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Does leader humor style matter and to whom?

Pedro Neves (Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisboa, Portugal)
Gökhan Karagonlar (School of Management, Dokuz Eylul Universitesi Isletme Fakultesi, Izmir, Turkey)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 28 February 2020

Issue publication date: 6 March 2020




The interest on leader humor styles is recent. By applying a trustworthiness framework, the authors examine (1) how leader humor styles contribute to performance and deviance via trust in the supervisor and (2) who benefits/suffers the most from different leader humor styles.


The authors tested their hypotheses in a sample of 428 employee–supervisor dyads from 19 organizations operating in the services sector.


Affiliative and self-enhancing leader humor styles are particularly beneficial for employees with low core-self-evaluations, helping them develop trust in the supervisor and consequently improving their performance. An aggressive leader humor style, via decreased trust in the supervisor, reduces performance, regardless of employees' core self-evaluations. Self-enhancing and self-defeating leader humor styles also present significant relationships with organizational deviance.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations include the cross-sectional design and the limited number of mechanisms examined.

Practical implications

Organizations need to train leaders in the use of humor and develop a culture where beneficial humor styles are endorsed, while detrimental humor styles are not tolerated.


These findings contribute to the literatures on trust and humor, by showing that the use of humor is not as trivial as one could initially think, particularly for those with low core self-evaluations, and by expanding our knowledge of the mechanisms by which different leader humor styles may influence performance and deviance.



This work was funded by National Funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia under the project Ref. UID/ECO/00124/2013 and by POR Lisboa under the project LISBOA-01-0145-FEDER-007722.


Neves, P. and Karagonlar, G. (2020), "Does leader humor style matter and to whom?", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 115-128.



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