Humor, occupational stress, team
The prevalence and importance of humor in the workplace has been well-documented over the past several decades, with research consistently revealing its significant impact on employee well-being and effectiveness. During this same time period, organizations worldwide have begun embracing team-based work designs as a means for achieving success. As a result, the degree to which employees are engaging in both frequent and intensive interactions with their coworkers is rapidly increasing. Despite these trends, little research has been dedicated to investigating the ways in which employees’ well-being and effectiveness are influenced by the humor of their coworkers or the ways in which employees’ own humor interacts with that of their coworkers to determine these outcomes. The current study answered the need for such research by investigating the impact of coworker-employee humor interactions on employee strain and performance using a sample of undergraduate-level students engaged in a high-fidelity work simulation. In the current study, coworker humor was experimentally manipulated by pairing each participant with a study confederate who was trained to act as either a nonhumorous coworker or a humorous coworker throughout the duration of the work simulation. Results of a pilot study provided empirical evidence supporting the validity of this manipulation; showing that participants’ paired with a humorous confederate coworker rated their coworker significantly higher on positive humor, but no different on negative humor, than participants’ paired with a non-humorous confederate coworker. Based on theory and prior findings drawn from multiple streams of science, it was expected that positive coworker humor would have a significant impact on employees’ strain and performance, but that the nature of its influence on these outcomes would be contingent upon iv employees’ own dispositional humor. Specifically, it was hypothesized that employees paired with humorous coworkers would experience a lesser degree of perceived, affective, cognitive, and physical strain than employees paired with non-humorous coworkers if their own sense of humor was high but a greater degree of perceived, affective, cognitive, and physical strain than employees paired with non-humorous coworkers if their own sense of humor was low. In addition, it was expected that employees paired with humorous coworkers would demonstrate a higher level of interpersonal and task performance than employees paired with non-humorous coworkers if their own sense of humor was high but a lower level of interpersonal and task performance than employees paired with non-humorous coworkers if their own sense of humor was low. Finally, it was hypothesized that employees’ strain would partially mediate the effects of coworker-employee humor interactions on employee performance. In support of these hypotheses, analyses revealed that several indicators of employees’ perceived, affective, cognitive, and physical strain were in fact each significantly influenced by interactions between employees’ own humor and that of their coworkers. Specifically, high sense of humor employees who worked with a humorous coworker experienced a lesser degree of perceived, affective, cognitive, and physical strain than did those who worked with a nonhumorous coworker. This was evidenced by their lower self-reported perceived strain (an indicator of perceived strain), higher state-level positive affect and lower state-level negative affect (indicators of affective strain), higher anagram task performance and lower perceived task difficulty (indicators of cognitive strain), as well as their lower systolic blood pressure and lower state-level somatic anxiety (indicators of physical strain). In contrast, low sense of humor employees who worked with a humorous coworker experienced a greater degree of perceived, affective, cognitive, and physical strain than did those who worked with a non-humorous v coworker. This was evidenced by their higher self-reported perceived strain, lower state-level positive affect and higher state-level negative affect, lower anagram task performance and higher perceived task difficulty, as well as their higher systolic blood pressure and higher state-level somatic anxiety. Consistent with expectations, results revealed that the degree to which employees experienced job strain typically varied based on the degree to which there was a match between employee sense of humor and coworker positive humor levels. Similar levels of coworker and employee humor generally resulted in relatively low levels of employee strain whereas dissimilar levels of coworker and employee humor most often resulted in relatively high levels of employee strain. Contrary to expectations, however, coworkers’ positive humor and employees’ sense of humor did not interact to predict employees’ interpersonal or task performance. Instead, positive coworker humor had a significant positive main effect on both forms of employee performance. Although these findings are consistent with the study hypotheses in that positive coworker humor was expected to enhance high sense of humor employees’ performance, they run counter to the expectation that positive coworker humor would hinder low sense of humor employees’ performance. Because the interaction between coworker humor and employee humor was not a significant predictor of either type of employee performance, analyses were not conducted to test for mediated moderation. Findings from the current study offer a number of contributions to organizational science and, in addition, hold several implications for practice. Specifically, these results have relevance for and greatly expand the workplace humor, individual differences, PE fit, occupational health, and workgroup/team composition literatures. In addition, results contribute to the literature by elucidating the need for future research dedicated to exploring the direct and interactive effects of coworker characteristics, including humor, on employee well-being and effectiveness. Finally, vi results of this study serve to inform researchers and practitioners in matters related to several critical human resource functions, including matters in personnel selection, placement, and training, as well as in workgroup/team composition.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Industrial and Organizational
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Sierra, Mary, "Seriously Though... Is Positive Workplace Humor A Help Or A Hindrance?: The Impact Of Coworker-employee Humor Interactions On Employee Well-being And Effectiveness" (2013). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2786.