Both positive and negative humor use by leaders is positively related to their subordinates' job satisfaction when the relationship between the leader and subordinates is good, suggested a new research. However, when the leader-subordinate relationship is not good, both negative and positive types of humor are associated with lower job satisfaction.
One of the researchers Christopher Robert, associate professor at University of Missouri in the US, said, "Generally, people think that positive humor, which is inclusive, affiliative and tasteful, is good in leadership, and negative humor, which is aggressive and offensive, is bad. In our study, we found the effects of humor depend on the relationship between leaders and subordinates."
To test their theory, the research team developed two sets of matched questionnaires, one for leaders and one for their subordinates. They analyzed responses from about 70 leaders and their 241 subordinates in 54 organizations.
Robert said, "The findings suggest that if leaders wish to integrate humor into their interactions with subordinates, they should first assess whether or not their subordinates are likely to interpret their humourous overtures positively. These results also have implications for leaders' strategic use of humor. Instead of using humor to build relationships, leaders should work to build strong relationships through other means such as through clear communication, fair treatment, and providing clear and useful feedback. Humor then can be used to maintain those strong relationships."
The study was published in Group & Organization Management.