Monash University

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A laugh a day is sure to keep the blues away: employees' perception of managerial humor and its impact on their emotions and psychological resources

posted on 2017-02-21, 02:42 authored by Wijewardena, Weerakoon Achchige Nilupama
The thesis addresses two specific objectives: First, given the scarcity of humor research in Australian work contexts, the thesis explores the nature of humor events in Australia, how Australian employees perceive such humor and what they expect from their immediate managers with regards to humor. Second, the thesis presents a study that tests hypothesized relationships between employees’ perception of managers’ humor and employees’ emotions, Psychological Capital (PsyCap), Subjective Well-Being (SWB) and Turnover Intentions (TI) to understand the consequences managers’ use of humor has for employees. The argument of this thesis is that when employees perceive their managers’ humor as positive (negative), they experience momentary positive (negative) emotions which increase (decrease) employees’ PsyCap and SWB and lowers (increases) TI over time. To address the first objective, a sample of 433 employees in organizations across Australia provided survey data pertaining to (1) frequency of humor behavior at work; (2) employees’ perception of the acceptability, engagement and enjoyment of humor at work; (3) participants in humor at work, their intentions for humor creation, channels of humor delivery and the functions achieved; and (4) employees’ expectations of their managers’ humor. To address the second objective, an Experience Sampling Method (ESM) was used to enable the assessment of hypothesized causal relationships. Ten short surveys with a sample of 2498 employees employed across Australia were administered daily for 10 consecutive work days, with pre and post measures, to gather data on (1) employees’ emotional changes in response to their immediate managers’ humor and how they perceived the humor as to its positive or negative impact; (2) changes in their PsyCap, SWB and TI; and (3) the hypothesized moderator variables of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX), employees’ Locus of Control (LOC), Affect Intensity (AI), job stress and employees’ perception of their managers’ humor style. The research provides evidence that humor is prevalent in Australian workplaces and that survey participants’ accept, engage in, and enjoy humor at work. Findings also support the hypotheses relating to participants’ perception of their managers’ humor and experienced emotions and the moderating effects of LMX on the manager humor-employee emotions relationship. Interestingly, frequent experiences of participants’ positive emotions were not associated with increases in their PsyCap and SWB but frequent experiences of participants’ negative emotions reduced their psychological resources. As predicted, participants’ high SWB resulted in low TI. Surprisingly however, participants’ high PsyCap did not result in their low TI.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Ramanie Samaratunge

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics

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