Unhealthy Humor in the Workplace – Final Problem Solving Researched Proposal


Humor is an important aspect in human interaction. It plays an essential role in developing interaction and cohesion in a group. Humor also has particular impact on the organization or workplace. For employees at the workplace, humor regards their working mood and team members’ interaction. Adequate use of humor in the workplace can develop a fun environment and resolve conflicts, dilemmas, and embarrassment among individuals, creating familiarity with each other and add to the interpersonal relationship quality. It can as well accumulate extra support from other individuals so as to boost individual psychological energy (McGhee 1). Moreover, humor assists in muscles relaxation. With the laughter sound and happiness feel, one can create a positive emotions that counterbalance the negative impacts created by work pressure. Nevertheless, humor is considered as a double-edged sword which holds both bad and good traits. It can contains both positive and negative impacts. Thus among the varying humor styles, there may be some which are not suitable for mental and physical health and can even be harmful or dangerous to others or oneself. In this regard, workplace health need to be controlled to ensure unhealthy humor is completely suppressed in favor for health humor that bring in a number of benefits in a work environment (Sathyanarayana 165).

Statement of the Problem

Humor is normally used to create a relief in life. Although it was initially employed in social settings and was highly associated with unofficial settings, humor employment in work environment has been adopted gradually. This has been facilitated by extensive research that demonstrates the importance of humor in a work environment. Although workplace humor is associated with a number of benefits, it is important to note that those benefits are only enjoyed when the humor is healthy.  On the contrary, negative humor or unhealthy humor can be destructive to the workplace since it propagates the destruction of relationships, widening the gap among diverse individuals. Unhealthy humor can also be used by leaders to manipulate subordinates through fear or support. Unhealthy humor is a common problem in organizations that have embraced the use of humor. This is not uncommon to our organization.

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After making a close observation, I have realized that most employees are suffering from effect of negative humor directed to them by their supervisors, fellow colleagues, and managers. This humor may appear normal to other audience but one can notice the discomfort and chance of mood of the person at the receiving end. This can highly impact the organization performance negatively despite of the employment of all other possible measures to enhance the organization performance. In this regard, our company needs to identify negative or unhealthy humor that are used among workers and by managers to be able to identify the best strategy that can be employed to suppress this behavior. This ensure that the negative effects of negative humor do not nullify the organization efforts to enhance the organization performance.

 Research Objective

This research aims at identifying the harmful or unhealthy humor in the workplace and establishing its impact on workers or humor receiver and establishing the best way to suppressing the unhealthy humor in the organization.

Rationale of the Research

Humor is growing in popularity in different work environment. This has created great benefits to the organizations that have managed to embrace positive humor which is associated with a number of benefits. However, there is negative humor which is shallowly researched but which can highly destroy the organization performance. Thus, it is important to identify negative humor in organization and suppress its utilization in our organizations.

Literature Review

Humor is regarded as any communicative occasion that is perceived to be humorous and contains verbal and nonverbal communication that produce a positive erective or cognitive reply from listeners. In this regard, organizational humor contains funny communications which yield to positive cognitive and emotions in the organization, group, or individual.  However, this definition of organizational humor is only applicable in case of health humor. On the contrary, unhealthy humor may contain the humorous aspects but with the wrong intention which mostly involve enjoying a humorous laughter at the cost of others. Unhealthy humor is defined as a multilayered notion which encompasses of sarcasm, satires, slapstick and jokes.  Thus humor can also be used humiliate, or demoralize a person in the workplace (Romero and Cruithirds 59).

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Regardless of the belief that workplace involve serious business, humor can ease the mood in organizational setting and change the work environment to be extra enjoyable. Workgroup are normally driven by human interaction rules, and thus comprehending the multifunctional obligation of humor in a work environment can essentially add to effective personnel management. Actually, the proper utilization of organizational humor can offer valuable advantages to organizations and even extra valuable instruments to management for staff motivation, effective communication and discord mitigation. According to (Romero and Cruithirds 58), humor contains a number of styles and facets. It is frequently regarded informally as a communicating levity approach, however, there is a science to humor which can be applied effectively as a serious leadership or management tool in an organization. More than mere laughing and joking or development of comradeship, humor can act as a complete toolkit with a number of particular tools which can be used selectively and employed by management.

