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Humor in Workgroups and Teams



Humor is an inherently social phenomenon. In the workplace, humor manifests most prominently in teams of employees that work together (e.g. Lefcourt, 2001). Humor in workgroups and teams can be a powerful positive resource and has been linked to a number of positive outcomes. In organizations, humor has the potential to enhance group cohesiveness (Duncan, 1982), improve employee morale (Gruner, 1997), stimulate individual and group creativity (Murdock & Ganim, 1993), create a more positive organizational culture (Clouse & Spurgeon, 1995), and to promote motivation (Crawford, 1994) and productivity (Clouse & Spurgeon, 1995). Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to review how humor in teams might play a key role in driving these workplace outcomes. By discussing what is known about humor in teams, the chapter concludes with ideas for future inquiry in the area of humor in teams, particularly in terms of interaction processes and workplace fun.
Humor in Workgroups and Teams
John Crowe, Joseph A. Allen, & Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” -E. E. Cummings
Humor is an inherently social phenomenon. In the workplace, humor manifests most
prominently in teams of employees that work together (e.g., Lefcourt, 2001; Shiota, Campos,
Keltner, & Hertenstein, 2004; Ziv & Gadish, 1989). Humor in workgroups and teams can be a
powerful positive resource and has been linked to a number of positive outcomes. In
organizations, humor has the potential to enhance group cohesiveness (Duncan, 1982), improve
employee morale (Gruner, 1997), stimulate individual and group creativity (Csikszentmihalyi,
1996; Murdock & Ganim, 1993), create a more positive organizational culture (Clouse &
Spurgeon, 1995), and to promote motivation (Crawford, 1994; Dienstbier, 1995; Lippitt, 1982)
and productivity (Clouse & Spurgeon, 1995; Duncan & Feisal, 1989). Thus, the purpose of this
chapter is to review how humor in teams might play a key role in driving these workplace
outcomes. By discussing what is known about humor in teams, the chapter concludes with ideas
for future inquiry in the area of humor in teams, particularly in terms of interaction processes and
workplace fun.
Humor in Team Meetings
Humor is a positive affective experience that is typically shared in a social context with others
(e.g., Johnson, 2007). As such, we need to focus on specific social settings for understanding the
role and effects of humor in the workplace. In the organizational context, one of the most
universal events for examining social interactions among employees and within teams is the
workplace meeting. The use of meetings has been increasing in recent years, especially among
upper-level managers (Allen & Rogelberg, 2013). In fact, approximately 25 million meetings
take place every day in the United States alone (Allen, Lehmann-Willenbrock, & Rogelberg,
2015). Meetings are affective events and an important context for studying socially shared
affective experiences (e.g., Lei & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2015; Rogelberg, Allen, Shanock,
Scott, & Shuffler, 2010). In a study conducted on firefighters, a thematic analysis demonstrated
that humor was one of eight emergent themes that individuals identified as a good or wanted
behavior in a meeting (Crowe, Allen, Scott, & Harms, 2013). Thus, as the interaction in a
meeting plays out, the interchange of ideas as well as a variety of shared affective experiences
such as conflict, trust, and, of importance to this chapter, humor, may emerge.
Building upon the assumption that humor occurs in meetings as a shared social activity, humor
has the ability to strengthen interpersonal dynamics and organizational relationships (Cooper,
2008). According to Holmes, humor contributes to a workplace culture and humor is identifiable
in many workplaces. In some research, this function is linked to Brown and Levinson’s (1987)
concept of humor as a positive face strategy (Rogerson-Revell, 2007). During workplace
meetings, one can observe the emergence of humor in process. This includes the elements
facilitating humor events, the humor act itself, and subsequent laughter or other reactions (or lack
thereof). But first, it is important to understand what makes something funny. We turn our
attention now to theories of humor as they are manifest in teams with an eye toward how humor
emerges in team meetings and team interaction.
Humor Theories in Teams
The humor literature contains three primary theories of humor: incongruity theory, relief theory,
and superiority theory. According to all of these theories, what is humorous is determined by the
interactions among individuals and the behavior elicited by the humorous action. That is, humor
occurs through interaction and in many cases, these interactions occur in groups and teams.
