Humor is prolific across our professional lives. Most humor research in organizations has focused on leaders’ humor, showing that more humorous leaders are better leaders. But a key feature of professional contexts—hierarchy—deeply shapes the nature and effects of humor, particularly for understudied groups: followers and those who are relatively lower in the hierarchy. In this interdisciplinary review of upward humor, we consolidate key themes across theories and literatures to propose an overarching model of behavioral humor while also parsimoniously organizing key outcomes along agency and communality. So, as alluded in our title, upwardly humorous employees can be viewed as friend—or fiend—generating more variable reactions than leaders due to their relatively lower position in the hierarchy.
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Leadership Symposium