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Special Issue on 'Are we having fun yet?' - Fun in the Workplace

Special issue call for papers from Employee Relations

Special Issue

Employee Relations


‘Are We Having Fun Yet?’ Guest Edited by Sharon C. Bolton & Maeve Houlihan


NOTE EXTENDED SUBMISSION DATE: Due to changes in the Employee Relations publication schedule, this special issue is now planned for publication in October 2009 and thus it is now possible to submit manuscripts up to the revised closing date: JANUARY 31, 2009.


This forthcoming special issue of Employee Relations ‘Are We Having Fun Yet?’ explores the idea of organised fun at work as the latest employee engagement mechanism.  

From fancy dress days and team based sporting activities, to chill out rooms, party nights or skiing and sailing weekends, an entire industry of laughter consultants’ prescriptions and methods has emerged to advocate and facilitate the creation of fun in the workplace. Yet, are we having fun yet?
It is timely for a fresh look at the notion of fun at work: what it is, what it does, and what it really means to people. This special issue calls for an assessment of the current fascination with this hitherto informal, subterranean social side of work, and the veracity of the very under-theorised association between fun, happiness and productivity. We call for papers that offer new insights into the impulse to ‘manage’ play, laughter, and fun at work; and also people’s reactions to efforts to contain, shape and exploit the creativity and energy to be found in shared humour and humanity in the workplace. Particularly we seek papers that combine original conceptual approaches with empirical studies that capture the actions and reactions of people involved in ‘fun’ cultures.
By focusing on the workplace experience, we aim to foreground a realist, materialist understanding of the implications of the fun at work paradigm; however we welcome papers which engage with the full spectrum of methodologies, perspectives and philosophical traditions within management and organisation studies, including practitioner perspectives and counterpoint.
The idea of packaged fun at work draws on an implied (and surprisingly unquestioned) link between play, fun and laughter and increased corporate performance (Abner, 1997; Ford et al, 2003; Freiberg and Freiberg, 2001; Goldsmith, 2003; Stauffer, 1999).   It appears that it is fully accepted, in the USA at least, that a ‘company that plays together stays together’ (Marriotti, 1999) to the point where some States have introduced an official ‘fun at work’ day (Wilson, 2004).
It is true that fun in the workplace has taken a little longer to catch on in Europe. After all, many European cultures have a long-standing reputation for being miserable at work. Nevertheless, recently much energy is being invested in trying to persuade workers in Europe that work is fun and happiness is within our grasp, if only we would recognise the role we have to play as individuals (Crace, 2002; Kinnie et al, 2000; Layard, 2006). This is echoed by policy and political agendas around the science of ‘happiness’ as an antidote or talisman on mental health, motivation, community building and national wellbeing. Ideas all fitting well with the corporate agenda for motivated, energised, self managing citizens. The result is gurus promising that investment in ‘fun’ will not only create happiness but also energy, performance and commitment (Reed, 2003); and so UK’s ‘best’ companies spend on average £700 per employee on fun activities , and employees report high levels of laughter at work as an indicator of ‘a great place to work’ (The Sunday Times, 2006). 
In parallel, a growing movement of ‘positive’ scholarship has emerged in psychology, economics, and organisation studies that seeks to empirically theorise the optimisation of human potential (Snyder and Lopez, 2002; Cameron, Dutton and Quinn, 2003; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), sometimes misunderstood as seeking to supplant critical analysis with affirmative thinking, but whose intention is fundamentally to address the bias in psychology and organisation studies towards negative inputs and outcomes or more simply, to accentuate the positive. Quite simply, fun is a serious business. 
Of course, the notion of organised fun at work is not without its critics (Barsoux, 1993; Bolton, 2006; Gordon, 1992; Hamilton, 2000) who question the motivations behind manufactured fun at work and the exclusive tendencies of ‘fun’ cultures and the assumed benefits for all at. Typically, in critical accounts of work, fun has had a subversive character. Laughter and game playing are used to undermine the management prerogative and upset the status quo (Ackroyd and Thompson, 1999; Bolton, 2005; Taylor and Bain, 2003), to provide space for escape as much as a means of engagement. Ample ethnographic studies tell us that people will make their own fun (Ackroyd and Crowdy, 1992; Houlihan, 2002; Westwood, 1988). In the pockets of organisational life, in the rich tapestry of the informal organisation, and in the agonies, ecstasies and painful humanity of life, there among the cracks, lies the truth of fun… the mechanism by which we survive and thrive in times of pain and joy, through shared stories, purged stress, moments of wilful insanity, shared humanity and cutting clarity. So too, in rituals that evoke memories and roles, as with Ike and Sammy’s banana time (Roy, 1973) or Ackroyd and Crowdy’s (1990) slaughterhouse games. These rituals offer shorthand reference points for a web of coping mechanisms, shared experiences, and shared negotiations of everyday life. These, we would like to argue, are the moments of truth in organisational life.   What empirical research tells us is that we probably don’t call any of this fun. We probably think of it as life - the stuff of everyday survival.
Fun is a topic worthy of serious intellectual engagement and, we hope that this special issue will prove a forum for lively and vigorous debate. We particular invite papers from contributors who have an eye to the social and organisational contexts, the material experience, the paradoxes and what is being omitted in this emphasis on fun. 
Papers may wish to, but are not restricted to:

