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From initiate to insider : renegotiating workplace roles and relations using staged humorous events
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 authored by Kirrilly ThompsonKirrilly Thompson
Like anthropologists entering the field as “outsiders,” initiates to organizations need to learn new cultures as they transition to “insiders” or veterans. Organizational research has identified the role that spontaneous humor plays in this transition. However, there has been little research into “staged” humorous events. At the same time, anthropological practice has identified various ethnographic research techniques designed to expedite entrée to a social group or organization. However, there has been no research on the implications of a colleague delivering an ethnography of a group back to itself. In this article, I detail a strategy that combined humor and the ethnography genre: the delivery of a workplace ethnography back to colleagues. Through a post hoc analysis, I explore the significance of this staged humorous event. In particular, I identify the impact of the ethnographic genre, inclusive narratives, and ambiguity as devices (in addition to the satirical tone). Through these devices, I was able to invite colleagues to engage with an alternative organizational vision in which I was an “insider.” I consider the effect of staged humorous events such as humorous workplace ethnographies on workplace identities and relations in general, and the initiation of new workers in particular. This auto-ethnographic article is based on 9 months of opportunistic participant-observation with an Australian research center.