Risqu business? Interpersonal anxiety and humor in the #MeToo era. Academic Article uri icon


  • Interpersonal anxiety (i.e., the fear of negative consequences from interacting with someone) may be more prominent in post-#MeToo organizations when interacting with someone of a different gender. Initial exchanges may particularly trigger this anxiety, obfuscating key organizational decisions such as hiring. Given humor's positive, intrapersonal stress-reduction effects, we propose that humor also reduces interpersonal anxiety. In three mixed-methods experiments with hiring managers, we examined the effects of applicant and evaluator gender (i.e., same-/mixed-gender dyad), positive applicant humor (i.e., a pun), and context (i.e., gender salience) in job interviews. Results showed that mixed-gender (vs. same-gender) interactions elicited more interpersonal anxiety, particularly when gender was more salient; mixed-gender interactions also predicted downstream attitudinal outcomes (e.g., social attraction and willingness to hire) and hiring decisions (e.g., selection and rejection) via interpersonal anxiety. Although humor reduced interpersonal anxiety and its consequences for female applicants, the opposite was true for male applicants when gender was salient, because it signaled some of the same expectations that initially triggered the interpersonal anxiety: the potential for harmful sexual behavior. In sum, we integrated diversity and humor theories to examine interpersonal anxiety in same- and mixed-gender interactions and then tested the extent to which humor relieved it. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

published proceedings

  • J Appl Psychol

altmetric score

  • 1.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Gloor, J. L., Cooper, C. D., Bowes-Sperry, L., & Chawla, N.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Gloor, Jamie L||Cooper, Cecily D||Bowes-Sperry, Lynn||Chawla, Nitya

publication date

  • January 2022