Does Leader Humor Impact Employee Creativity?

Past research has identified the positive benefits of a humorous leader, such as reducing employee stress, promoting a fun workplace culture, and enhancing various team outcomes. Still, less is known about the effects of specific types of leader humor. The current article explores the effects of self-deprecating (SD) leader humor, or the willingness to make jokes regarding one’s own setbacks and failures.


The researcher (Huang, 2022) investigated leader SD humor by collecting data at three time points from 320 employees and 115 team leaders from companies in Taiwan.

First, the researcher conducted an online survey that evaluated the extent of leader SD humor, team harmony, and perceived trust in the leader. In the second survey, the researcher measured how closely team members identify with their leader and perceived organizational pride. The final survey measured employee creativity.

Interestingly, results indicated that leader SD humor was related to employee identification with the leader. In other words, it made employees believe that they shared certain beliefs with their leader and that the leader was “just like them.” In turn, identification with the leader was related to increased employee creativity. In addition, the study supported the idea that leader SD humor is more important in two different situations – when there is lower team harmony or when there is a higher sense of organizational pride.


Overall, the current research demonstrates how self-deprecating leader humor can lead to positive workplace outcomes, specifically in increasing the extent to which employees identify with their leader. There also appears to be positive downstream effects on employee creativity. In addition, SD humor appears to work better in certain team environments. With this in mind, the authors recommend that organizations be intentional about where they assign leaders who use SD humor. Training leaders to utilize humor to their advantage may also be possible.


Huang, M.-J. (2022). Leader self-deprecating humor and employee creativity at workplace: A longitudinal study. Review of Managerial Science, 17(2), 467–492.

Image credit: istockphoto/JLco – Julia Amaral