Are We Having Fun Yet?

This morning I read a BBC.com article by Kate Morgan called “The Death Of ‘Mandatory Fun’ In The Office.”

I don’t go to any of the dumb shit the college tries to throw at us. Every August there’s a big faculty picnic for example. Or there used to be. I don’t even know if they still have that. To their credit, none of this has ever been mandatory, not yet anyway.

On the other hand, admin is so far behind the curve that it wouldn’t shock me a bit if they started requiring attendance at such crap while the corporate trend veers away from it.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a division party every christmas. I show up for the food. Some of these people can fucking cook. Someone invariably brings lumpia and pancit. Mmm, lumpia, yes please. La Profesora and I fill up our plates and head back to her office or mine.

(Sidebar: I’m not using her name for obvious reasons, and it makes me cringe to use “girlfriend” and “boyfriend” for people who are divorced, in their 50s, and have children in their 20s. Plus she teaches Spanish, so La Profesora it is. But I digress.)

We show up late since some dingbat always insists on saying a fucking prayer first. What with The First Amendment and such, I’m not okay with that. In fact, they really shouldn’t be able to have a “christmas” party at all, but I don’t care enough about that hill to fight for it much less die on it…at least not yet. One semester she and I made the mistake of showing up on time. We walked out when the jesus train pulled into the station and came back 5 or 10 minutes later.

For the lumpia.

So much for team building. The sad fact is many of us just don’t care. It’s true; there’s no I in Team. That’s why I don’t participate, so Morgan almost lost me when she wrote this:

Events that people actually want to attend are a helpful way to facilitate team bonding, and to give those who’d prefer to remain mostly remote a good reason to re-join their colleagues. Smart companies are working to identify the types of “fun” workers actually like: the things they’ll show up for because they want to, not because their arm’s twisted.

That may be so, but I don’t want to attend anything. Here’s an idea; pay me. Otherwise, booze, food, horror movies, pinball—at least one of these things has to be present for me to even consider going to a group event. Even then it will probably be a hard pass for me. La Profesora and I once left a party because some loud, pushy fuckwit tried to make everyone play Charades. Fuck that.

Part of it is personality. Despite being in front of a classroom, some of us are introverts…hard introverts. I have neither the need nor the inclination to re-join my colleagues. There are maybe 3 people I work with whom I consider actual friends and therefore associate with off campus. One of them in fact held the party I just mentioned. There might be a couple more I’m on a “chat over coffee” basis with if we run into each other. That’s it.

Anyway, Morgan goes on to quote consultant Paul Lopushinsky:

But there’s always been something a bit insidious about those perks…That culture isn’t really about fun; it’s about getting people to stay longer…It’s a culture of harmony with a lot of disharmony just below the surface.

And that’s what it’s like where I teach. Admin wants the illusion of harmony, the veneer of cooperation, but more and more of us are growing increasingly unwilling to prop all that up. To that point, Morgan also cites Adrian Gostick:

The pandemic has…made people a lot less likely to do things they don’t want to do. I think the pandemic has made us a little angrier, a little more cynical overall, and people just aren’t putting up with things they consider annoying as much anymore.

The troubling key to that statement is the phrase “as much anymore.” Why did people ever have to put up with things they consider annoying in the first place? That’s my question. Gostick, incidentally, is an executive leadership coach who has written a good deal about employee engagement. Tell me that doesn’t make you want to take a 300-foot bungee jump with a 400-foot cord.

He also regales us with the delightfully folksy tale of one corporation using Zoom for “wine-and-whine” sessions:

It’s like four o’clock on a Friday. If you want to have a drink you could, or not, whatever. But you come and whine about the week…It’s an hour, and everybody complains and talks about their terrible clients and aggravating bosses.

Yeah that sounds like loads of fun. It’s also a hell of a lot of trust in one’s coworkers, trust that I just do not have. I can think of at least 4 people right off the top of my head who, like good little shills, sprint to admin with the lowdown on who said what.

Finally, Morgan points out a February 2022 study from Pew Research:

Close to 60% of those who’ve been working from home would prefer to continue doing so…Employees that are ordered back, says Gostick, are likely to simply quit.

I can only look at my checking account and sigh, “If only.”

So in 24 hours I will be going back into a classroom for the start of one of my summer classes. I have 2 face to face classes and 1 on Zoom. I don’t particularly want to be in a classroom. It’s a dangerous and patently stupid idea, but Glenn Youngkin, governor of Virginia, trump-cult member, and republican flunky, feels otherwise.

Apparently our boy Trumpkin ain’t pickin’ up what the good folks at Pew are layin’ down. His Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) Policy 1.61 makes it fairly clear that in-person is the strong preference over telework.

Go team.

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