Thus, we review these theories briefly so as to provide the context for understanding humor in
First, incongruity theory is based on the premise that surprises and novel circumstances are
essential for something to be perceived as funny (Meyer, 2000). Incongruity humor functions by
establishing an incompatibility between two different sets of expectations, and the sudden
resolution of that incompatibility by the recipient (Suls, 1972). Humor, then, can be seen as
problem solving which results in pleasure (e.g., laughter) when resolved. This form of humor is
found amusing if it is irrational, paradoxical, illogical, incoherent, fallacious, or inappropriate.
For example, consider following joke by comedienne Mackenzie Harms; “What did the 0 say to
the 8? Nice belt!” The incongruity is established in the joke’s set-up by initiating incompatible
schemata in the recipient – in that numbers are used for calculations, and numbers do not talk.
The punchline draws on a third schema (i.e., the visual representation of the numbers) to allow
the recipient to resolve what previously felt incongruous. The sudden experience of resolution
causes pleasure.
Second, relief theory postulates that humor triggers laughter which, in turn, releases tension
(Shurcliff, 1968). Laughter is a complex body movement that has been found to ease muscle
tension, break spasm-pain cycles, clear ventilation and mucus plugs, and increase oxygen and
nutrients into tissues, which helps fight infection (Fry, 1992). Laughter has also been linked to
elevated pain thresholds (Dunbar, Baron, Frangou, Pearce, van leeuwen, Stow, Partridge,
Macdonald, Barra, & van Vugt, 2011). The work of Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams relates to
these findings. Dr. Adams is both a medical doctor and a clown who believes that laughter, joy,
and creativity are an integral part of the healing process. Subsequently, he opened the
Gesundheit! Institute which combines traditional medicine with performing arts, crafts, nature,
agriculture, and recreation in groups.
Third, superiority theory originally suggested that a person laughs about misfortunes of others
(Schadenfreude), because these misfortunes assert the person's superiority in light of the
shortcomings of others. However, more nuanced understandings of the theory suggest that
humor is used to gain control (LaFave, Haddad, & Maeson, 1976) and feel superior (Ziv &
Labelle, 1984). The mechanism of control can be seen in a joke that goes, “I’m so dumb, the
closest I ever got to a 4.0 was my blood alcohol content.” This allows others to laugh at the joke
teller for not being superior, while simultaneously gaining status by making fun of him- or
herself. What is clear in the above examples of the various humor theories is there is a unifying
chord to humor: it makes us feel better. However, what people find humorous is as varied as
people themselves. In fact, Thomae and Pina (2015) postulate that although humor is common,
perceptions of humor are extremely idiosyncratic.
Given these theoretical frameworks for understanding humor, it is important to recognize that
humor has the power to make even the most mundane team tasks pleasurable (Holmes, 2006).
But because not all people interpret statements considered to be humorous in the same way, we
must pay attention to differences in humor types and styles. According to Martin, Puhlik-Doris,
Larsen, Gray, and Weir (2003), there are four basic types of humor that arise including affiliative
(focused on the enhancement of relationships), aggressive (at the expense of others), self-
defeating (at the expense of one’s self), and self-enhancing (bolstering the view of one’s self)
variants. The use of these different humor styles is thought to have implications for
psychological wellbeing and health (Martin et al., 2003). Relatedly, Wanzer, Sparks, and
Frymier (2009) found that those who engage in positive humor often exhibit higher self-esteem
and lower levels of depression. As such, humor plays a vital role in increasing positive team
outcomes. The question, then, is how to facilitate a humorous group interaction. As noted earlier,
team meetings are the ideal location for humor to infuse an organization’s culture. Thus, we now
turn to the positive effects of team humor and then focus on both leader humor behavior and
humor through team interaction.
Positive Effects of Team Humor
Oscar Wilde wrote, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill
you.” What Wilde is elucidating here is the utility of humor in opening up interpersonal
relations. In bringing laughter, the momentary behavioral expression of a shared affection opens
a positive socioemotional connection (Ziv, 2010). The research on the effects of humor in the
workplace has revealed that humor affects variables ranging from socialization, bonding, stress,
burnout, and employee morale to productivity, creativity, and performance (e.g., Mesmer-
Magnus, Glew, & Viswesvaran, 2012; Romero & Cruthirds, 2006). Humor also significantly
affects team relationships (Cooper 2008) by allowing individuals to mitigate withdrawal and
negative socioemotional behaviors such as burnout (Talbot & Lumden, 2000) by strengthening
group cohesion (Walter & Bruch, 2008). Studies have shown humor may reduce burnout by
helping employees deal with difficult situations, release tension, regain perspective on their jobs,
and facilitate an optimistic reinterpretation of events (Abel, 2002; Talbot & Lumden, 2000).
