Finding humor in work–life conflict: Distinguishing the effects of individual and co-worker humor. By: Cheng, David, Chan, Xi Wen, Amarnani, Rajiv K., and Farivar, Farveh. 2021. Journal of Vocational Behavior. Vol. 125.

Work–life conflict is a ubiquitous challenge for employees juggling work and family roles, yet little research has examined individual strategies to manage and mitigate its negative effects. We direct attention in this literature to a common-yet-understudied practical strategy: humor. Further, we take next steps in this literature to distinguish between co-worker and employees’ own use of coping humor. Integrating benign violation theory with the transactional theory of stress and coping, we develop and test a theoretical model of how both individual and co-worker coping humor may buffer the negative effects of work–life conflict on stress and subsequent withdrawal. In Study 1, we conducted an experiment to examine the causal effects of humor on the stress appraisals arising from work–life conflict. In Study 2, we conducted a three-wave survey to replicate these findings and disentangle the contributions of individual coping humor and co-worker humor. We found opposing effects of individual coping humor and co-worker humor; we further replicated and unpacked the unexpected stress-amplifying effects of co-worker humor in a post-hoc exploratory Study 3. Overall, these results suggest that we need to consider where humor is situated in order to understand when humor mitigates the negative consequences of work–life conflict on stress and withdrawal.