A suburban Chicago area school superintendent finds himself in hot water after a huge Humor In the Workplace fiasco that never should have happened. Bremen High School District Superintendent Rich Mitchell interviewed new teachers, taped it, and without their knowledge put the teachers’ real answers and edited in fake questions. All of this with him holding a martini glass. The result is that the interviewees talk about love of killing, alcohol and drug use… you get the idea.

It was supposed to be funny.

It wasn’t; and now it looks like he’ll lose his job.
But his bonehead mistakes are even worse. Get this for irony: He first aired the video for a back-to-school staff seminar (I do a ton of these!) where there was a discussion about how to inject humor and laughter into the workplace. Clearly, Superintendent Rich Mitchell should have attended a few more seminars before he tried to lead one. :)

He offended pretty much everybody, and now a few days from a job hunt.
What’s my point? Humor in the workplace is a good thing. A great thing. But what this goofball missed was that what he did wasn’t humor; it was offensive.

The concept of a fake edit has been used successfully by Carson, Letterman, Leno and a ton of others, but they have done it right. But this Chicago educator broke nearly every rule in the book; even the obvious ones.
What could he have done better? How could he have still used humor and kept his job? Glad you asked!

Brad’s Tips for Making Sure YOUR Workplace Humor is Appropriate (and actually funny):

•Don’t come near “the line.” What I mean is that in the workplace we need to make sure that we haven’t “crossed the line.” The best way, in my fairly extensive experience, to avoid crossing the line is to avoid coming anywhere near the line. Want to avoid crossing the line? Run the other way. There are a million topics that can make people laugh without coming anywhere near sex, drugs, racism, etc. Just don’t bother; it isn’t worth it. And it isn’t necessary. And, as this guy learned, it isn’t funny.
•Avoid sensitive topics. Leaving behind jokes about substance abuse, violence, etc would have been just a teensy bit smarter, don’t you think?

•Use self deprecating humor. If he would have gone after himself (as opposed to his new employees) he would have been on safer ground. And it would have been easier to get the laughs.
•Don’t pick on people; laugh at situations. If he would have made a video about situations (with students, with teachers, with text books, with lunch duty….) that his staff have in common would have been way more funny, and way safer.

•Run it by a humor buddy. If I were to create a video for an event like this, I’d run it by a few of my corporate comedian pals and humorist buddies to make sure that I wasn’t crossing the line. He clearly should have asked a few pals if they thought the video was funny BEFORE he put it up.

Need some workplace humor and want to keep your job? Book one of my humor seminars or keynotes. (I wish this Bremen High School Superintendent would have hired a professional speaker. And I know now that he wishes he would have too.)

Brad Montgomery
Humor in the Workplace Speaker and Consultant

3 replies
  1. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I was hoping to get a bit more information from you. I work for an employers council in Colorado and we are interested in bring a Laughter Yoga Workshop to us. I would however need to know a bit more about how much you charge, and what you have offered in the past, also if we could get a demo DVD or any materials that you use for your presentation would be most helpful.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

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