Management Challenges and Symptoms
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Janice Langan-Fox, Cary L. Cooper and Richard J. Klimoski
Chapter 13: Humor in Organizations: No Laughing Matter
Robert E. Wood, Nadin Beckmann and Fiona Pavlakis Introduction The positive eﬀects of humor have provided justiﬁcation for the increasing use of humor interventions in customer services, leadership, problem solving, teams and coping with stress, to name a few applications. These prescriptions ignore the fact that much of the humor in organizational behavior is negative and likely to have detrimental eﬀects on individuals and groups. We outline a multidimensional conceptualization of humor and link the four diﬀerent types (aﬃliative, self-enhancing, aggressive and self-defeating humor) to individual diﬀerences in the production and reactions to humor. We then discuss negative forms of humor as a type of dysfunctional organizational behavior that is related to health risk behaviors, unproductive cultural norms, exclusion of individuals from groups, maintenance of status diﬀerentials and negative team cultures. The implications for future research and the need for research on negative humor, along with other forms of dysfunctional organizational behavior, as a counterbalance to the positive psychology research agenda in organizational behavior are discussed. Humor can be either a coping mechanism for people confronting dysfunctional organizational behavior or a type of dysfunctional behavior that generates stress and other dysfunctional outcomes. The apparently contradictory relationships between humor and dysfunctional behavior are explained by the diﬀerent types of humor and their diﬀering eﬀects in organizations. In this chapter, we deﬁne dysfunctional organizational behavior as behavior that has dysfunctional consequences for individuals and social relationships within organizations. Thus we use...
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