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Humor hold the ability to remedy a number of organizations issues and enhance healthy social association in the workplace. It supports efforts to develop group cohesion, increase creativity, improve communication, add to higher productivity, and boost satisfaction of subordinate. Humor is also found to be constructive in maintaining and creating organizational culture, generating camaraderie and promoting leadership. Humor can be used in organization leadership to enhance the association between a leader and the followers. Although humorous leadership might not be the basic principle for business success, it is very essential for developing an effectual team with great performance (Lyttle 240). Frequent utilization of humor at workplace by leaders is an effective way to restore and inspire morale. Humor can also be employed to assist leaders in attaining three basic results which include lowering work stress, to assist subordinate to comprehend the management models of leaders via communication and finally, to inspire followers or subordinates. Thus, humor plays an essential bridging role in a workplace. Apart from resolving the discomfiture resulting from various opinions, it assists in upholding good interpersonal relationship among the members of the team and boost love of colleagues. In addition, humor stands for a positive attitude to assist leaders in handling difficult business situation successfully. Actually, humorous leadership can assist organizations and enterprises in developing a more positive and proactive culture (Ho 6675).

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Positive humor can be of great benefit to an organization as discussed above. However, not ever humor used in a work environment are healthy. Humor can also be used negatively mostly by leaders who wish to demoralize or humiliate their workers. The two forms of humor classified as negative humor include the aggressive humor and self-defeating humor. Aggressive humor is unhealthy humor founded on the superiority theory where by the speaker consider him or herself to be better than others. Thus, this is a form of humor that is comprised of jeer and sarcasm, ridicule, and it is insulting to the listeners. This humor is positively correlated with nervousness, aggression, and hostility. It is normally utilized in an organization to order or manipulate team members via one’s superiority sense (Ho 6676).

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Self-defeating humor is another form of unhealthy humor.  In this case, speaker seems to be over insulting to herself or himself so as to please others. This is a defense mechanism that involves self-denying which appears to cover negative feelings away from issues via humor. This form of humor is frequently positively correlated with anxiety and depression and negatively associated with satisfaction of social support, happiness and self-esteem. Employment of self-defeating humor in a workplace is aimed at getting along with others and gaining their approval. Nevertheless, the use of this kind of humors by leaders might lower the subordinate confidence toward their leaders (Ho 6677).

Unhealthy humor picks on others as groups or individuals. They cause pains and widen gaps between individuals. Normally, individuals who employ negative humor focus on getting the laugh at the expense of another person. They normally fails to consider the effect of their action to the directed person, or they do it deliberately to cause humiliation. Normally, harmful humor is employed in a workplace among subordinate when an individual base the joke on race aspects, physical appearance, work mistake, gender based and other discriminative factors. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally. Whichever the case, humor based on such aspect maybe hurting to individuals in the receiving end. Negative humor can also be used to propagate sexual harassment in the work place.

Research Methodology

The research will focus on identifying negative humor in workplace, its impact to the workers and leaders and mechanism to suppress negative humor while promoting the positive one. To identify accomplish this, the research will perform qualitative research in the researcher workplace where negative humor incidences have been identified as a major problem in the organization. The main aim of conducting this research is to identify possible forms or aspects of negative humor that are used in the organization and their impacts to individual workers based in who used the humor, how it was used and who was the receiver of the humor. This will be done through the use of structured interview and structured questionnaires where workers will be required to identify cases where they have been insulted by jokes, words or acts that enticed others. The identification will include the person who initiated the joke, and who were the audience and the audience reaction.

