Cracking jokes and crafting selves: Sensemaking and identity management among human service workers

Sarah Tracy, Karen K. Myers, Clifton W. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

90 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using interview and participant-observation data gathered among correctional officers, 911 call-takers, and firefighters, this study explores how humor enables human service workers to manage identity and make sense of their work in relation to preferred notions of self. In the face of trying job duties, humor serves employee identity needs through differentiation, superiority, role distance, and relief. Moreover, humor serves as a sensemaking vehicle through which employees select, maintain, reproduce, and reify preferred interpretations of work. The analysis characterizes humor as an unfolding, collaborative, and interactional practice that can play a key part in socializing newcomers, building knowledge, and constituting the organizing process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-308
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Monographs
Volume73
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006

Keywords

  • Humor
  • Identity
  • Organizational Sensemaking
  • Qualitative Research
  • Role Distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics

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