Humor plays an important part in the workplace, particularly in the manager-subordinate relationship. With the right combination of humor style and leadership behavior, a supervisor can help to ease employee uncertainty, and increase team and organizational performance. Effective use of humor in the workplace can improve perceived supervisor support (PSS) and encourage employees to engage in organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). While previous studies have studied the efficacy of humor as part of leadership behavior, there has been little research done on the styles of humor that most effectively promote better PSS and OCB. Michel Tremblay and Megan Gibson recently explored this topic in their article “The Role of Humor in the Relationship Between Transactional Leadership Behavior, Perceived Supervisor Support, and Citizenship Behavior” from Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.
This study, building on uncertainty management theory, examines the role of humor use by the supervisor and team members in the relationship between leader behaviors, perceived supervisor support, and citizenship behavior. Data were collected from a sample of 284 employees working in nine small organizations. The results show that weak contingent reward leaders are viewed as more supportive when they use constructive and self-defeating humor styles extensively as opposed to aggressive humor, whereas skillful contingent reward leaders are perceived as less supportive when they use constructive and self-defeating humor extensively, and more supportive when they favor an aggressive humor style. Laissez-faire leaders are viewed as less supportive when they use aggressive humor extensively. The results provide only partial support for the buffer effect of constructive humor and the undermining influence of aggressive humor style. Finally, whereas offensive coworker humor is negatively related to organizational citizenship behavior, the results do not provide significant evidence that coworker humor moderates the influence of perceived supervisor support on organizational citizenship behavior. We conclude by discussing the theoretical contributions and practical implications of our findings.
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