Britain has a sense of humour problem according to a new poll – at least when it comes to communicating via email.
Almost a quarter of employees have suffered crossed-wires with colleagues or clients because their use of humour in an email has been misinterpreted - and two out of ten have made a faux pas because their timing was wrong,
The findings come from poll of 1,000 full and part-time employees carried out for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which is intended to highlight how communicating effectively in today's workplace needs careful consideration.
The poll also found that men are less adept at surviving in the 'communications jungle' than women, with almost one in three finding that their jokes have back-fired, compared to only one in five women. One in five men said that they suffered problems because they handled a sensitive issue in the wrong way, almost double the number of women who said the same thing.
According to Dr Monica Seeley of Mesmo Consultancy, which specialises in training businesses in email management, email has revolutionised the way we work while blurring the boundaries of language and etiquette, meaning careful consideration needs to be given to issues such as tone and turn of phrase used in emails.
"Implementing a code of email best practice and providing effective training on email use is one way to combat these problems and to realise the true benefits of email," she said.
The results come ahead of the introduction in October of new three-stage statutory consultation procedure introduced to ensure that staff and employers discuss workplace disputes before launching tribunal cases.
The new measures are aimed at small firms and others which lack formal disciplinary procedures.
Last year, Employment Tribunals dealt with 115,000 claims based on work disputes, from problems over pay and conditions, to racial and sexual harassment. Yet research shows that in over a third of cases, the individual and the manager hadn't discussed the problem at all.