Revisit: Humor in Business


Humor in Business and Society Relationships: A Research Anthology; Proposal deadline now 1 Dec

Chapter Proposals Due: December 1, 2015
Full Chapters Due: July 1, 2016


Edited by:

  • Associate Professor François Maon, IESEG School of Management, France
  • Professor Adam Lindgreen, Cardiff University, UK
  • Professor Joëlle Vanhamme, Edhec Business School, France
  • Dr. Robert J. Angell, Cardiff University, UK
  • Professor Juliet Memery, Bournemouth University, UK

Gower Publishing


Humor is an ageless phenomenon that scholars struggle to conceptualize but that continues to elude clear definition. Taking diverse forms at various times and in different situations, humor does not always look the same, though reasonable agreement indicates that it involves some “intentional verbal or nonverbal message which elicits laughter, chuckling, and other forms of spontaneous behavior taken to mean pleasure, delight and/or surprise in the targeted receiver(s)” (Booth-Butterfield and Booth-Butterfield, 1991: 206).

Beyond pleasure and amusement, people use humor for a variety of social functions. For example, it might facilitate and enhance learning processes; help reorient perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors; and facilitate social relationships (Dziegelewski, Laudadio, and Legg-Rodriguez, 2004). Graham, Papa, and Brooks (1992) highlight two central functions of humor: facilitating communication in specific contexts and spreading aggressive messages (Bonaiuto, Castellana, and Pierro, 2003; Hay, 2000). On the one hand, humor can cause others to like the humorous source more, ease conversations, attract others’ attention, introduce new topics of discussion, or smooth interactions. On the other hand, in its aggressive form, humor can halt verbal interactions, modify the usual rules of conversation, communicate critiques, or create subversive environments. In business-related communications, interactions, negotiations, and public relations, being funny also can attract attention, especially in comparison with the massive amount of information that characterizes hyperconnected societies, and thereby exert strong influences on a situation and other actors.

The mobilization of humor by individuals, groups, and organizations at the interface of business and society has been studied only minimally though. In literature that focuses on finding and developing a constructive understanding of the relationship of business with society, specific analyses of the use of humor are relatively scarce. Even though we expect that uses of humor, from a traditional marketing perspective, can affect consumers, its use by business actors in interactions with other stakeholders and the ways stakeholders similarly use humor to influence business actors all remain insufficiently addressed (cf. Kutz-Flamembaum, 2014; Westwood and Johnston, 2013; Wolf, 2014).

Overall objective and topics

This research anthology will consider different angles from which to address the use of humor by individuals, groups, and organizational actors in their interactions, which take place at the interface of business and society. It also deals with the role of humor in the development of cooperative or adversarial relationships between business and society. Therefore, we imagine four main categories of representative topics for this text:

  1. Humor, business, and society: Introduction, history, and recent evolutions.
  2. From business to society: Humor’s use and role in business communication, marketing, public relations, leadership, and so on.
  3. From society to business: Humor’s use and role in campaigning, opposing, or protesting.
  4. Laughing together: Humor’s use and role in negotiations, dialogue, engagement, collaboration, and co-creation processes.

Across the varied topics that could appear within these themes, we seek two important types of contributions:

  1. Literature reviews that survey critical points in current literature relevant to the topic. Literature reviews should describe, summarize, and critically evaluate previous work relating to the topic. These reviews must make a significant contribution to our understanding of the topic by providing integrative framework(s) and/or paths for further research.
  2. Conceptual, methodological, or empirical studies, such as meta-analyses, qualitative studies, experiments, or surveys, that contribute in some of the following ways:
    1. A conceptual study might improve conceptual definitions of original constructs, develop an improved theoretical rationale for existing linkages, identify and conceptually define additional constructs to include within existing conceptual frameworks, or develop theoretical linkages, along with an accompanying rationale that suggests more comprehensive integrative frameworks for understanding the topic.
    2. Methodological entries might examine changes in the design of prior studies or modifications in experimental procedures that, for example, enhance the validity of statistical conclusions or increase the realism of the experiment.
    3. An empirical study could examine how, at a practical level, organizations deal with the complexities of humor.

The text will be published in English. Spelling and punctuation follow US standards. To ensure an engaging read for the target audience (as discussed next), the chapters should be accessible, with a style similar to Harvard Business Review’s. Although the contributors should describe their methodology, especially in conceptual, methodological, and empirical papers, this focus may be less pronounced than in traditional academic articles and possibly even appear mainly in appendixes. All chapters should include theoretical contributions and implications. The editors are happy to discuss whether a particular chapter offers an appropriate style.

Target audience

This text will target various readers: academics who teach and/or research humor and, more generally, emotions; doctoral students in this discipline; practitioners who want to know more about humor, especially in terms of managerial consequences for organizations; and others who could benefit from the research presented in such an anthology, including consumers, civil societies, and the media (e.g., journalists, writers).

Submission process

Potential authors are invited to submit, on or before June 30, 2015, a brief, two- to five-page proposal that clearly explains the intended contributions of their chapter, as well as their intended methodology/approach.

Chapters submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or under consideration for publication anywhere else. Proposals should be submitted via e-mail in a single Word file attachment to The first page of the proposal should contain the title of the intended chapter, as well as the authors’ names and full contact details.

The purpose of reviewing the proposals is to identify potential chapters that fit the overall theme of the book. In some cases, we may propose changes to align the proposed chapter better with the book; such changes will take place only in a dialogue with the authors.

By July 31, 2015, potential authors will be notified about the status of their proposed chapter and, when accepted, receive further information regarding the submission process, including the formatting guidelines. Full chapters must be submitted via e-mail in a single attached Word file to by March 31, 2016. Final submissions should be approximately 5,000–6,000 words in length, excluding references, figures, tables, and appendices. All chapters will be double-blind reviewed by colleagues who also will have contributed to this research anthology and thus are knowledgeable about the overall project. Authors must not identify themselves in the body of their chapter.


Please address questions to Professor Adam Lindgreen:


Bonaiuto, M., Castellana, E., and Pierro, A. (2003). Arguing and laughing: The use of humor to negotiate in group discussions. Humor, 16(2), 183-223.

Booth-Butter?eld, M. and Booth-Butter?eld, S. (1991). Individual differences in the communication of humorous messages. Southern Communication Journal, 56(3), 205-218.

Dziegielewski, S.F. Jacinto, G.A., Laudadio, A., and Legg-Rodriguez, L. (2003). Humor: An essential communication tool in therapy. International Journal of Mental Health, 32(3), 74- 90.

Graham, E., Papa, M., and Brooks, G. (1992). Functions of humor in conversation: Conceptualization and measurement. Western Journal of Communication, 56(1), 161-183.

Hay, J. (2000). Functions of humor in the conversations of men and women. Journal of Pragmatics, 32(6), 709–742.

Kutz-Flamenbaum, R.V. (2014). Humor and social movements. Sociology Compass, 8(3), 294–304.

Westwood, R. and Johnston, A. (2013). Humor in organization: From function to resistance. Humor, 26(2), 219-247.

Wolf, K. (2014). Beyond the corporate lens: The use of humor in activist communication. In L.A. Lievrouw (Ed.), Communication Yearbook: Challenging Communication Research, pp. 91-105. Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.