09th Dec 2022 by Adjust

What is Fun?

We spoke with Marianne Eloise to hear her thoughts on the recent case in France, where a man known as Mr T won the legal right “not to be fun at work”. It got us thinking – what is fun? Many neurodivergent employees may have been discriminated against in the workplace as they may sometimes find typical workplace social activities hard to join in with.

Marianne explains more below…

What is fun? For me, fun might mean playing Zelda at home alone, swimming in the sea, or going to a big rock show with my friends. For someone else, those activities might sound like an actual nightmare, and I wouldn’t force them on anyone. When it comes to workplaces, you’re often encouraged to partake in “fun” activities with the people on your team in an effort to team build–but that well-meaning encouragement tends to ignore that fun looks different to everyone. You’ve got to keep a lot of people in the office happy, and as a result activities tend to include lots of after-work drinking or team-building activities that tend to look a little too much like sports day.

But what are you supposed to do? If you say no, you risk being a killjoy or seeming like you don’t want to get to know your colleagues. Of course, you’re not obligated to get to know your colleagues at all, but particularly if you’re neurodivergent, the way you want to get closer to them might be a little different. Maybe you don’t drink, or you struggle with sports, or you’re not the best team player. But activities that cater to the majority often don’t take into account the accessibility needs of the minority.

In France, reports Insider, a man known only as Mr T won the legal right to “not be fun” at work after refusing to embrace “excessive alcoholism” and “promiscuity”. Mr T joined the consultancy firm in 2011 but was fired in 2015 for “professional incompetence”–specifically his refusal to adhere to their “fun” values. In this more extreme case, the “fun” included regular obligatory social events out of work hours that culminated in excessive alcoholism, promiscuity, bullying and incitement. The court outlined various “humiliating and intrusive” practices promoted by the firm, which is obviously a little extreme, but the case highlights the growing issue in workplaces of obligatory “fun”.

This kind of obligation could be difficult for anyone, but for neurodivergent people, it can be particularly complicated and painful to be forced to take part. Many neurodivergent people, particularly those who are autistic, don’t or can’t drink, meaning that many workplace outings can be uncomfortable–especially if there’s pressure to. For those who are autistic and may struggle with becoming overwhelmed in group settings, especially when there’s competition involved, activities can become stressful and lead to meltdowns. While someone might want to take part, needing to sit out could lead to them being ostracised by people who don’t understand their accessibility needs.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that workplaces shouldn’t encourage colleagues to get to know one another or have fun. It does mean that the people organising social engagements should bear some things in mind: for example, what’s fun for one person isn’t for another. Maybe take a poll and see who wants to actually take part and what they want to do? Maybe give people a couple of different options for activities, some of which are lower engagement or less active. When it comes to drinking, never pressure people to drink, particularly in professional settings. Above all, don’t make people feel bad or weird if they struggle to take part–people always have their own ways of connecting with each other, and a drunk sports day isn’t always the best one for everyone.

To learn more about Neurodiversity why not contact Adjust to start your Neurodiversity conversation today.