Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Jablin's Organizational Assimilation Theory and Humor: A Closer Look at the Ontological and Epistemological Issues of How Humor Can Be Used to Assimilate into an Organization

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Jablin's Organizational Assimilation Theory and Humor: A Closer Look at the Ontological and Epistemological Issues of How Humor Can Be Used to Assimilate into an Organization

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

When a new member is trying to gain acceptance into an organization that s/he is working for, it can be difficult as the organization is an unfamiliar place with new cultural practices, new faces, and an overall new environment. Similarly, when an organization is assimilating new members, it can be an awkward period of introducing cultural beliefs, norms, and values. New members can use the communicative phenomenon of humor as an effective strategy when trying to assimilate into an organization to help ease a possible uncomfortable situation. Moreover, organizational assimilation and humor can be used together in theory and practice because it can help a new member assimilate into an organization with less difficulty or help an organization assimilate its new members more effectively. In this article, I contribute to theoretical discussion by examining the process of organizational assimilation and its connection with humor through ontological and epistemological issues.

INTRODUCTION

Assimilating into an organization is a process that takes careful consideration on the part of new members and the organization itself. That is, this particular process communicates many messages that can aid/hinder an employee's perception of an organization, or aid/hinder an organization's perception of its new members (Booth-Butterfield & Booth-Butterfield, 1991). Humor is one type of interaction in the organizational assimilation process that can be problematic. If used carefully, humor is a communicative strategy that can help members assimilate into an organization with less difficulty. A new member's humor, an organization's overall humor, and/or an existing organizational member's humor need careful consideration as these factors are important in the overall assimilation process. If humor is not used with consideration, it can offend another member or cause disruption within the organizational culture (Collinson, 2002; Smith, Harrington, & Neck, 2000). Humor issues related to organizational assimilation require diplomacy to ensure an efficient transition.

The organizational assimilation process and humor have an interrelated connection that needs greater detailed examination. There has been much germinal research on organizational assimilation and similar theories (e.g., acculturation, organizational learning, organizational socialization, etc.) within business, industrial psychology, and management (Duncan & Weiss, 1979; Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, & Sanders, 1990; Louis, 1980; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). However, no researcher has examined humor as an assimilation strategy, especially from a communication perspective. Although Jablin is at the forefront of organizational assimilation research in our discipline (Jablin, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1994, 2001; Jablin & Krone, 1987; Jablin & McComb, 1984), he along with other researchers in various fields have failed to examine each particular kind of interaction at each stage using humor. Humor is a psychological construct that involves communication because how a function of humor (e.g., joking, teasing, practical jokes, satirical humor, etc.) is communicated, relies heavily on how it is interpreted. Furthermore, communication scholars need to further this topic of inquiry because it can help members in their respective assimilation processes. In this article, I make an effort at contributing more towards the realm of theoretical discussion. If used strategically, as this article attempts in demonstrating, humor can be a way of assimilating with more ease. In addition, organizations can benefit from learning more about the connection between assimilation and humor. In other words, learning more about the respective connection can help ease the partnership between organizations and new members.

To serve this purpose, I first explain the organizational assimilation process, as particularly identified by Jablin (1982). …

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