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Workplace Humor Can Impact Organizational Citizenship Behavior

There is no shortage of research on humor in the workplace. Previous research has primarily examined associations between humor and outcomes such as job performance and job satisfaction. Recent research in the Academy of Management Journal went further and examined the relationship between humor and organizational citizenship behavior. Organizational citizenship behavior occurs when employees go above and beyond job descriptions and engage in behaviors that benefit their organizations as a whole.

The researchers conducted two studies of hundreds of employees and leaders across various U.S. companies. The results showed that when leaders used humor, their employees had better emotional reactions. In this study, the researchers explored humor not as a trait, but as a behavior. In other words, a leader did not necessarily have to be a “funny person” to produce such results. All they had to do was inject a bit of humor into the workplace to reap the benefits.

In addition, humor led to better quality relationships between employees and leaders. This type of relationship is called “leader-member exchange.” Better leader-member exchanges were also associated with employees engaging in more organizational citizenship behaviors. One potential explanation that the researchers offered for this was that leaders’ humor enabled employees to be less stressed and less likely to suffer from burnout. These lower levels of stress could enable employees to participate in more organizational citizenship behavior.


Cooper, C. D., Kong, D. T., & Crossley, C. D. (2018). Leader Humor as an Interpersonal Resource: Integrating Three Theoretical Perspectives. Academy of Management Journal61(2), 769-796.