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The Serious Business of Humor: A qualitative study of humor as a management tool
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business.
2010 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This research was initiated due to the novelty of the topic. Humor is a common phenomenon in the daily interaction of many people; however this study is particularly interested in humor as used by managers. As a preconception to the study it was assumed that appropriately used humor results in benefits for a leader, thus we wish to explore how managers in Swedish organizations reason about if and how humor can be used as a management tool. For this purpose we employed qualitative research with semi-structured interviewing method. The subjects for investigation reside in Umeå, northern Swedish town, and are leaders in 8 medium/big sized, private, service companies.

The findings of this research suggest that managers often do realize the benefits of using humor and even consider it as a management tool. Our findings furthermore illustrate that the utility of humor to achieve the desired organizational outcomes of reduced stress, group cohesiveness, improved communication, creativity and leadership effectiveness is in fact very situation dependent.  We could also see that our respondents tended to attribute the use of humor to their natural skills as they reason that they rarely use humor on purpose. Interestingly though, our findings showed both that managers were aware of the effects of humor and that they often utilized the benefits of humor. We therefore conclude that humor thus instead is consciously used as the managers often clearly are aware of the beneficial effects that humor brings. However, we do believe that it could be difficult to state to what extent one implements the benefits of humor in practice since humor is, as mentioned by the majority of our respondents, simply a part of their personality.

We think that one of the most important things that this study can contribute with would be to inform the reader that it is acceptable and OK to use humor also as a manager or a leader. People do not have to be less serious or effective because they have fun at work. On the contrary there are instead many benefits with humor that our research shows and if implemented, humor could contribute to make the workplace more pleasant.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. , 101 p.
Keyword [en]
Humor in the workplace, Management tool, Humor
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-35849OAI: diva2:349736
2010-06-04, 08:15 (English)
Social and Behavioural Science, Law
Available from: 2010-09-13 Created: 2010-09-08 Last updated: 2010-09-13Bibliographically approved

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