In addition to its effects on employees’ personal outcomes, humor has been shown to be
positively associated with work-related outcomes. Numerous studies have found the positive
effects of humor, including improving the quality of team functioning and performance under
stress (Bizi, Keinan, & Beit-Hallahmi, 1988), an increase in mental flexibility (Derks, Gardner,
& Agarwal, 1998; Morreall, 1991), and an increase in openness to constructive feedback which
motivates teams to stretch beyond their assumed limits (Berg, 1990).
Previous research has suggested that group level humor strengthens organizational outcomes.
For instance, group level humor can be used to communicate information or to make a
potentially controversial point in a positive way (Ullian, 1976), facilitate higher levels of trust
(Hampes, 1999), reduce social distance between group members (Graham, 1995), and assist in
creating the group’s identity (Weick & Westley, 1996). Research also suggests humor promotes
team cohesion via increased group harmony, collegiality, and inter-member attractiveness
(Holmes, 2006). Emphasizing shared values (Meyer, 1997; Robert & Yan, 2007) and masking
the unpleasant content of messages (Holmes, 2000) has also been shown to facilitate teamwork.
It has been suggested that team humor can operate as a social lubricant (Morreall, 1991) which
generates positive affect among group members (Byrne & Neuman, 1992), helping to build
group consensus (Coser, 1960), and limiting friction in interactions (Fine & DeSoucey, 2005).
Individual level humor has been shown to increase positive emotions shared among coworkers,
which contributes to a positive affect spiral that promotes improved coworker relationships,
member performance, organizational citizenship behaviors, and work satisfaction (Evans &
Dion, 1991; Gully, Devine, & Whitney, 1995; Mullen & Copper, 1994). These are all factors
which are also known to relate to reduced work withdrawal and turnover (Podsakoff, LePine, &
LePine, 2007; Tett & Meyer, 1993). Humor has also been associated with reduced absenteeism,
job satisfaction (Brief & Weiss, 2002; Booth-Butterfield, Booth-Butterfield, & Wanzer, 2007;
Parsons, 1988; Robert & Yan, 2007), higher organizational commitment, and lower turnover
intentions (Brief & Weiss, 2002). Further, in a study conducted by Priest and Swain (2002),
employees were asked to recall good or bad leaders and rate their use of humor. They found that
good leaders were reported to use significantly more humor. Given this finding, we now turn our
attention to team leaders and the humor they introduce in their teams.
Humor and Team Leaders
Team leaders are positioned well to have a disproportionately powerful impact on employees’
behavior through humor efforts, partly stemming from their own sense of humor (Priest &
Swain, 2002). Leaders who are seen as effectively using humor may be more persuasive than
their less-humorous counterparts, as humor creates positive affect (Kuiper, McKenzie, &
Belanger, 1995), increases liking for the source (Morkes, Kernal, & Nass, 1999), suggests a
shared set of personal values (Meyer, 1997), and increases trust in the source (Hampes, 1999).
Humor by leaders has been shown to reduce withdrawal behaviors and increase subordinate job
satisfaction and commitment in teams (Burford, 1987; Decker, 1987). For instance, as one of the
authors observed, a bank call center was having a team meeting in which everyone congregated
around the office cubicles. One of the employees opened her desk drawer to retrieve both an
orange and a tangerine while the manager was speaking. The manager stopped what she was
saying and joked, “That’s amazing! You’re growing an orchard in your desk!” - which provoked
abrupt laughter. Later that week the manager brought in a potted orange tree. From that point on
the orange tree’s fruit acted as a unifying experience and when an employee would outperform
their metrics he or she would go get an orange.
Supervisor humor may operate by having the dual influence potential of securing power and
reducing social distance between supervisors and the teams in their charge (Romero & Cruthirds,
2006). Leader humor may also increase creativity, but may also improve performance by
facilitating group learning, helping change behavior, and reducing perceived threat associated
with organizational change (Barbour, 1998). According to Dixon (1980), leaders who
appropriately used humor inspired their teams to find creative and innovative solutions to
complex problems. An example of this can be seen in the film The Internship in which the
protagonists, Billy and Nick, playfully banter with their team and, in the end, cause the members
of their team to each play to his or her strengths, thereby winning the competition. As we see,
the use of humor by leaders is associated with increases in unit performance (Avolio, Howell, &
Sosik, 1999) and has important implications for team satisfaction with supervisors (Decker &
Rotondo, 1999; Crawford, 1994; Vinton, 1989).
In sum, humor theories help explain how humor emerges in teams, how humor produces positive
outcomes for teams, and how leaders may serve as one mechanism for facilitating those positive
outcomes. The unifying thread through this section is the observation that all this humor
behavior occurs through interaction among individuals within their teams. It is to these
interactive processes that we now turn.
Humor as a Team Interaction Process
The fact that humor is embedded within social contexts is reflected in most theoretical
perspectives on humor as well as definitions of workplace humor. For example, Romero and
Cruthirds (2006) define humor in workplace settings as "amusing communications that produce
positive emotions and cognitions in the individual, group, or organization" (p. 59), and Cooper
(2008) defines it as "any event shared by an agent (e.g. an employee) with another individual
(i.e. a target) that is intended to be amusing to the target and that the target perceives as an
intentional act" (pp. 766-767). Inherent in these definitions is the notion that humor and laughter
are intertwined, as humor is often a trigger for laughter or other responses by the target.
Moreover, these perspectives emphasize the crucial role of interactions when considering how
humor emerges and is responded to.
However, previous empirical research has tended to neglect the social context in which humor
occurs, and research on socially embedded humor in the workplace is particularly sparse (e.g.,
Mesmer-Magnus et al., 2012). This is an important omission, as humor and laughter are often
bound to social settings. For example, we are 30 times more likely to laugh in a group than in
isolation (Johnson, 2007). Workplace humor is particularly context-bound, such that jokes
among co-workers are often obscure to outsiders (Holmes & Marra, 2002). Hence, to understand
why humor and laughter occur and how they may benefit individual and team outcomes,
researchers need to consider the conversational context surrounding humor and laughter
occurrences. Moreover, when considering humor as it occurs within the team interaction
process, researchers can examine how humor might trigger positive team experiences and create
a pleasant group mood (e.g., Lehmann-Willenbrock, Meyers, Kauffeld, Neininger, & Henschel,
2011; Lei & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2015).
Interaction rituals (Collins, 2004) provide a theoretical lens for understanding how humor
embedded in dynamic conversations can facilitate collaboration. At the core of any interaction
ritual, participants focus their attention upon a common object or activity, explicitly
communicate this focus to each other, and become physiologically and emotionally synchronized
via cyclical patterns. In the case of humor and laughter, such shared patterns could build positive
momentum (Den Hartigh, Gernigon, van Yperen, Marin, & Van Geert, 2014) and hence promote
team functioning.
The notion of shared humor patterns as an interaction process in groups and teams is intuitively
appealing. Both humor and laughter should be considered, because positive, successful humor
typically requires a social reaction (i.e., laughter). Moreover, humor and laughter are often
ingrained in the context of a team’s interactions. Consider a team sharing an “insider joke” or
laughing at a funny statement during one of their meetings. If you are not part of the team, you
probably would not understand what was so funny because joking is so context-specific and
tends to refer to subtle group experiences that are difficult to discern by outsiders (e.g., Fine &
DeSoucy, 2005; Holmes & Marra, 2002).
In a recent study, we investigated the notion of shared humor patterns in a sample of 54
videotaped team meetings from two medium-sized organizations (Lehmann-Willenbrock &
Allen, 2014). We used the act4teams coding scheme (e.g., Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock,
2012) to slice the entire team meeting interaction into individual behaviors or statements by team
members that follow one another over time. To examine how humor patterns emerge, we used
lag sequential analysis, a statistical procedure that tests whether observed behavioral patterns
such as humor-laughter are meaningful rather than just occurring by chance (for a detailed
description of lag sequential analysis applied to team meeting interactions, see Lehmann-
Willenbrock, Allen, & Kauffeld, 2013).
Figure 1 shows a simplified summary of our findings. First, as expected, lag sequential analysis
revealed that humor typically occurred in humor-laughter patterns. Second, as illustrated in
Figure 1, we saw that these shared patterns triggered constructive team interactions in the events
following a pattern. Immediately after a humor-laughter pattern, teams often used structuring
statements, such as referring back to the meeting agenda (“So, let’s get back to our topic, which
was…”), summarizing the discussion (“Alright, so far we’ve talked about…”), or making a
procedural suggestion (“Ok, let’s talk about … next”). After these structuring statements, we
saw an increase in new ideas.
