Centre for Social Work Practice

Social Work Humour

Social Work Humour

Published October 04, 2012 by CfSWP


Introduction and thoughts

Most people like to laugh and I have always enjoyed humour. Possessing a good sense of humour has long been viewed as a key to success in relationships. Social work has a complex connection to humour. In some respects given the serious endeavour of social work it would appear at times to be the last place where one would find humour, however in looking for humour, both used by and about social workers I have begun to find otherwise. Jokes and the use of humour by social workers and their colleagues are cited as one of their most common coping mechanisms (Moran and Hughes, 2006).

Humour helps us tolerate and face adversity and in-group humour can help acknowledge and dispel negative emotions. It can be a strengthening factor in social support among people who have come through trauma and challenges. It can also be a way for people who have survived a difficult experience to support and encourage those who are still going through it. Humour and the sharing of jokes and funny stories can build resilience in social work teams.

I believe the use of humour provides a vital social function in relation to social work. Humour has been analysed and considered in relation to other professions (Barron, 1999 and Lemma, 2000) but has been a neglected field of study within social work, and particularly the use of jokes by and about social workers. There are the ?in-jokes? made about social work by social workers, and the stories social workers tell each other when they want to share their humorous experiences. I believe that in examining these phenomena I will be able to explore the role social work occupies in society, and the role humour plays in social work teams.

Steve Jordan, 2011

How Many Social Workers Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb? – and other social work jokes.

Q. How come they bury Social Workers 300 feet in the ground?
A. Deep down they are really good people.

A social worker dies and goes to heaven. when he arrives, he has to stand at the end of a long line to get in through the pearly gates.

The social worker starts thinking of all the good things he has done and how he really deserves to be at the front of the line. The more he thinks of all his wonderful accomplishments, the angrier he gets. Then he sees another social worker push into the front of the line and go in. The social worker then goes up to St. Peter and confronts him. “how come that guy got in before me?” St Peter replies “Oh, that’s God, he likes to play social worker sometimes.”

Q. What do you call a social worker who drinks too much?
A. A case manager.

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons
(ok its not about social work, but given our fixation on values??!!)

How many social workers does it take to change a tired old reworking of a joke?

Unfortunately the classic lightbulb joke has been worked to death, which suggests perhaps a desperate lack of resource material to be made into jokes in the first place.

  1. Only one…but it depends on whether or not the lightbulb wants to be changed.
  2. …Five. One to screw it in, three to form the support group, and one to help with placement.
  3. None. Social workers don’t have time to change lightbulbs.
  4. None, it’s not in our budget.
  5. The light bulb doesn’t need changing, it’s the system that needs to change.
  6. As many as my budget will allow.
  7. None, it is no longer a home care activity.
  8. You must first define the measurable outcome you are trying to achieve and get approval from the Panel.
  9. The lightbulb must first fill out all the appropriate forms to determine eligibility for service.
  10. You can’t change the light bulb until we have written authority to hire light bulb change specialists.
  11. In my care plan all lightbulbs are changed within 24 hours whether they want to change or not.
  12. Actually in my care plan I think nurses rather than social workers are changing the light bulbs, and the idea is to change more of them faster to get them out of the hospital, except that when the nurses do it, they call it facilitating.
  13. It doesn’t matter anyway, they’ll burn out.
  14. It only takes one. But he/she has to go for supervision to an electrical engineer (multidisciplinary approach) in order to learn the theory of electricity.
  15. We don’t change light bulbs – we empower them to change themselves.
  16. I have a question of clarification: Is this a generalist lightbulb or a specialist lightbulb? After all, we must fit the lightbulb to the most qualified changer…
  17. …All of them. One to hold the bulb in place, the rest to incite revolution.
  18. …I’ll do it, but I have 172 other lightbulbs to change first.
  19. …Whatever happened to self-determination?
  20. I wonder if social workers could agree theoretically on if the lightbulb should be changed at all. Councillors might suggest the lightbulb burned itself out and therefore doesn’t deserve any help.
  21. OR ….. they said the other lightbulbs will change it.
  22. Only one; but they have to start where the lightbulb is at.
  23. Only one, but an agency can do it cheaper.
  24. Three – One to do the work, one to share the experience, and one to supervise and make sure that professional work is done.
  25. No, not until after I consult my staff and the Panel.
  26. The answer is zero. Case Managers no longer feel that they should change lightbulbs.
  27. It takes about four Social Workers. Don’t want to get specific or detailed, someone may want me to present factual analysis as to the research [valid and reliable research] that was successfully performed to come up with a specific number.
  28. The burned out bulb in the client’s home must be filling some need for that client, or the client would have replaced it.
  29. The burned out light bulb at home is a test to see how long it takes the spouse to replace it.
  30. I don’t know. I’m still studying, but I’ll research it and write an analysis, a minimum of 15 pages, 10 references, professional journals only, A4 format, and have it to you before Friday!
  31. None. If it is the light at the end of the tunnel, it actually isn’t the bulb that’s burnt out, management simply turned it off without telling us.
  32. One hundred. One to change the light bulb and ninety-nine to handle the paperwork.
  33. None; after all, it must begin to work within 2 years and only can be on for five years.
  34. Only one can do it…social workers don’t have time to find dates.
  35. None. The light bulb is not burnt out; it’s just differently lit.

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