Navigating the Indonesian workplace hierarchy: Managers’ use of humour as a rapport building strategy

Eleni Petraki, Ismarita Ramayanti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The recent legislation enforcing male and female equality in the Indonesian workplace and the gradual increase of Indonesian women in leadership positions has generated religious debates treating gender equality as a Western hegemonic influence and a contradiction to Indonesia's cultural values. These sociopolitical changes have created new discourse practices which male and female leaders now need to negotiate. To address these novel gender and linguistic practices and extend the limited research on leadership discourse, this research investigated the manager's use of humour as a politeness strategy in Indonesian business meetings. Previous research identified the formal nature of business exchanges, the importance of hierarchy and respect for authority in the workplace. Using the discursive approach to politeness, the concept of relational practice and communities of practice, this paper examined male and female managers’ deployment of humour in Indonesian meetings. The study revealed that both male and female managers widely adopted humour mainly to promote group solidarity and cohesiveness. Female managers also utilized humour as a device for mitigating their criticism of male staff, and asserting power and authority. The deployment of humour by both male and female managers to enhance collegiality reflects changes in workplace discourse and may be characteristic of Indonesia's modernization and the influence exerted by global forces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-209
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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