Insert Figure 1 About Here
The research results as illustrated by Figure 1 imply that shared humor patterns can serve an
important function for team problem-solving and creativity processes. Considering that many
team meetings have the purpose to solve problems and generate new ideas (e.g., Van Vree, 2011),
the finding that humor patterns triggered new ideas within the team interaction process is
particularly important. This finding also aligns with previous theorizing on the benefits of
positive humor for team functioning (Romero & Pescosolido, 2008) by showing how humor-
laughter patterns can trigger helpful communication dynamics, which may then aid team
performance more broadly.
Moreover, Figure 1 highlights the important role of procedural communication after a humor-
laughter pattern occurred. One reason why humor may be helpful in team interactions is because
it can break up tension and facilitate communication (e.g., Duncan, Smeltzer, & Leap, 1990;
Holmes & Marra, 2002; Meyer, 2000). The breaking up of tension that humor can do in teams is
highly consistent with relief theory as previously reviewed. As such, a humor pattern could
indicate a shift away from a difficult conversational moment, and a move toward more
productive discussion. Yet, such a shift seems to require more than just the occurrence of a
humor-laughter pattern. Procedural behaviors, such as referring to the meeting agenda or making
suggestions about what to discuss next, can leverage the positive energy from a humor pattern
and ensure that the team interaction stays on track (see also Lehmann-Willenbrock, Allen, &
Kauffeld, 2013).
As mentioned earlier, the observed humor patterns in these meetings were positively linked to
team performance, rated by the teams’ supervisors in this study. Interestingly, when we only
considered humor occurrences by themselves (rather than emergent patterns of humor and
laughter), we saw no significant impact on team performance. This result underscores the need
to consider humor as a shared, socially embedded interaction process rather than an isolated
phenomenon. Thus, consistent with the theories of humor previously reviewed, it is not enough
for humor behaviors to occur, but those behaviors must be found to be humorous by the target.
Thus, humor is quite idiosyncratic and the outcomes of humor behavior are not always easily
Where We Go From Here
The forgoing discussion of humor in the workplace, its manifestation in interactive processes,
and during workplace meetings leads us to the question of where research and inquiry and
application go from here in terms of workplace humor. Given that recent empirical findings
show that workplace humor is linked to team performance (Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen,
2014), researchers and managers in organizations may want to investigate how to promote humor
interaction, the positive and uplifting type, in the workplace. Also, because humor appears to
emerge in patterns of mutually shared humor and laughter (Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen,
2014), there needs to be more investigation of humor and laughter as embedded and shared in
dynamic social interactions (Klep, Wisse, & Van der Flier, 2011). Several avenues to promote
humor and study the process of humor in the workplace are worth considering here.
First, in addition to the conversational dynamics following humor patterns (see Figure 1), we
have yet to understand the antecedents of humor within the team interaction process. For
example, organizational culture may be an important antecedent to humor such that cultures that
are more open and psychologically safe may create an environment where playful and positive
forms of humor can be used successfully (Robert & Wilbanks, 2012). Additionally, from a
leadership perspective, one could imagine different styles of leadership may lend themselves
more to the use of humor by leaders and followers. For example, charismatic leaders may use
humor as a means to maintain the liking and devotion often associated with that leadership style.
In addition, the specific type of workplace humor needs to be considered (e.g., Romero &
Cruthirds, 2006). For example, Lehmann-Willenbrock and Allen (2014) only looked at positive
humor in relation to team performance. It may be that put-down humor or negatively based
sarcasm may have the opposite effect, though technically still a humor style. Moreover, whether
humor actually helps team functioning may be driven not only by micro-temporal contingencies
(such as necessary procedural statements in order to focus after a humor occurrence, Figure 1),
but also by the macro-temporal context in which humor occurs (e.g., early vs. later in a team's
life, when considering newly formed teams who collaborate over a period of time). For instance,
because team meetings have become a standard procedure in many contemporary organizations
(e.g., Liker, 2006), Lehmann-Willenbrock and Allen (2014) hypothesized and found that
extended humor patterns meaningfully related to team performance over time, highlighting the
potential of humor as a positive team resource.
