Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Major Professor

Joan R. Rentsch

Committee Members

David W. Williams, Robert M. Fuller, Terry L. Leap


This dissertation used a political lens to investigate humor in a leader-member exchange (LMX) framework to explore how subordinates can use humor to manage relationships with their superiors and the subsequent outcomes associated with the quality of these relationships. This dissertation linked humor to outcomes that had not previously been studied, such as political skill and employee guarding tactics. This dissertation uniquely contributes to the current body of research by 1) empirically investigating subordinate humor in an LMX framework, 2) exploring how political skill affects the relationship between humor and LMX relationship quality, and 3) examining an unexplored outcome of LMX quality, the use of managerial employee guarding tactics. I proposed a model of subordinate humor based on the literature and outline specific hypotheses derived from the model. I hypothesized that subordinate humor positively influences LMX quality as perceived by both parties. Furthermore, I hypothesized that subordinate political skill moderates that relationship. Finally, I hypothesized that LMX relationship quality and subordinate humor will be positively related to managerial use of employee guarding tactics. I employed a survey research design to test these topics. A reciprocal standard design was employed to investigate constructs from the perspectives of both subordinates and supervisors. Data was analyzed using PLS-based Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Results showed support for the proposed relationships between humor and LMX quality and with employee guarding tactics. These findings offer practical implications for employees and managers alike by empirically demonstrating that humor is a useful tool for subordinates to enhance their relationship quality with supervisors, and subsequently, managerial behaviors towards employees.

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