How fun are your meetings? Investigating the relationship between humor patterns in team interactions and team performance

N.K. Lehmann-Willenbrock, J.A. Allen

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    Abstract

    Research on humor in organizations has rarely considered the social context in which humor occurs. One such social setting that most of us experience on a daily basis concerns the team context. Building on recent theorizing about the humor-performance link in teams, this study seeks to increase our understanding of the function and effects of humor in team interaction settings. We examined behavioral patterns of humor and laughter in real teams by videotaping and coding humor and laughter during 54 regular organizational team meetings. Performance ratings were obtained immediately following the team meetings as well as at a later time point from the teams' supervisors. At the behavioral unit level within the team interaction process, lag sequential analysis identified humor and laughter patterns occurring above chance (e.g., a joke followed by laughter, followed by another joke). Moreover, humor patterns triggered positive socioemotional communication, procedural structure, and new solutions. At the team level, humor patterns (but not humor or laughter alone) positively related to team performance, both immediately and 2 years later. Team-level job insecurity climate was identified as a boundary condition: In low job insecurity climate conditions, humor patterns were positively related to performance, whereas in high job insecurity climate conditions, humor patterns did not relate to team performance. The role of job insecurity as a boundary condition persisted at both time points. These findings underscore the importance of studying team interactions for understanding the role of humor in organizations and considering team-level boundary conditions over time.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1278-1287
    JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
    Volume99
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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