The research will target all workers in the organization since they all have equal chance of experiencing healthy or unhealthy humor. Thus, the only discriminative factor will be used while selecting the research participant is that one must be an employee or a manager in this company.  Workers will be selected in this case since they have a higher chance of being in the receiving end of unhealthy humor. The questionnaire will take a total of 20 minutes to fill in. On the other hand, interviews will be directed to the managers of the organization who are most likely to employ negative humor to control subordinates. The interview will be recorded for later transcription. The interview will take not more than 30 minutes. The researcher will also employ literature review to identify the best strategies to employ to surpass this kind of behavior in an organization.

Research Validity and Reliability

Structured questionnaires and interviews are associated with a high level of validity since they are based on standard responses that restricts the respondent on the solutions to pick. The validity of a structured interview and questionnaire is measured at 4.0 (O’Connell 1). Thus, the research will be based on a high level of validity. The two techniques are also highly reliable since they involves use of tools that can be easily analyzed to maintain a high level of accuracy (Le. Ac 5).

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Data Analysis

The data analysis will involve grouping the identified negative humors in similar group and identifying the possible theme for each group. Each theme will be provided with a number that will be used to establish its frequency of occurrence. The researcher will then make use of data analysis software such as SPSS to evaluate the probability of occurrence of a certain form of humor. To establish the best strategy for surpassing the level of negative humor in the organization, the researcher will also group the identified recommendation based on whether the recommendation is evidence-based or whether the recommendation is based on the scholar evaluation of possible solution through other means. The evidence based solution should be given the highest priority. The recommended solution must also match the identified negative humor to be able to address the actual problem that the company is experiencing (Sagepub 328).

The Research Schedule

The research will be done in a period of 4 weeks. The first 3 days of the research, the researcher will be engaged in obtaining the permission of conducting the research in the organization. This will be done using a formally written letter to the human resource manager. After obtaining the required permission, the researcher will develop the research questionnaires and interview questions for a period of 2 days. The researcher will then identify the best day to distribute the questionnaires and to conduct the interview. The entire process should take 7 days. This should be followed by 5 days of conducting intensive literature review to identify strategies that can be employed to surpass unhealthy humor in the workplace. This review should focus more on evidence based proposition and information from scholars who have credit in investing matters related to impact of humor in organizations. This will be followed by the data analysis process which will take a period of 7 days. This will be followed by data presentation and reporting of the findings which will take a period of 4 days. This scheduling is presented in the Gantt chart below.


Humor which has for a long time been associated with social affairs have slowly been making way to the corporate world. Humor is being used in the corporate world to enhance communication and thus, to strengthen relation in the organizations and to promote a conducive work environment. However, this only happens when positive humor is employed in the work environment. When a work environment is dominated by negative humor, negative outcomes are experienced. Unhealthy humor is a common problem in a number of organizations that have embraced humor to effect its operation. Unhealthy humor is associated with a number of negative aspects that destroy the relation among the workers and the association between the workers and the managers as well as supervisors, based on the user of the humor and the receiver of the same. The researcher’s working environment is currently experiencing the effect of negative humor and thus, something need to be done to ensure that the situation does not destroy the productivity of the organization.


The growth and development of any organization depends highly on human resource. An organization with a conducive work environment motivates workers relation, communication and team performance among other positive aspects. Humor employment in the work environment can play a great part in enhancing the work environment. In this regard, every organization should consider promoting positive humor by enhancing inclusion and respect to diversity. Managers should learn more about the two forms of humor and their effect on the workers spirit and hence the organization performance. This will allow them to choose or apply their humor wisely for the advancement of the organization operation. Workers should be encouraged to apologize to their fellow workers in case one employs unhealthy humor unknowingly and end up humiliating a colleague in the process. This will play a great part in enhancing cohesion among workers. The organization director should employ an open whistleblower technique to report on leaders that have a high tendency of employing humor to demoralize workers. This will ensure that managers are put under control to eliminate their ability of utilizing their position to destroy the work environment in an organization.

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