Am I the Only One This Supervisor is Laughing at? Effects of Aggressive Humor on Employee Strain and Addictive Behaviors

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

66 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


  • Yuanyuan Huo
  • Wing Lam
  • Ziguang Chen

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-885
Journal / PublicationPersonnel Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


Prior literature on humor primarily documents its positive effects on employees' attitudes and behaviors, though increasing research on aggressive humor suggests some conflicting viewpoints. This paper proposes a model based on social comparison and attribution theories to examine the influence of supervisors' aggressive humor on employees' strain and addictive behaviors. The tests of the research model entailed a 2-wave study with 243 frontline employees from 4 manufacturing companies of a group corporation in China. The results showed that supervisors' aggressive humor with employees related positively to employees' strain. This positive association became stronger when the supervisors did not use aggressive humor with the peers of the focal employees. Employees' strain mediated the interactive effects of supervisors' aggressive humor with the focal employees and those with their peers on employees' addictive behaviors (e.g., problematic use of Internet, alcohol, and tobacco). As well as having practical implications, this study offers theoretical insights for research into humor, leadership, and addictive behaviors. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.