One potential antecedent to workplace humor that needs investigation is workplace fun (Karl,
Peluchette, Hall, & Harland, 2005). Specifically, Karl and colleagues investigate how fun at
work promotes positive attitudes and behaviors in the workplace (see Karl, Peluchette, Hall, &
Harland, 2006). Workplace fun appears to promote positive perceptions of service quality, and
such experiences may very well promote humor patterns in interaction, both between employees
in an organization and between employees and customers, clients, and other stakeholders (Karl,
Peluchette, Harland, & Rodie, 2010). In the few, but growing number of studies on workplace
fun, humor has not received attention in terms of its role in creating an environment where
workplace fun can or would occur. Although workplace fun could cause humor behavior, it may
also be that humor behavior causes workplace fun. Perhaps humor is a subset of “fun” in the
workplace along with things like novelty of events (i.e. nontypical workplace activities) and
breaks in routine (i.e. work activities that disrupt normal workflow). Because precious little is
known about how fun impacts humor in the workplace, a processual study of groups interacting
may prove an important starting point. For example, if a workplace introduces fun activities into
the work environment, recording such events and analyzing the group or team interaction would
give insights into the effects of such events on humor behavior. Then a comparison could be
made between workplace fun events and, for example, routine meetings to see if humor occurs
with greater or lesser frequency during workplace fun events.
Second, workplace humor can be intertwined with gender issues. For example, Martin (2004)
conducted qualitative interviews and found that female middle managers used humor in their
meetings and in casual discourse in order to solve the paradox between being a woman and being
a manager. Rather than rational facts statements, humor is ambiguous or incongruous by
definition (Lynch, 2002), which may present a particularly useful tool for women in managerial
positions. Innovative quantitative methodologies to examine such questions might integrate
multilevel explanatory variables (e.g., individual gender; humor styles; team size) and time-
series modeling (e.g., turn-taking behavior; problem-solving behavior within the interaction
process; for a recent application of such methodology, see Lehmann-Willenbrock, Chiu, Lei, &
Kauffeld, in press).
Third, the ways in which humor and laughter are shared during team conversations may hinge
upon status differences (Robinson & Smith-Lovin, 2001). Laughter reactions can be "upward,”
such that team members laugh at their leaders' jokes but not necessarily vice versa. In that case,
hierarchy might undermine the facilitative function of humor and laughter for group functioning.
Hierarchy may also play a role in the intensity of laughter reactions to humor. Moreover,
"contagious" humor and laughter may be shaped by team leaders, similar to findings on
interpersonal positive affect sharing between team leaders and followers (Van Kleef, Homan,
Beersma, Van Knippenberg, & Damen, 2009). It is also possible that laughter in response to
leader humor might not be as diagnostic as laughter in response to co-worker humor due to the
relative social pressure to respond to leader humor. Lag sequential analysis can test these ideas
at the micro-level of behaviors following one another over time (e.g., Lehmann-Willenbrock et
al., 2013), while also accounting for hierarchical differences between team leaders and team
Humor is not an isolated event, but a shared social experience that unfolds during interactions
between individuals, often in groups and teams. Because humor is quite often a group or team
process, we tend to observe an actor engaging in behavior that they believe will elicit laughter.
Hence, we have argued that a focus on the fine-grained interaction dynamics that trigger humor
and emergent patterns that result from humor may yield the most fruitful continuation of the
investigation of humor in the workplace. With the prevalence of meetings in the workplace,
future research should focus on team meetings as a context for examining the antecedents and
consequences of humor in team interactions.
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Figure 1. Lag sequential findings from a behavior-level process analysis of 54
organizational team meetings (simplified figure, adapted from Lehmann-Willenbrock &
Allen, 2014).
... Furthermore, we propose that team humor forms a relevant aspect of the work context that will determine when leader humor is most needed. Indeed, humor is a social phenomenon that is most visible among teams (Crowe et al., 2016). In this study, team humor refers to individual members' perceptions of the extent to which humor is used to facilitate relationships and reduce interpersonal tensions among team members (cf. ...
... In this study, team humor refers to individual members' perceptions of the extent to which humor is used to facilitate relationships and reduce interpersonal tensions among team members (cf. Crowe et al., 2016). Although humor in workgroups has been shown to be a powerful resource that results in several positive outcomes (e.g., Crowe et al., 2016;Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen, 2014), there is a lack of consideration of this important construct in leader humor research (Pundt & Venz, 2017). ...
