"It only hurts when I laugh"


dark side

How to Cite

Plester, B., Bentley, T., & Brewer, E. (2022). "It only hurts when I laugh": tolerating bullying humour in order to belong at work. The European Journal of Humour Research, 10(2), 116–134. https://doi.org/10.7592/EJHR.2022.10.2.645


Our study examines the impacts on workers when organisational humour is repeated, sustained, dominating, and potentially harmful, and thus can be considered to be bullying. In an ethnographic study of an idiosyncratic New Zealand IT company, we observed humour that was sexualised, dominating, and perpetrated by the most powerful organizational members. We argue that the compelling need for belonging in this extreme organizational culture influenced workers to accept bullying humour as just a joke and therefore acceptable and harmless even when it contravened societal workplace norms. Our contribution is in identifying and extending the significant theoretical relationship between workplace humour and bullying that, to date, is not well-explored in organizational research.



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