Humor in leader-follower relationships: Humor styles, similarity and relationship quality

Barbara Wisse 1  and Eric Rietzschel 1
  • 1 University of Groningen


The present study focuses on how humor may affect the quality of the relationship between leader and follower (LMX). More specifically, we examined the impact of follower self-reported humor style and leader self-reported humor style on the extent to which followers perceived their relationship with their leader to be of high quality (in terms of affect, loyalty, contribution and professional respect). We also investigated the role of congruence between leader humor style and follower humor style in the reported quality of their relationship. We present the results of a multi-level study of leaders (N = 88) and their followers (N = 257) showing that LMX is positively related to follower affiliative humor style and negatively related to follower aggressive humor style. In addition, LMX is higher with stronger congruence in self-defeating humor styles: leaders' self-defeating humor was positively associated with LMX when followers were high (and not when they were low) in self-defeating humor. These results imply that future studies may benefit from differentiating between different humor styles in order to better understand the role of humor in the intricate relationship between leaders and their followers.

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HUMOR, the official publication of the International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS), was established over 25 years ago as an international interdisciplinary forum for the publication of high-quality research papers on humor as an important and universal human faculty. The journal publishes original contributions in areas such as interdisciplinary humor research, humor theory, and humor research methodologies.