... Crowe et al., 2016). Although humor in workgroups has been shown to be a powerful resource that results in several positive outcomes (e.g., Crowe et al., 2016;Lehmann-Willenbrock & Allen, 2014), there is a lack of consideration of this important construct in leader humor research (Pundt & Venz, 2017). We draw upon the substitutes for leadership theory (Kerr & Jermier, 1978) to propose that in teams with a high level of humor, there will be a lower need for leader humor. ...
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Past research indicates that leader humor can bring many positive outcomes; however, its influence on employee voice has been largely neglected. We propose that leader humor can influence employee voice behaviors (i.e., promotive and prohibitive) via the mediating role of psychological safety. Drawing upon the substitutes for leadership theory, we further propose that team humor could moderate the influence of leader humor. Based on the latent moderated mediation structural equation modeling analysis, we found that employees whose leaders used humor more frequently perceived higher levels of psychological safety and in turn engaged in more promotive and prohibitive voice behaviors. Moreover, the indirect effects of leader humor were found to be more pronounced when teams have a low level of humor. On the other hand, leader humor has less influence on employee voice when teams have a high level of humor, which provides support for the leadership substitutes argument. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
... On the one hand, humor takes on a conducive role and positive humor has many benefits. It may alleviate tension, fatigue, and improve work relationships (Crowe et al., 2016). Humor also has a relaxing function and can buffer the negative effects of stress on health and well-being (Martin, 1996;Karl et al., 2007). ...
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The aim of this paper is to inspire team research to apply diverse and unconventional perspectives to study team dynamics and performance in healthcare settings. To illustrate that using multiple perspectives can yield valuable insights, we examine a segment of a team interaction during a heart-surgery, using five distinct interdisciplinary perspectives known from small group research: the psychodynamic, functional, conflict-power-status, temporal, and social identity perspectives. We briefly describe each theoretical perspective, discuss its application to study healthcare teams, and present possible research questions for the segment at hand using the respective perspective. We also highlight the benefits and challenges associated with employing these diverse approaches and explore how they can be integrated to analyze team processes in health care. Finally, we offer our own insights and opinions on the integration of these approaches, as well as the types of data required to conduct such analyses. We also point to further research avenues and highlight the benefits associated with employing these diverse approaches. Finally, we offer our own insights and opinions on the integration of these approaches, as well as the types of data required to conduct such analyses.
... In laughing together, a moment of intimacy is created as some of the other participants acknowledge that they recognise his understanding of the problem-not only conceptually but intimately (Crowe et al. 2017). This helps to inform the next action by the group, i.e. to agree on the allocation of coloured scoring points to the model (Davis et al. 2010) to prioritise the allocation of resources-emotional and cognitive-in a conceptual format by adding scoring points to the flipchart model for relevant pro-cesses. ...
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An integrative approach to theorising behavioural, affective and cognitive processes in model-driven group decision support (GDS) interventions is needed to gain insight into the (micro-)processes by which outcomes are accomplished. This paper proposes that the theoretical lens of situated affectivity, grounded in recent extensions of scaffolded mind models, is suitable to understand the performativity of affective micro-processes in model-driven GDS interventions. An illustrative vignette of a humorous micro-moment in a group decision workshop is presented to reveal the performativity of extended affective scaffolding processes for group decision development. The lens of situated affectivity constitutes a novel approach for the study of interventionist practice in the context of group decision making (and negotiation). An outlook with opportunities for future research is offered to facilitate an integrated approach to the study of cognitive–affective and behavioural micro-processes in model-driven GDS interventions.
