The benefits of humor in the workplace have been known for decades. In fact, human resource professionals often cite a sense of humor as one of the most important characteristics that an employee can possess (Lange & Houron, 2009), and many organizations have begun to create cultures that infuse humor into the workplace. Positive humor has been found to improve attitudes, performance, and well-being of employees (Duncan, 1982; Martin et al., 2003; Romero & Cruthirds, 2006; Sherman, 1988). However, negatively perceived humor in the workplace can result in deleterious effects on those same areas (Tumkaya, 2007). In this study, I investigate the effects of emotional intelligence (EI) on sense of humor and on the responses to two types of ambiguous humor in the workplace: teasing and self-denigration. Teasing is a form of humor where the speaker makes an aggressive or insulting comment about an other while relying on cues to indicate to the listener that the comment is not meant to be taken seriously, and the burden falls to the listener to interpret the comment. In self-denigrating humor, the speaker makes an aggressive or insulting comment about themselves while relying on cues to indicate to the listener that the comment is not meant to be taken seriously, and the burden of interpretation once again falls on the listener. Short videos depicting instances of teasing and self-denigrating humor in the workplace were viewed and interpreted by 669 participants who were measured on EI and sense of humor. Results indicate that an individual’s EI influences their sense of humor and responses to ambiguous humor. This provides further support to the body of extant literature demonstrating the value of EI in the workplace.
Academy of Business Research Conference
Boca Raton, Florida
College of Business and Management
Wolcott, A.M. (2018, November). The role of emotional intelligence in workplace humor. Presented at the Academy of Business Research Conference, Boca Raton, FL.