Table of Contents

Research Companion to the Dysfunctional Workplace

Research Companion to the Dysfunctional Workplace

Management Challenges and Symptoms

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Janice Langan-Fox, Cary L. Cooper and Richard J. Klimoski

A work exposing and exploring the phenomena of the dysfunctional workplace is long overdue. This fascinating book does just that, uncovering the subversiveness, counter-productive behaviour and unspoken ‘issues’ that managers struggle with on a daily basis.

Chapter 13: Humor in Organizations: No Laughing Matter

Robert E. Wood, Nadin Beckmann and Fiona Pavlakis

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


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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