How Do You Deal with Comedians?

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Most of the members of your crew are pretty reasonable. They appreciate that you care about their safety and they try to take care of themselves. But every once in a while, you may have to work with someone who thinks more about how to make their co-workers laugh than how to work safely.

Common Dismissive Workplace Comments

  • Have you ever told a worker: “You should get some rest tonight,” and heard the reply: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
  • Have you ever said: “Wear a respirator so you don’t get lung cancer,” and heard the reply: “You’ve gotta die of something.”
  • Or maybe you’ve said: “Don’t reach while you’re up on that ladder,” and heard the reply: “When it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Like many of us, you wear several different hats. While your overall job is to guide and support your crew, you also have to manage the job so it gets done on time, within budget, and without any injuries. And every so often you have to deal with a wise guy whose funny comment subtly undermines job site safety.

How to Combat Undermining Statements

When it comes to the hecklers, they usually just want a laugh, and sometimes it’s fine to give it to them. But when you’re giving a safety directive to a chronic smart aleck who gives you his usual flippant response, you can always reply, “Well, you’re not going to lose a finger or die today…not on my watch.” If they start to talk back, remind them that their co-workers, their friends, and their family are counting on them to make the safe choice so they don’t end up disabled or dead.

Every situation is different. Some workers might need a private conversation to get them back on track. Others might benefit from a simple “good job” or “thank you” when you notice them working safely. The people who chronically sabotage their safety and the safety of the rest of your crew might need to find another place of work.

Tell Us About Your Experience With Workplace Comedians

We’d like to hear back from you. If you share your sure-fire ways to deal with smart alecks, we may publish them along with others in a future letter. Send your advice to: