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RISMEDIA, March 5, 2007-( your funny bone can significantly enhance your professional prospects. Ninety-one percent of executives surveyed by Robert Half International consider a sense of humor important to career advancement.

Displaying levity on the job can help you build rapport with those around you, facilitate open communication, and contribute to a positive work environment. And, perhaps most importantly, a comic touch can work to relieve tension on even the most stressful days.

But keep in mind that not all high jinks are well received. It's crucial to take into consideration your organization's and co-workers' perspectives when it comes to comic relief. Humor should be work appropriate and never mean spirited or at the expense of others.

Here are some tips to ensure you're not a March Fool:

Say no to sarcasm.
People often use humor as an indirect way of berating others. Here's an example: "I can't believe you're here on time — what's the occasion?" Sarcasm is rarely a good idea, so keep these types of comments to yourself.

Be the butt of your own joke.
Go ahead, poke fun at your foibles. Doing so can put others at ease in your presence, and you don't risk offending someone else by making him or her the target of your joke. For example, if you trip while giving a presentation, a comment like, "I hope you're as head over heels about this idea as I am" can help ease any awkwardness. Just be sure to keep your comments light; you don't want your co-workers to think your attempt at humor is a cry for help.

Laugh with others.
You can be perceived as having a great sense of humor without ever telling a joke. Just tune in to the humor styles of those around you and share in the fun.

Create a 'funny file.'
You have files for various projects or committees you're involved in, so how about developing a "funny file," as well? Create a folder filled with appropriate workplace cartoons (such as the Dilbert comic strip), amusing newspaper articles, humorous letters or e-mails from friends, or anything else that tickles your funny bone. The next time one of your co-workers feels overwhelmed or under the weather, you can surprise him or her with a snippet from your file. Just be mindful to avoid items that are offensive or otherwise in poor taste.

Convene a fun committee.
Invite co-workers to join in your quest to "up the office fun factor." Together, brainstorm ways to add excitement to the workweek — surprising co-workers with breakfast or treating the team to an afternoon at the park, for instance. Just be sure to consult your department head before executing any plans; you'll want to obtain his or her approval and determine other details, such as budget and scheduling.

Issue trivia quizzes.
What did Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes name their baby? From which state did the last "American Idol" hail? Most people enjoy keeping up with pop culture, so why not create a friendly competition around it? You also can grill people on sports, geography or food — whatever topics the team finds interesting. Even if the only prize for answering the most questions correctly is posting the name of the winner in a prominent spot, the joy of conjuring up random information and discussing the "stumpers" can increase the general playfulness of any work area.

Capture Kodak moments.
Keep a disposable camera on hand for all to use to capture those moments when you and your colleagues are at your best — or worst. Then, post the pictures on a community bulletin board. A candid snapshot from the day everyone unintentionally wore lime-green shirts, for example, is bound to brighten the mood.

A culture of fun at work can improve communication, reduce stress and increase productivity. So don't be afraid to flex your funny bone — just be sure to do so in a business-appropriate way.