4.7   Just a joke!

A critical analysis of organizational humor

Barbara Plester


A bitter jest, when it comes too near the truth, leaves a sharp sting behind it.

(Tacitus, ad 117)

This chapter offers a unique critical analysis of workplace humor based on empirical research situated within a variety of different corporate organizations. The research is unique because specific analyses of humor are few and this one is based on an ethnographic approach incorporating observations, interviews, documentary data, and everyday conversations from actual workplaces. Not only are workplace analyses of humor scarce but they are mostly based on a functional interpretation of humor that assumes the uses of humor to be “self-evident”1 and functionalist ...

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