Should bosses be funny?

Should bosses be funny?

Humour at work depends on the relationship that bosses have with employees, according to new research.

A study by the University of Missouri contradicts the conventional idea that funny bosses in the workplace improve team morale.

According to The Daily Mail, the research states that bad bosses should avoid humour such as sarcasm. It found that the success of a joke depends increasingly on the relationship that a boss has with employees.

Christopher Robert is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management at the university and is an author of the study. He said:Generally, people think that positive humour, which is inclusive, affiliative and tasteful, is good in leadership, and negative humour, which is aggressive and offensive, is bad.

“In our study, we found the effects of humour [in general] depend on the relationship between leaders and subordinates. Specifically, both positive and negative humour use by leaders is positively related to their subordinates' job satisfaction when the relationship between the leader and subordinates is good.”

In order to test this theory, Robert and his team created questionnaires for bosses and employees. Responses from 70 leaders and their 241 subordinates in 54 organisations were analysed.

The Professor explained that humour can often help maintain strong relationships but it depends on the context. “The findings suggest that if leaders wish to integrate humour into their interactions with subordinates, they should first assess whether or not their subordinates are likely to interpret their humorous overtures positively,” he added.

“Instead of using humour 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.”

What do you think, should bosses embrace humour? Comment below. 

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Comments (3)

  • Lola
    Mon, 2 Nov 2015 2:53pm GMT
    My approach is that humor, smart humor, is always positive, never mind who is coming from
  • Sameera Jenkins
    Sameera Jenkins
    Thu, 29 Oct 2015 5:37am GMT
    It depends on the culture of the organisation, the personalities of the individual and like the article says the relationship between the two parties depends whether humour is acceptable or not. Jokes, choke some people. Whereas others appreciate it if it lightens the mood. Discretion and judgement should be used with the application of humour.
  • Tracy Powley
    Tracy Powley
    Wed, 28 Oct 2015 10:58am GMT
    This is a fascinating question... and as the article suggests Managers need to think about the potential impact of the humour they use. It's not all about whether jokes are "offensive" either - lots of hunour makes people uncomfortable We often talk in our workshops on appropriate workplace behaviour about situations "passing into folk lore" An incident which was funny as a one off and we can laugh about one day, may not be funny for the person if it is constantly referred back to - or gives rise to an unwanted nick name for example.. Managers need to think about where the "lines" are for them and their teams.

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