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The influence of humor on the attitudes and behaviors of interns

Published on
28 October 2015

Internships have become both an important part of undergraduate education and a critical tool for management education and organizational recruitment. In this paper, Gazi Islam, from the Alternative Forms of Markets and Organizations team, and his co-author, explore the importance of humor during an internship experience.

A link between a supervisor’s humor and an intern’s satisfaction?

To better understand the drivers of interns' work outcomes, the researchers hypothesize that supervisor humor plays a signaling role during the internship. Humor has been known to affect employees' attitudes and behaviors, but research on interns has been limited.
Using a sample of 184 students enrolled in internship programs, this study examines the relationship between supervisor humor use and intern satisfaction, intention to stay and negligent behavior at work.

Positive humor/Negative humor

The findings of this study suggest that the use of positive humor is associated with a higher level of intern satisfaction, whereas the use of negative humor (sarcasm, mockery and irony) has the opposite effect.

1. A supervisor's use of appropriate humor can, through satisfaction, reduce negligent behavior and improve willingness to accept permanent employment at the organization.

2. In return, the use of negative humor will send a bad image of the organization and would increase the negligent behavior of the intern.
Based on these findings, the researchers discuss the importance of the intern-supervisor relationship as a key determinant of internship effectiveness.

Abstract online