In the last decades, a significant body of literature has emerged to direct attention to the emotional aspects of organizing. Organizations have been investigated as sites for the enactment of humor, fun, eroticism, irony, and cynicism, to mention some of the important contributions. Taken together, these have shed light on the social and emotional dimensions of organizing and contributed significantly to our understanding of organizational life. In this nexus, boredom, as a sense of emptiness and lack of meaning and direction, also has its place.

Boredom, as ennui, has been described as one of the central features of modernity. It is intrinsically linked to routines, institutions, and repetition – aspects that are central in the constitution of organizations. Boredom constitutes a threat, in that it implies a lack of meaning, purpose and direction, and hence reveals the workings of power. Hence, organizations tend to pretend not to be boring, but to engage in a variety of ‘boredom strategies’ that keep people engaged and focused. Among these strategies a remarkable one is making the organization ‘a place for fun’.

This is an area of strategic concern for scholars in social anthropology and organization theory, since it concerns directly the social contract between individual and organization and brings to the fore issues of subjectivity and control, as well as emotional responses to organizational constraints and work assignments. Research has focused mainly on the more positive dimensions of emotional response, such as humor, fun and play, and much less so on the negative dimensions, such as lack of motivation, boredom and ennui. It has been stated that boredom and its associated emotions constitute a threat to management, since it risks averting the energies and foci of employees towards productivity loss and resistance strategies. We argue that these aspects of organizational life are clearly under-researched and that they merit further investigation. This is also an area which is increasingly attracting the attention of researchers at global level, and thus of strategic value.

The project involves interviews with managers in corporations in both Sweden and France. We also rely on media studies, such as documentaries and fictions relevant for the research purpose. The project is run in collaboration with Hervé Laroche (ESCP, Paris) and has received funding by ECSP, Paris.