Women aren’t as witty as men in the boardroom

It’s that awkward moment we all know so well…when a joke cracked at work falls flat.

The tumbleweed rolls and the boss is far from impressed.

But according to research that happens to some of us more than others…namely women.

The new study revealed the brand of humour used by leading businesswomen often leads to awkward silences.

And, while men benefit from the use of well-judged banter, women could be undermining their careers, it suggests.

The claim is made by linguistics expert Dr Judith Baxter, who undertook an 18-month study into the speech patterns of men and women at meetings in seven big companies.

Her analysis of the 600,000 words used during 14 meetings, seven led by a woman and seven by a man, found sharp differences between the use of humour by men and women in the boardroom – and how the jokes are received.

Dr Baxter discovered that the majority of male humour (80 per cent) in business meetings takes the form of flippant, off-the-cuff witticisms or banter.

According to the research, jokes made by women often fall flat, as has been the case with both sexes in the boardroom.

About 90 per cent of it receives an instant, positive response, usually as laughter.

However, Dr Baxter found most female humour during the course of a meeting is self-deprecatory (70 per cent) and more often than not (at least 80 per cent) is received in silence.

Perhaps because of the poor reception accorded to women who used humour, men were also three times more likely to use jokes to lighten the mood in meetings they were leading.

Dr Baxter said: ‘My research has shown that male managers use humour to demonstrate and display their leadership of a team.

‘Their male subordinates will also use ‘display’ humour to impress a male boss, because it shows they are on the same wavelength. It is part of leadership ‘tribe’ behaviour which women find hard to join.’

by Jeff Millins

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