You know what I hate? Fun.

Not all fun, but specifically work fun. I wish people would stop trying to make me have it.

I’m telling you this – breaking the silence – because I know I am not alone. I know there are many good employees out there who break out in hives every time they get invited to a corporate team event slash “celebration,” and we’re all suffering in silence because we’re afraid to admit it. And it’s time to blow the lid off this dark well of secret pain.

Here’s a conversation I recently had with a colleague:

CW: “Hey, are you dressing up for the Halloween party (which was happening in the middle of the work day!)?”

Me: “Ugh. No. I hate that sort of thing. It just stresses me out – having to find a costume and put it on and spend time pretending to have fun when I want to be working. Nope. No way.”

CW (staring at me in stunned silence): 

Me: “What?”

CW: “Wow. I feel the same way. I would just never say it out loud.”

Because OF COURSE HE DOES, but he’s scared to speak up because people will think he’s not a team player. And that’s no way to live.

I suspect that if everyone actually did speak up we’d learn that almost everyone feels this way – and once it was on the table, we could all stop pretending to have fun and just get on with our jobs and lives.

If you work in an office, you know what I mean by “fun.” Midday gatherings and midweek drinks, team-building exercises in which everyone is encouraged to share and play trust games, quarterly “celebrations.”

It’s not that I begrudge people who do find these things fun, I just think people shouldn’t feel pressured to do so (and my guess is that most people don’t). And it’s not that I never enjoy hanging out with colleagues. I actually really like my colleagues, and love an annual party, but I have close friends I haven’t seen in two years, because I have a toddler, so if there’s an hour free for booze somewhere in the week, I can’t shake the feeling that I should really be catching up with one of them, or running home to fold laundry or change the litter box.

But, while many people feel the same way, management and HR types these days are all about “cultural fit,” and as a result there is pressure at a lot of organizations to hang out with your coworkers, to prove you’re cool and likeable, to prove you’re part of a team. And those who aren’t all that interested in being overly social can be passed over for promotion, or even outright penalized.

A friend of mine is certain he’s been overlooked because he doesn’t participate in “team building” events, preferring to focus on work during work hours and his children during off hours.

Just because someone don’t want to play paintball with 100 people he sees almost every single day doesn’t mean he’s not management material. It’s time to stop this madness.

Do I have a solution? OK, no. I don’t. But I’m speaking out with the hope that some management and HR teams will read this and rethink some of the ways they measure an employee’s value if they’re putting too much emphasis on how social that employee is.

And I’m doing it just in time for the holiday season, to let those of you who are dreading the office party know that it’s OK to feel that way, and that when you’re looking around the room in a drunken haze you’ll be looking at about 75 other people who feel exactly the same way. And though you’re all suffering in silence, you will know that you’re not alone.

United in isolation.

United as a team.

How about you? Office fun – love it or hate it?