant battle – often unconsciously – to attain the same respect automatically afforded to their male colleagues. Putting ourselves down in front of others – even in jest - only reinforces innate gender biases that we are striving so hard to overcome. Humour is often one of the best ways to win over your audience, but self-confidence earns respect. Over-egging or highlighting our insecurities is more damaging in the longer term than that quick laugh is worth.

Details from the story:

  • "People who breezily crack jokes at their own expense actually ooze self-confidence."
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