Humor in the workplace: A regulating and coping mechanism in socialization

Bernie Chun Nam MAK, Yiqi LIU, Christopher Charles DENEEN

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Professionals transitioning into a workplace face the challenge of socializing into their new working communities. One important factor in this process is humor (Plester and Sayers, 2007). We present a case study of how a newcomer transitioning towards integral status interacts with the use of humor in her new workplace. Using the Communities of Practice framework (Wenger, 1998), we examine workplace discourse collected from a new recruit, Emma, and her colleagues in a Hong Kong firm. The analysis portrays a picture of how humor is a critical element as Emma negotiates relationships with other colleagues and works towards her assigned tasks. Findings suggest that humor can be an indicator to newcomers of appropriate or inappropriate behavior. Humor can be used for newcomers' integration into the workplace; humor can be used by integral members to mold newcomers into the normative ways of doing things. We argue that humor may be used as a regulating and coping mechanism in workplace socialization. Copyright © 2012 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-179
JournalDiscourse and Communication
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


Mak, B. C. N., Liu, Y., & Deneen, C. C. (2012). Humor in the workplace: A regulating and coping mechanism in socialization. Discourse and Communication, 6(2), 163-179. doi: 10.1177/1750481312437445


  • Hong Kong
  • Humor
  • Workplace communication
  • Workplace discourse
  • Workplace learning
  • Workplace socialization


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