Before I embark on this enitrely unprompted rant, please let it be known that it has nothing to do with the company I work for specifically, but is directed at HR people and directors across the world who insist on corporate teambuilding or "company bonding" sessions... I'm just moaning becuase I feel like it, savvy?
From obstacle courses to drumming circles and company braais (BBQs), teambuilding activities have become big business. Companies vie to outdo each other on their so-called social events and HR people are positively drooling over the new torture devices available to them for reducing staff to a cowering state of submission.
Seriously... Do you enjoy your company teambuilding activities? Aside from Angel, whose company takes her to the shooting range (hell, I'd enjoy that too), I can't think of many people whose faces light up at the mention of a company teambuilding day. Or is it just me being sad and jaded again?
I can't understand what would make people want to strap themselves into a harness to conquer their fear of heights in front of a bunch of work colleagues (some of whom may be hoping for the harness to break). Or having to come into the office for a "family day" on a Saturday.
I mean, really - if I chose to conquer a fear I'd do it somewhere that wouldn't put me at risk of embarrassing myself in front of the people I have to see all day every day at work. And if I want a family day, I'll spend it with my family. Don't people who work together see enough of each other during the week? Most of us see more of the person one cubicle over than we do of our spouse, for goodness sake. Why would we want to drag our families along to sit with a group of people who are probably all thinking the same thing we are: "I wonder if the boss will notice if I slip out after just one drink?"
As far as I'm concerned, your company has you for a vast amount of time. You're there five or six days a week, from morning till late afternoon / early evening. So if they can't engender a team spirit in you during office hours, they are bloody unlikely to do it outside of them.
Yes, I know. There are companies who do teambuilding tastefully. I once worked at a business where we were treated to a day at the spa together instead of having a Christmas party. That's awesome, IMO.
But then there are the rest. And they (as seems to be the norm with twits) are in the vast majority. From drunken themed dinners at the local conference centre (Oscars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Medieval are just a few I can think of off the top of my head) to exuberant games of paintball, they've got teambuilding down to a fine (Salvador Dali-like) art. They throw words like "employee engagement" and "high impact company learning experiences" around as they tell competitors of their brilliance and bask in the glow of their own haloes. Hah!
Have you noticed how many of the activities they pick to supoosedly build team spirit actually pit colleagues against each other? Think about it... Sport tournaments, paintball, the amazing race (a current favourite), "fun runs" (that's an oxymoron in my book), raft building and various other "entertaining" games all end up with people facing off and trying to beat each other.
I know it's supposed to be a lighthearted and enjoyable game, but if you've ever seen TSC (or me, actually) lose at anything, whether it's Monopoly, tennis or something else, you'll know that some people are just bad losers and will not be encouraged to an attitude of team spirit through daft corporate games. Unless they win, that is. Then I will smile at you, pat you on the head (if I can reach, which if you've met me you'll know is unlikely) and tell you how nice it is to work with you.
Obviously, work is a good place to meet people, and I have nothing against friendships that begin at work and blossom beyond. But... surely we are capable of finding our own natural friendships without being forced to endure a day of sweating next to Garlic Gary from accounts while you both pretend you're having fun doing three-legged races and wheelbarrows?
There are some people who are not natural athletes and object to being forced into physical competitions where they're bound to be seen as a loser. There are those who just plain suck at anything to do with rhythm and are understandably not keen to participate in the corporate drumming circle you've planned. And there are those who just don't like people and resist having to emerge from the bowels of the offices (where they chose to work for a reason) to join a discussion on "what we learnt this week".
As they say, you can't please everyone. My response, with regards to company teambuilding, is simple: Don't bother trying. Give it a skip altogether and we are more likely to be happy with that. Or I am, at least.