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Meetings are an integral part of employees' everyday workplace experiences. In the workplace, people meet to generate ideas, talk about problems, develop solutions, and make decisions (e.g., Romano and Nunamaker, 2001; Van Vree, 2011). What happens in workplace meetings has implications for individual employee attitudes such as work freagement, as well as for team and organizational performance (Allen and Rogelberg, 2013; Kauffeld and Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012). Today, there are more than 25 million meetings per day in the United States alone (Newlund, 2012). On average, employees of today's organizations spend 6 hours per week sitting in meetings (e.g., Rogelberg, Leach, Warr, and Burnfield, 2006; Schell, 2010). The work lives of employees in managerial positions are even more driven by meetings. A study with senior managers showed that these managers were sitting in meetings for 23 hours a week on average and were expected to have even more meetings in the future (Rogelberg, Scott, and Kello, 2007). The majority of a manager's workday is often spent preparing for meetings, sitting in meetings, or processing meeting results (e.g., Van Vree, 2011). It is likely that most managers spend more of their time on meeting-related activities than on any other activity in their work lives. These figures illustrate a key point: Meetings are ubiquitous and time-intensive workplace events. Practitioners have long recognized this and have built entire consulting practices around organizational meetings. An Amazon search in July 2014 for advice books on how to run meetings yielded 475 hits on topics ranging from planning and leading freaging meetings (e.g., Harvard Business Review, 2014) to collaborating in meetings (e.g., Canfield and Smith, 2011) to when to abandon meetings altogether (e.g., Ressler and Thompson, 2008). Astonishingly, however, a scientific look at meetings as a focal topic remains largely elusive. Granted, research certainly exists that examines constructs/events relevant to meetings and meeting attendees. For example, a body of research on teams and leadership exists, and this literature is certainly highly relevant to meetings – but it does not feature the study of meetings per se. Given that meetings are essential feature of organizations, the development of a meeting science is of paramount importance. Meeting science is the study of what happens before, during, and after meetings in the workplace. It is a look at the psychological, sociological, and anthropological underpinnings and consequences of meetings at work.
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Jokes have been recognized as ways in which negative attitudes and prejudice can be communicated and enacted in hidden ways (e.g., Allport 1954; Freud 2004 [1905]). In this paper, we review the existing literature on the functions and effects of sexist humor, using Martineau's (1972) model on the social functions of humor as well as Tajfel and Turner's (2004 [1986]) Social Identity Theory (SIT) and Turner et al.'s (1987) Self Categorization Theory. Within these frameworks, we particularly focus on sex as an intergroup context and on the way sexist humor functions to a) enhance male in-group cohesion (sexist humor as a predictor) b) serves as a form of sexual harassment (sexist humor as an outcome) and c) amplifies self-reported rape proclivity and victim blame (sexist humor as a moderator). The paper concludes by highlighting gaps in the existing literature and providing directions for future research.
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Humor has been suggested as an effecive management tool. Reviewed in this paper is the existing research on humor appreciation or what is funny to whom; the influence of humor on group characteristics such as cohesiveness, communications, power, and status; and the linkage, if any, between group dynamic variables and human performance. A list of guidelines for management in matching humor with the situation is given, and some priorities are suggested for research.
This study examined 359 business school graduates' self-reported sense of humor, the use of humor at work, and perceptions of their supervisors' use of humor. Regression analyses indicated subordinates' reported use of positive (unoffensive) humor was best predicted by Multidimensional Sense of Humor Scale scores, while reported use of negative (sexual and insult) humor was best predicted by their supervisors' use of negative humor. Negative humor may stimulate responses-in-kind more than does positive humor. Alternatively, respondents may have exhibited self-serving bias, blaming others for their use of negative humor but crediting themselves for use of positive humor. The results suggest supervisors' use of humor is associated with subordinates' use of humor and with various attitudes toward the work setting.
This study extends previous work reviewing the cohesion-performance relationship by using meta-analytic techniques to assess the effects of level of analysis and task interdependence on the cohesion-performance relationship. A totel of 51 effect sizes from 46 empirical studies were obtained for the meta-analytic integration. Results suggest that level of analysis and task interdependence moderate the cohesion-performance relationship. Implications of the findings for future research on group cohesion and performance are discussed.
(from the jacket) From everyday quips to the carefully contrived comedy of literature, newspapers, and TV we experience humor in many forms, yet the impetus for our laughter is far from innocuous. T. Hobbes's "superiority theory"---that humor arises from mischances, infirmities, and indecencies, where there is no wit at all---applies to most humor. With the exception of good-natured play, the author claims that humor is rarely as innocent as it first appears. Gruner's proposed superiority theory of humor is all-encompassing. In this book, he expands the scope of Hobbes's theory to include and explore the contest aspect of "good-natured" play. As such, the author believes all instances of humor can be examined as games, in terms of winners and losers. The book will be of interest to people interested in humor and the aspects of human motivation, as well as professionals in communication and information studies, sociologists, literary critics and linguists, and psychologists
Three benefits of humor in the workplace are explored: its promotion of health, mental flexibility, and smooth social relations.
In this study, we examined the links between leadership style, the use of humor, and two measures of performance. Results indicated that leadership style was moderated by the use of humor in its relationship with individual and unit-level performance. Implications for further research on the use of humor by leaders are discussed.