Playing at work : understanding humour in contemporary corporate culture
2012-05-23T12:55:58Z (GMT) by
This thesis explores how employees use humour in their everyday experience of fun corporate cultures. Several problems with play as a management initiative have already been noted: management do not always support the initiatives (Redman and Matthews, 2002); employees can be quite cynical (Fleming, 2005); and feel belittled (Warren and Fineman, 2007). Considering these effects of corporate culture, this thesis examines the experiences of employees who engage with the corporate culture to explore how they use humour. In order to do so, the thesis considers the nature of humour as a social phenomenon as a social, emotion and embodied mode of communication. This thesis is concerned with the creative industries in particular, as a context where play is linked to a self-managing workforce. It examines several themes which have emerged within the literature on fun identities, managing emotions and space and materiality in fun corporate cultures. The latter chapters explore the findings from three creative organisations to consider how humour is performative. In order to do so, it analyses how employees use humour as a tactic drawing on De Certeau's (1984) distinction between strategies and tactics within the everyday. De Certeau's work distinguishes how strategies form proper spaces with dominant meanings and the tactics which the users of the space invoke in order to re-appropriate the space. This thesis argues that by seeing humour as a tactic, it is possible to divide the use of fun into four different discourses which work on employees subjectivity. This thesis makes three contributions to the study of humour in fun corporate cultures. First, it contributes empirically through forming a four-way typology linking discourses on fun to tactics of humour and the effect on employees subjectivity. Second, it uses a novel method of studying humour through designing a humour log which encourages employees to be conscious and reflective of humour. Finally, it makes a theoretical contribution through applying De Certeau's work on strategies and tactics to the material and spatial features of the organisations (Lefebvre, 1991).