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Debbie Iancu-Haddad. Preliminary findings of my doctoral thesis. The purpose of this study was to discover if principals used humor as part of their daily interactions with their staff, what form these uses took, how it influenced the principal and teachers and what benefits or harm came from using humor.

Qualitative analysis was used to draw themes from the interviews. Findings show that principals who use humor report positive results such as improving school atmosphere, better relations with their staff, diffusing conflict situations and the release of personal tenssion. principal's use of humor is influenced by their career stage, with veteran principals using more humor than novice principals.

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  1. 1. Humor as a leadership tool for Israeli school principals Debbie Iancu-Haddad Department of education Ben-Gurion University, Israel
  2. 2. Research questions <ul><li>1. How is humor expressed in interactions between principal and staff? </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- How is humor used? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- By whom is humor used? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- In which situations is humor used? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>2. What functions does humor fulfill in the work of principals? </li></ul><ul><li>3. What are the antecedents of humor use by the principal? </li></ul><ul><li>4. What are the consequences of humor use? </li></ul>
  3. 4. Contribution of the study <ul><li>Ground breaking study on humor in work relations in the Israeli school system. </li></ul><ul><li>Highlighting aspects of culture and context in the day to day use of humor. </li></ul><ul><li>Examining changes in humor use throughout an individuals career. </li></ul><ul><li>Examining motivation and personal benefits </li></ul>
  4. 5. Research methods <ul><li>Humor was defined as any expression that led to laughter or amusement reported by a participant. </li></ul><ul><li>Semi structured interviews were conducted with 35 Israeli education workers – 15 veteran principals, 10 new principals, and 10 teachers. </li></ul><ul><li>Qualitative analysis & Grounded theory were used to uncover themes and subcategories emerging from the text. </li></ul>
  5. 6. Humor and leadership <ul><li>Humor has been found to enhance principals' messages to teachers </li></ul><ul><li>create and improve school climate, </li></ul><ul><li>communicate principals' understanding of teaching demands, </li></ul><ul><li>break down the rigidity of bureaucratic structures, </li></ul><ul><li>convey sanctions and other necessary unpleasantries (Pierson and Bredeson 1993). </li></ul><ul><li>Principals who share humor in the workplace have teachers with higher job satisfaction (Hurren, 2006). </li></ul>
  6. 7. Findings: factors affecting use of humor <ul><li>Tenure and seniority – veteran principals described how as their confidence in their managerial skills grew, so did their use of humor. </li></ul><ul><li>Principals who had held previous leadership positions (assistant principal) felt more confident using humor in their first years of principalship. </li></ul><ul><li>Personality and disposition . Reverting to comfort zone. </li></ul><ul><li>Perceptions of humor. </li></ul>
  7. 8. Perceptions of humor <ul><li>Negative: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I'm not the class clown </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I need to maintain my distance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They need to take me seriously </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Positive: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Humor lets me reduce my stress </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humor helps me get along/get my way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humor is being myself. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 9. Findings: humor and culture <ul><li>1. Management culture created by a particular </li></ul><ul><li>school principal </li></ul><ul><li>2. Work culture established by </li></ul><ul><li>the wider school system </li></ul><ul><li>3. Humor as an aspect of Israeli </li></ul><ul><li>Jewish culture in modern day Israel . </li></ul>
  9. 10. Humor as an aspect of Israeli Ministry of Education culture <ul><li>Most teachers have tenure and cannot be fired. </li></ul><ul><li>Principals are usually teachers who have advanced through the system, often from inside the school they manage – having to negotiate the move from being &quot;one of the gang&quot; to becoming a superior. </li></ul><ul><li>During the past two decades principals have become more academized, requiring a graduate degree, while principal age drops. </li></ul>Principals must rely almost solely on their interpersonal skills to manage humor
  10. 11. A two way street: Humor as interaction between principal and teachers <ul><li>Enabling humor in the workplace enables teachers to communicate messages to the principal in a non- threatening way. </li></ul><ul><li>Findings of teacher interviews and survey found that teacher perceptions of whether their principal was funny were influenced by their relationship with the principal, the closer circle reporting more humor. </li></ul>
  11. 12. <ul><li>A principal described how her staff joked about her at the end of year party, describing how they could tell her mood by the way she wrote messages on the board in the staff room: </li></ul><ul><li>... “when she (the principal) writes a notice that ends in exclamation marks... then watch out, get out of her way today. But when she writes the message and even puts on a smiley face, we know it's going to be a good day&quot;. I laughed so much... but I also listened to what they were telling me. My mood was affecting my staff. They didn't confront me, but the message got through. </li></ul>
  12. 13. Humor as an aspect of Israeli culture <ul><li>Informal work relations are common in Israeli culture. Lack of distance and few behaviors displaying formal hierarchy (informal dress codes, first name basis). </li></ul><ul><li>Culturally diverse workplace - Israel is an immigrant society (russian, ethiopian, mizrachi and ashkenazi). </li></ul><ul><li>Gender - The majority of Israeli teachers are female. Male and female principals work with a predominantly female staff . </li></ul>
  13. 14. Complex and uncertain political reality: Humor under fire <ul><li>A principal described how she used humor to control her staff under extreme circumstances when they were forced to run to a bomb shelter during the missile attacks on the south: </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;One teacher was lagging behind so to speed her up I called out to her; three, two, one – Boom, You're dead. What would you like us to write on your tombstone?'. </li></ul>
  14. 15. Initial conclusions <ul><li>Principals use humor to soften the tone of authority in a complex situation. </li></ul><ul><li>In ambivalent situations there is a thin line between superior and fellow human being </li></ul><ul><li>Shared meaning and relation to context are the most important ways for a principal to generate effective managerial humor. </li></ul><ul><li>Uses of humor are viewed through the lense of ongoing interpersonal relationships and provide an insight into the relationship. </li></ul>
  15. 16. Problems and future research. <ul><li>Participants had trouble recalling examples of humorous behavior in an interview situation, even though they believed these examples existed. </li></ul><ul><li>The next stage of this study will include field study observing the use of humor in everyday managerial situations, in order to uncover actual behavior patterns and themes in the uses of humor </li></ul><ul><li>“ Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school - Albert Einstein </li></ul>
  16. 17. Thank you for listening <ul><li>www.debbie.iancu .com </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>