The Other Side of Leader Humor: An Investigation of Leader Humor from the Follower’s Perspective

Tiancheng (Allen) Chen

Advisor: Stephen Zaccaro, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Philseok Lee, Mandy O'Neill

Online Location,
June 26, 2023, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM


Although leader humor is a social interaction initiated by leaders, followers play active roles in the leader humor process. Drawing upon the comprehension-elaboration theory of humor and affective events theory, the current study treated leader humor as an affective event and investigated the leader humor process through the lens of followers. The present study used the event-contingent experience sampling method design and asked 198 full-time workers to report leader humor events experienced and daily outcomes for 11 consecutive workdays. The results showed that follower perceptions of leader-member exchange quality (LMX) were positively related to the extent followers perceived leader humor as a positive experience. Followers’ positive humor perceptions were associated with positive emotions, and negative perceptions were related to negative emotions. Followers’ LMX buffered the negative effect of negative perceptions on negative emotions, but followers’ need for structure exacerbated this negative effect. Followers’ daily positive emotions generated from leader humor were found to have positive distal attitudinal (e.g., satisfaction with supervision) and behavioral outcomes (e.g., organizational citizenship behaviors). However, followers’ daily negative emotions generated from leader humor were related to negative distal outcomes (e.g., counterproductive work behaviors). The current study contributed empirical evidence to the affective view of leader humor and supported the link between humor perception and emotions. It also deepened the understanding of the leader humor process by showing the followers’ traits and LMX served essential roles during the whole process.