The purpose of this paper is to explore the interplay of organizational humorous teasing and workplace bullying in hospital work life in order to investigate how workplace bullying can emerge from doctors and nurses experiences of what, at first, appears as “innocent” humorous interactions.
Based on an ethnographic field study among doctors and nurses at Rigshospitalet (University Hospital of Copenhagen, Denmark) field notes, transcriptions from two focus groups and six in-depth interviews were analyzed using a cross-sectional thematic analysis.
This study demonstrates how bullying may emerge out of a distinctive joking practice, in which doctors and nurses continually relate to one another with a pronounced degree of derogatory teasing. The all-encompassing and omnipresent teasing entails that the positions of perpetrator and target persistently change, thereby excluding the position of bystander. Doctors and nurses report that they experience the humiliating teasing as detrimental, although they feel continuously forced to participate because of the fear of otherwise being socially excluded. Consequently, a concept of “fluctuate bullying” is suggested wherein nurses and doctors feel trapped in a “double bind” position, being constrained to bully in order to avoid being bullied themselves.
The present study add to bullying research by exploring and demonstrating how workplace bullying can emerge from informal social power struggles embedded and performed within ubiquitous humorous teasing interactions.
Mortensen, M. and Baarts, C.A. (2018), "Killing ourselves with laughter … mapping the interplay of organizational teasing and workplace bullying in hospital work life", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 10-31. https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-10-2016-1429
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