Humour and laughter in meetings: influence, decision-making and the emergence of leadership



Watson C & Drew V (2017) Humour and laughter in meetings: influence, decision-making and the emergence of leadership. Discourse and Communication, 11 (3), pp. 314-329.

Recent constructions view leadership as a process of social influence which coordinates processes of change. Moreover, such processes are not necessarily linked to role hierarchy but may be emergent and distributed within teams. However, the micro-processes through which this occurs are not well understood. The significance of the paper lies in its contribution to an understanding of the emergence of leadership in teams, and in particular how humour and laughter are drawn on as a resource by which to exert social influence. Here, we use the construct of the play frame, ‘non serious’ talk in which participants jointly construct extended humorous sequences as improvisations, to analyse how team members manoeuvre in order to accomplish influence, decision-making and leadership. In taking this approach we are not concerned with considerations of how managers use jokes to exercise control, or workers use humour to subvert management. Rather, we examine how humour, and particularly the laughter it engenders, can contribute to an understanding of organizations as centred on communication and founded on the precept that organizations are ‘talked into being’. Here we show how talk in a play frame institutes a context which can be utilised by participants to exert influence and we demonstrate the highly contingent and contextual nature of the emergence of leadership within teams.

Communicative constitution of organization (CCO); humorous discourse; play frame; relational leadership; strategic accomplishment

Discourse and Communication: Volume 11, Issue 3

Publication date30/06/2017
Publication date online03/04/2017
Date accepted by journal24/10/2016

People (2)


Dr Valerie Drew

Dr Valerie Drew

Lecturer in Education Leadership, Education

Professor Cate Watson

Professor Cate Watson

Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences