Nova SBE

The humor of leaders

April 2, 2019 at 2:23 PM by Pedro Neves

Humor is a topic that, among other things, has always fascinated me due to its usefulness in developing team spirit, motivating for action or even to deconstruct fallacious arguments.

Author: Pedro Neves | Reading time: 2 minutes

Blog - O humor dos líderesunsplash-logoHybrid

So you can guess my excitement when, a long time ago, I discovered Dilbert’s Comic Stripes and its approach to some of the most relevant management and workplace environment topics and questions. In fact, Dilbert’s assiduity in my classes surpasses that of some of my students. Certainly I am not the only fan; these comics are published in more than 2000 newspapers from 50 different countries in about 19 languages.

However, what draws my attention is the fact that humor, in general, is frowned upon at work. As Christopher Robert, professor at the University of Missouri and specialist on this topic, argues: humor is often seen as inconsistent with the serious and responsible nature of work. But, in the words of Winston Churchill: “Perhaps is better to be irresponsible and right, than to be responsible and wrong.” Therefore, it is better to take advantage of this potential management tool and use it to create a work environment where employees work with a smile on their lips.

A recent study that I had the opportunity to coordinate, showed that when leaders use a positive humorous attitude (making daily jokes, using humor to deal with stressful situations), their relationship with their respective teams improves substantially, as did their teams’ performance. Yet, the most interesting element of this study is how these results stood out for employees with a negative self-image, who often carry their negate lens throughout different domains of their lives, including work. Leaders often have increased difficulties to get close to and connect with these employees; and the use of positive humor seems to be an effective way of surpassing this barrier.

It is equally important to paint out that humor, when poorly used (mocking others, making fun of oneself for the approval of a third party) is malign and has the opposite effect to what was described above. The discussion should not be focused on the consequences of using or not humor, but on the consequences of its good or bad use. An increasing number of studies show that the capacity to laugh and to make others laugh in the workplace reduces stress and burnout, stimulates creativity and innovation and increases organizational commitment. But we will leave this for another time. Now it is time to get back to work because, as the creators of the demotivator® products say: you are not being paid to believe in the power of your dreams...

Gestão de Pessoas & TalentoOriginally published in English at Forbes Portugal

Topics: Opinion Articles, Leadership & People

Pedro Neves

Published by: Pedro Neves

Associate Professor @ Nova SBE

Subscribe to our Newsletter


Nova SBE

Spark a

Know more