  • Present accounts or data on organisational initiatives around fun, and formal engagement with the social side of organising

  • Explore the philosophical underpinnings and the case for and against the implied link between fun, workplace morale and productivity

  • Critically appraise the science of happiness movement and related developments in positive organisation studies as a precursor to ideas about fun at work.

  • Dialogue with consultants, practitioners, managers and employees about their intentions and experiences in this domain

  • Reflect on the implications of the fun agenda for workplace practice

  • Determine, whether indeed, we are having fun yet by offering a historical, structural, or geographical comparative analysis

  • Consider who fun is for, who it omits

  • Highlight methodological avenues for appraising workplace fun

Manuscript requirements
Manuscripts of between 3000-6000 words should be submitted to the editors no later than January 31 2009. Please email by word document attachment, with Employee Relations in the subject line, to:
Professor Sharon C. Bolton: [email protected], and
Dr Maeve Houlihan: [email protected]
Manuscripts should be double line spaced with wide margins. All authors should be shown and author's details on the first page, which will be removed prior to the double blind review process - and the author should not be identified anywhere else in the article.
Each paper submitted is subjected to the following review procedures:
  • It is reviewed by the editor for general suitability for this publication
  • If it is judged suitable two reviewers are selected and a double blind review process takes place
  • Based on the recommendations of the reviewers, the editor then decides whether the particular article should be accepted as it is, revised or rejected.
Submission Guide
  1. As a guide, articles should be between 3000 and 6000 words in length.
  2. A title of not more than eight words should be provided.
  3. A brief autobiographical note should be supplied including:
    • Full name
    • Affiliation
    • E-mail address and full international contact details
    • Brief professional biography.
NB This information should be provided on a separate sheet and authors should not be identified anywhere else in the article.
  1. Authors must supply a structured abstract set out under 4-6 sub-headings (see our "How to... write an abstract" guide for practical help and guidance):
    • Purpose (mandatory)
    • Design/methodology/approach (mandatory)
    • Findings (mandatory)
    • Research limitations/implications (if applicable)
    • Practical implications (if applicable)
    • Originality/value (mandatory).
Maximum is 250 words in total. In addition provide up to six keywords which encapsulate the principal topics of the paper and categorize your paper under one of these classifications:
    • Research paper
    • Viewpoint
    • Technical paper
    • Conceptual paper
    • Case study
    • Literature review
    • General review.
  1. Headings must be short, with a clear indication of the distinction between the hierarchy of headings. The preferred format is for headings to be presented in bold format, with consecutive numbering.
  2. Notes or Endnotes should be used only if absolutely necessary and must be identified in the text by consecutive numbers, enclosed in square brackets and listed at the end of the article.
  3. All Figures (charts, diagrams and line drawings) and Plates (photographic images) should be submitted in both electronic form and as hard copy originals. They should be of clear quality, in black and white and numbered consecutively with arabic numerals.
       Figures created in MS Word, MS PowerPoint, MS Excel, Illustrator and Freehand should be saved in their native formats.
       Electronic figures created in other applications should be copied from the origination software and pasted into a blank MS Word document or saved and imported into a MS Word document by choosing "Insert" from the menu bar, "Picture" from the drop-down menu and selecting "From File..." to select the graphic to be imported.
    For figures which cannot be supplied in MS Word, acceptable standard image formats are: .pdf, .ai, .wmf and .eps. If you are unable to supply graphics in these formats then please ensure they are .tif, .jpeg (.jpg) , or .bmp at a resolution of at least 300dpi and at least 10cm wide.
