To get ahead in the job market or as an entrepreneur, you have to be able to effectively showcase your skills and accomplishments.
A recent study has revealed an intriguing tactic: humorous bragging. This approach effectively balances the fine line between showcasing personal achievements and maintaining likeability, a balancing act that has long been a conundrum for candidates and entrepreneurs alike.
Jieun Pai, PhD, an assistant professor in organisational behaviour at Imperial College London, who was involved in the research, shared her motivations behind this study. She explained, “Our research embarked on a personal observation: the awkwardness in discussing one’s achievements, often navigated with humour. This sparked our interest in exploring humour as a strategic tool for balancing competence demonstration with likability, coining the term ‘humorbragging’ to describe this tactic in professional settings.”
Traditionally, self-promotion in job applications and entrepreneurial pitches has been a tricky affair. Being too modest can downplay one’s abilities, while overt bragging risks appearing arrogant.
The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, offers a fresh perspective by introducing the concept of “humourbragging”. This technique involves blending self-enhancing humour with self-promotion, striking a balance that showcases competence while simultaneously projecting warmth and likeability.
The researchers employed a multifaceted approach, conducting four separate studies to test the efficacy of humorbragging. The first study involved comparing responses to two types of resumes sent to various companies. One resume incorporated humorous bragging, while the other followed a more traditional self-promoting format. The findings were clear: the humourbragging resume garnered more interest from recruiters, demonstrating the technique’s effectiveness in attracting professional attention.
The subsequent studies further cemented these findings. Study 2 delved deeper into understanding the mechanics behind this effect, revealing that humorbragging significantly enhances perceptions of both warmth and competence in candidates. These two traits are crucial in professional settings, influencing hiring decisions and investment opportunities.
In another intriguing part of the research, the team analysed pitches from the reality TV show Shark Tank. The analysis revealed that entrepreneurs who used humorbragging were more likely to secure funding compared to those who used other forms of humour or no humour at all. This real-world application underscores the practicality and impact of humorbragging in high-stakes environments.
Pai highlighted the importance of context in this approach: “However, our research also underscores the importance of context and execution, as humor’s subjective nature means it must be tailored to fit the audience and situation accurately.”
The study posits that humorbragging works due to its ability to create a benign violation of social norms. It surprises and delights the audience, breaking the monotony of typical self-promotion. The humorous element in bragging reduces the perceived arrogance often associated with self-promotion, making the individual appear more approachable and relatable.
Moreover, the research highlights the uniqueness of humorbragging compared to other humour types. Self-diminishing humour, for instance, might increase perceived warmth but could undermine perceived competence. Humorbragging, on the other hand, enhances both dimensions, making it a more effective strategy in professional settings.
This study has significant implications for individuals seeking employment or investment. It suggests a strategic shift in how we present ourselves in professional contexts. By adopting humourbragging, individuals can enhance their appeal and effectiveness in conveying their skills and achievements.
For recruiters and investors, this study offers a new lens through which to view candidates. Those who skillfully employ humorbragging might not only possess the required skills and qualifications but also the social savvy needed for effective teamwork and leadership.
“Looking ahead, we plan to investigate how different cultures perceive humorbragging and how individuals can adapt this approach across various professional contexts,” Pai said, regarding the future direction of their research. “Our aim is to address the nuances of humor’s effectiveness, ensuring it is a positive and inclusive tool for enhancing professional interactions.”
While the study sheds light on an innovative self-promotion strategy, it also opens avenues for further research. Questions remain about the applicability of humorbragging across different cultures, industries, and professional levels. Additionally, the effectiveness of this approach in digital communication, where tone and non-verbal cues are absent, remains to be explored.