Signaling trustworthiness: The effect of leader humor on feedback-seeking behavior

J Soc Psychol. 2020;160(2):170-189. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2019.1620161. Epub 2019 Jun 3.


Given its capacity to cultivate a range of positive outcomes in the workplace, humor has been recognized as a valuable tool for leadership purposes. However, the theoretical understanding of leader humor remains relatively limited and the mechanism through which it influences follower outcomes has not been clearly identified. Drawing on signaling theory, we developed and empirically tested a model which delineates the relationship between leader humor and a specific follower behavior - proactive feedback seeking. We collected data from 304 employees and their respective leaders working in a large Canadian retail organization. Results of our analyses indicate that leader humor can impact subordinate feedback-seeking behavior via its influence on subordinates' affect-based and cognition-based trust in the leader.

Keywords: Leader humor; empirical study; feedback seeking; signaling; trust.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Trust / psychology*
  • Wit and Humor as Topic / psychology*