Gender and the evaluation of humor at work

Jonathan B. Evans, Jerel E. Slaughter, Aleksander P.J. Ellis, Jessi M. Rivin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Although research has added to our understanding of the positive and negative effects of the use of humor at work, scholars have paid little attention to characteristics of the humor source. We argue that this is an important oversight, particularly in terms of gender. Guided by parallel-constraint-satisfaction theory (PCST), we propose that gender plays an important role in understanding when using humor at work can have costs for the humor source. Humor has the potential to be interpreted as either a functional or disruptive work behavior. Based on PCST, we argue that gender stereotypes constrain the interpretation of observed humor such that humor expressed by males is likely to be interpreted as more functional and less disruptive compared with humor expressed by females. As a result, humorous males are ascribed higher status compared with nonhumorous males, while humorous females are ascribed lower status compared with nonhumorous females. These differences have implications for subsequent performance evaluations and assessments of leadership capability. Results from an experiment with 216 participants provides support for the moderated mediation model. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1077-1087
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Gender
  • Humor
  • Leadership
  • Performance evaluation
  • Status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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