       To prepare screenshots, simultaneously press the "Alt" and "Print screen" keys on the keyboard, open a blank Microsoft Word document and simultaneously press "Ctrl" and "V" to paste the image. (Capture all the contents/windows on the computer screen to paste into MS Word, by simultaneously pressing "Ctrl" and "Print screen".)
       Plates (photographic images) should be saved as .tif or .jpeg (.jpg) files at a resolution of at least 300dpi and at least 10cm wide. Digital camera settings should be set at the highest possible resolution/quality.
       In the text of the paper the preferred position of all tables, figures and plates should be indicated by typing on a separate line the words "Take in Figure (No.)" or "Take in Plate (No.)".
  4. Tables should be typed and included as part of the manuscript. They should not be submitted as graphic elements. Supply succinct and clear captions for all tables, figures and plates. Ensure that any superscripts or asterisks are shown next to the relevant items and have corresponding explanations displayed as footnotes to the table, figure or plate.
  5. References to other publications must be in Harvard style and carefully checked for completeness, accuracy and consistency. This is very important in an electronic environment because it enables your readers to exploit the Reference Linking facility on the database and link back to the works you have cited through CrossRef.
       You should cite publications in the text: (Adams, 2006) using the first named author's name or (Adams and Brown, 2006) citing both names of two, or (Adams
    et al., 2006), when there are three or more authors. At the end of the paper a reference list in alphabetical order should be supplied:
    • For books: Surname, Initials (year), Title of Book, Publisher, Place of publication.
      e.g. Harrow, R. (2005),
      No Place to Hide, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.
    • For book chapters: Surname, Initials (year), "Chapter title", Editor's Surname, Initials, Title of Book, Publisher, Place of publication, pages.
      e.g. Calabrese, F.A. (2005), "The early pathways: theory to practice – a continuum", in Stankosky, M. (Ed.),
      Creating the Discipline of Knowledge Management, Elsevier, New York, NY, pp. 15-20.
    • For journals: Surname, Initials (year), "Title of article", Journal Name, volume, number, pages.
      e.g. Capizzi, M.T. and Ferguson, R. (2005), "Loyalty trends for the twenty-first century",
      Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 72-80.
    • For working papers: Surname, Initials (year), "Title of article", working paper [number if available], Institution or organization, Place of organization, date.
      e.g. Mozier, P. (2003), "How published academic research can inform policy decisions: the case of mandatory rotation of audit appointments", working paper, Leeds University Business School, University of Leeds, Leeds, 28 March.
    • For encyclopedia entries (with no author or editor):Title of Encyclopedia (year) "Title of entry", volume, edition, Title of Encyclopedia, Publisher, Place of publication, pages.
      Encyclopaedia Britannica (1926) "Psychology of culture contact", Vol. 1, 13th ed., Encyclopaedia Britannica, London and New York, NY, pp. 765-71.
      (For authored entries please refer to book chapter guidelines above.)
    • For newspaper articles (authored): Surname, Initials (year), "Article title", Newspaper, date, pages.
      e.g. Smith, A. (2008), "Money for old rope",
      Daily News, 21 January, pp. 1, 3-4.
    • For newspaper articles (non-authored):Newspaper (year), "Article title", date, pages.
      Daily News (2008), "Small change", 2 February, p. 7.
    • For electronic sources: if available online the full URL should be supplied at the end of the reference, as well as a date that the resource was accessed, e.g. Castle, B. (2005), "Introduction to web services for remote portlets", available at: (accessed 12 November 2007).
  6. Final submission of the article
    Once accepted for publication, the editor may request the final version as an attached file to an e-mail or to be supplied on a CD-ROM labelled with author name(s); title of article; journal title; file name. Each article must be accompanied by a completed and signed Journal Article Record Form available online or from the Editor.
    Authors should note that proofs are not supplied prior to publication. The manuscript will be considered to be the definitive version of the article. The author must ensure that it is complete, grammatically correct and without spelling or typographical errors.
    The preferred file format is Word. For technical/maths content, Rich Text Format (.rtf) is acceptable