Managers Beware: Joking Can Be Deadly

Posted on April 25, 2013 by TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)

Most employees want to have positive relationships with their managers. After all, employees’ managers can dictate the success of an employee moving up or moving down. What happens when managers cross the line? What is the impact on employees?

One of my friends in high school used to tell me stories about things her manager would tell her. The comments were in no question inappropriate and more than crossed the line of professionalism. Why did this manager act the way they did? I believe the manager was trying too hard to become friends with the mostly high school employees instead of acting as a mentor and adult. As a result, the employees acted just as childish by not showing up for their shifts and using poor language in the workplace.

What did my friend end up doing? She quit after only a few months because she did not want to be part of a team that joked inappropriately and treated each other with a lack of respect. She was well aware of the abnormality of the situation and wanted to work with a group of people that did not poke fun at one another excessively and to the point of embarrassing others.

Huo, Lam and Chen (2012) conducted extensive research on the impact of managerial humor on employees. Their research indicated that excessive humor had the capacity to make employees experience a high level of job stress. Employees that were constantly made fun of in a joking fashion also lacked the level of respect for their managers that the average employee feels.

Consider this: Your manager is always poking fun at you and pointing out your weaknesses and making it a joke. When something serious occurs and you really need to talk to someone at work, how likely are you to go to your manager? The answer is that you are not likely to seek your manager’s help when they constantly poke fun at everything. An employee that feels they lack support at work can be headed down a scary road.

Managers who use humor excessively in the workplace also do their employees a great disservice. When an employee’s leader demonstrates to them that it is okay to use humor excessively, it sends a message to the employees. Employees may find themselves making jokes about serious matters in the workplace as a result of poor example.
Have you had a manager that uses humor inappropriately or excessively in the workplace? How did you handle the situation?

Reference: Huo, Y., Lam, W., & Chen, Z. (2012). Am I the only one this supervisor is laughing at? Effects of aggressive humor on employee strain and addictive behaviors. Personnel Psychology, 65, 859-885.

TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)

About TNS Consulting Team (via Scott Spayd)

Great companies know that it takes highly engaged employees to retain customers and make their brand promise come alive. To make the connection between your employees, customers and brand, you need a partner with deep expertise across several areas. Only KANTAR TNS has over two decades of employee survey experience, as well as access to the consultative and research resources of the world’s largest customer satisfaction benchmark database and brand analytics research. Whether you have 200 employees or 200,000, Kantar TNS has the expertise and the advanced measurement, reporting, and follow up tools you need to deliver on your employee and customer brand promise.

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