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The Norms of Workplace Teasing: Teasers, Targets, and Their Differing Experiences
Teasing is a communication act that simultaneously serves both inclusion and exclusion functions and has the potential to impact work dynamics just as it does interactions outside the work context. We seek to better understand teasing in work contexts by investigating the nature of workplace teasing and whether one’s role in a teasing episode influences how it is experienced—as inclusionary (playful) or exclusionary (provocative). We report on a survey of working adults and two vignette experiments, which together examine workplace norms surrounding teasing and how people experience the same teasing event differently. Results show that while the norms for workplace teasing (which tend to focus on characteristics of the target and occur between people of equal status while in the presence of others) are generally inclusionary, teasers and targets differ in terms of how their evaluate the intention and impact of the tease, especially when the target reacts negatively.