Corporate bonding sessions. Gotta love those. Also known as “Off-sites”; “Team building”; “Staff retreats”. Whatever you want to call these gatherings, most people hate them and rarely do they deliver to their purpose.
A few weeks ago, my team had one of these team building “off-sites” (or as one of my friends called it, an “off-floor” as we were simply in the building next door). Although it started with the usual boring corporate drivel that is known as the team briefing, it was followed by what turned out to be a rather fun afternoon of a mini Amazing Race (I must admit my competitive streak took over once our teams were announced and we took off running). It was exhausting and my team was cheated of valuable points that would have seen us take ownership of the plastic winner’s cup, but that’s another story.
I call all this kind of group love-in a “ra-ra” session – you know, like the cheerleaders you see on American shows: “We are the best! Ra ra ra! Forget about the rest! Ra ra ra!” Today, we had another one on a grander scale with the broader department – it was the quarterly ra-ra where we had senior managers telling us what was going on around the division , followed by a visit by a well-known motivational guest-speaker. That, in itself, should have made for a good afternoon of ra-ra. But alas, no, they had to spoil it by making us participate in a ridiculous team activity. Try making 200 people follow instructions to pretend they were climbing from mountains which consisted of people carrying little cards that are meant to represent items you could take on the climb with you and plastic poles spread around the room supposedly representing different destination points.
This is what happens at the best of times when you know the people you are in the team with and worse when you don’t. There are 3 general types of participants:
- There will be those who “hog” the leadership position regardless of whether they understand the instructions or not. These are the people who insist on telling you what to do even though they don’t know what they are talking about. They are what I would call the dead wood managers – if they talk loudly enough they could almost convince themselves they are right but refuse to listen to others;
- Then there are those who have no idea what is going on, don’t care to know what is going on, and would just happily sit back and let others do the hard work while they drift along. They are definitely just the carefree followers;
- Finally, there are those in-between: they want to participate but don’t care enough to try to overthrow the dead wood managers but are not content to just sit back and take instructions blindly. They are certainly smart enough to do whatever they want if they want, but know better than to waste their time and breath on trying to talk over the dead wood. These are the sceptics.
So you will note I didn’t notice any REAL managers in the above scenario. That is because they are a rare breed and probably close to extinction. I noticed some sceptics eventually became carefree followers because it is just easier that way. And how many of us have started our careers genuinely striving to BE that real manager, only to be beaten down eventually to become a sceptic? How often have we found ourselves in that situation in real life? If you can’t beat’em, join’em – that’s how the saying goes, right?
Some days I admit I become a sceptic…but so far I have not succumbed to the seduction of becoming a carefree follower. Perhaps I will one day. But until then, I will continue to pretend that Ra-Ras are exciting and motivational and smile my biggest smile, count my blessings that I have a job and hope that the next team activity will require less brain function and co-ordination to participate in.