Supervisor Humor and Employee Outcomes: The Role of Social Distance and Affective Trust in Supervisor

Tae-Yeol Kim (First Author), Deog-Ro Lee (Participant Author), Noel Yuen Shan Wong (Participant Author)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal

52 Citations (Web of Science)


Purpose: To examine how social distance and affective trust in supervisor affect the relationships between supervisor humor and the psychological well-being and job performance of subordinates. Design/Methodology/Approach: A survey was conducted among 322 matched supervisor–subordinate dyads in 14 South Korean organizations. Multi-level analyses were performed to test the research hypotheses, including the moderating effects. Findings: Self-enhancing humor of supervisors was positively associated with the psychological well-being and job performance of subordinates. Affiliative humor was positively associated with psychological well-being, whereas aggressive humor was negatively associated with psychological well-being. In addition, supervisor humor was indirectly related to the psychological well-being of subordinates via social distance. Moreover, affective trust in supervisor significantly moderated the relationship between supervisor humor and social distance, such that the relationship between affiliative humor and social distance was stronger when affective trust in supervisor was high rather than low. Implications: These findings are important in developing and refining humor theory on the responses of employees to various types of supervisor humor. Moreover, they provide practical implications for organizations. For example, organizations should note that supervisor humor may not always produce good results, and thus should encourage managers to use constructive humor. Similarly, supervisors should build a high-trust relationship with their subordinates to increase the effectiveness of their constructive humor. Originality/Value: This study is one of the few studies that has examined the mechanism and boundary conditions of the effects of supervisor humor on employee outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-139
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Corresponding author email

Project name

Korea Research Foundation Grant - Korean Government

Project sponsor


Project No.



  • Affective trust in supervisor
  • Humor
  • Job performance
  • Psychological well-being
  • Social distance

Indexed by

  • ABDC-A
  • Scopus
  • SSCI


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