You don't have to be 'fun' at work, but it's good for your career

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On Sunday, a Washington Post headline seemed to herald a small victory for office employees everywhere: "French man wins right to not be 'fun' at work."

Slackers of the world, unite! No longer will we have to show up and smile for what our bosses call "fun" and what the rest of us call "mandatory."

Naturally, the story is a bit more complicated than that. Our Gallic hero didn't simply refuse to attend the holiday cookie swap in the conference room. He was fired for failing to go along with coworkers who operated the office like a frat house, complete with hard drinking, mock sexual acts and crude nicknames.

With that context, it's no surprise the courts ruled he had a "fundamental freedom" to sit out such social events. But WaPo's headline raises an interesting question: How "fun" do you actually have to be in the workplace?

'You need to fit into the culture'

The answer will vary from office to office. And for job seekers, determining where you fit in will require some introspection. 

"The important thing to consider when looking for a job is what kind of work environment you want and prefer," says Toni Frana, career services manager at FlexJobs. "For some people, fun is part of the answer."

It's important to gauge the level of fun you'll be expected to deal with during the application process by asking your hiring managers or current employees about company culture, career experts say. Are there social events? If so, what kind? Do employees get together after hours? Is participation expected?

Even if you've found a company whose culture you like, you may find yourself rolling your eyes at an invitation to another 2 p.m. ugly sweater party. Depending on what you want out of your job, it could be wise to RSVP anyway. 

"If you're looking to stay and get promoted and contribute to that organization for the long term, you need to fit into the culture," says Stacie Haller, a career expert at ResumeBuilder. "If none of that is important and your job is more transactional, you may feel more comfortable not participating."

In other words, if you eventually want a promotion, you may have to occasionally put on the sweater. Come on, it'll be fun!

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