The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 10, No 2 (2022)

Laughing along? Negotiating belonging as a workplace newcomer

Meredith Marra


Successfully joining a new workplace community is demanding, especially when this involves crossing national boundaries in addition to team boundaries. For outsiders, humour is an area that arguably presents a challenge to full participation, particularly when local understandings are not shared, nor even recognized as distinctive. Newcomers face the challenge of navigating the trajectory from legitimate peripheral member towards core status (adopting the terms of the Community of Practice model). This involves cooperating with others in interaction, including engaging with humour and laughter as a way of indicating belonging. Here belonging is operationalized using the two dimensions proposed by Antonsich (2010), namely (1) a sense of belonging and (2) the politics of belonging as evidenced through negotiation with others. Applying an Interactional Sociolinguistic approach, I offer analysis of naturally occurring workplace interactions and reflections from skilled migrant interns in New Zealand workplaces. I discuss the place of laughter in attempts to demonstrate team membership, arguing that these attempts at belonging require the cooperation and endorsement of insiders. The findings indicate that, however benevolently intentioned, the local colleagues’ use of humour, and their reactions to the humour and laughter produced by the skilled migrant interns, often results in a sense of othering and exclusion. This is keenly felt by the interns who note the difficulties that taken for granted practices create in their acceptance and progress. In many cases the result is laughing along, as an outward signal of fit, rather than laughing with which suggests a deeper sense of belonging


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