MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Fun by time-table: Editorial on the right to be boring

In the determined cheeriness of these bleak times, the right to be boring may come as a relief to many

The Editorial Board Published 04.12.22, 04:07 AM
A senior counsel in a consultant firm in Paris, who refused to join his colleagues for regular after-work drinks, was sacked by his employer

A senior counsel in a consultant firm in Paris, who refused to join his colleagues for regular after-work drinks, was sacked by his employer Representational picture

Cheerfulness is not always cheering. High-pitched feel-good culture, which floods social media with happiness markers — pretty boots and diamond top earrings, luxury trips to rainforests, undying love, delicious lobsters, exotic flowers — and trickles into real-life situations such as designated workplace camaraderie lubricated with draughts of vintage, could be expected to make everyone joyful. But the last idea of fun did not enthuse a senior counsel in a consultant firm in Paris, who refused to join his colleagues for regular after-work drinks intended as part of team building. He did not find it ‘fun’, he said in court, where he was fighting his company for sacking him. Not accepting the imposed idea of fun turned him into a ‘boring’ employee difficult to work with, and he was terminated for ‘professional inadequacy’. He had refused to go along with the crowd; he had rejected his employers’ claim on his time and his mood. So the spirit of camaraderie showed its vicious little teeth and the grouch was sacked. Everybody accepted fun; why should he be different?

The court ruled in the sacked employees’ favour, with the judgment pointing out that no employee could be forcibly made to join after-work activities marked by ‘excessive alcoholic intake’. The petitioner himself had made it clear that he did not agree with the company’s ‘incitement’ to ‘various excesses’. Whether he liked a tipple or not, he obviously did not like to have it with his workmates. The right to be boring, a unique right that he won with the judgment, is really the right to be different — to differ freely from the dominant culture and not be harassed for it. Also, the right to ‘critical behaviour’, by virtue of which he became someone difficult to work with, cannot be denied an employee whom the company could not accuse of inefficiency or incompetence. Meanwhile, in the all-round cheeriness of these bleak times, the right to be boring may have come as a relief to many. A person’s preference or mood cannot be dictated; it is part of that person’s right to dignity and to privacy.

Not being the hailfellow-well-met type that everyone loves — and feels safe with — cannot be a ‘professional inadequacy’. How professional is a company that uses its employees’ after-work hours every weekend for team-building? The boundaries between the professional and the private may be an excruciatingly boring matter, but they have to be laid down clearly, especially when work-from-home is so common as to have become a familiar acronym. Aggressive ideas of fun cannot be allowed to override these bounds, which is beside the fact that true enjoyment cannot be born of either coercion or compliance. Being ‘boring’ may become the cool new face of resistance to corporate values that tend to upset that other modern concern — worklife balance. With so many thorny issues to juggle with, maybe Keats’s draught of vintage would be a blessing after all.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT