Team spirit, teambuilding events

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Team spirit, teambuilding events - Nepal news

the dark side of ‘team spirit’

Organisers of teambuilding events often tall about getting you out of your ‘comfort zone’.  Whether it’s putting you in an unfamiliar environment or a stressful situation or just making you look and feel ridiculous, if you want to be made receptive to new experience and new ideas, the first thing to go, they will counsel, has to be your comfort zone.

I have to get up at 7am to catch a train in order to attend one such event and already I feel distinctly outside my comfort zone.  My comfort zone is probably still warm, maybe even residually contoured with the memory of my comforted body, but I am cold and weary and crammed between a hard plastic armrest and an awkwardly positioned fold-out tray.  Faced with the prospect of a stunt driving challenge with a bunch of madferit IT consultants in a Nottingham forest, already I am beginning to understand why these events seem to engender such resentment on the part of their participants.

After all, if people are perfectly adept at the job they are paid to do, demanding an additional talent at puzzles involving arts and crafts materials seems demeaning.  And as far as making teambuilding fun, nothing a company does is going to counter the fact that the participants are required to be there.  The enforced jollity of the whole thing is equivalent to the birthday party of the rich kid whose friends have to be bought in with promises of games and treats.  Only now that we’re supposed to be grown-ups, the humiliation level has proportionally increased.

Resentment was certainly what Doug, a database analyst, felt when he was told that he was going to be spending a couple of days away from the office bonding with his colleagues. During the days there would be exercises designed to make people work as a team and in the evening, barbecues and drinking to grease some social cogs.   “I’m not a great fan of barbecues and I don’t drink,” explains Doug.  So first he got into trouble for not putting his all into socializing against his will and then ended up shouting “This is a bunch of horseshit!” at his boss during a team-building game when he wasn’t being listened to despite knowing the solution.

Of course, Doug knew the solution to the game because the first thing he had done on being told there would be team-building exercises was Google for cheats on the most popular examples.  But who can really blame him for his cynicism?

Yet the group I am participating with, a properties and facilities management team with the IT company Atos Origin, don’t seem to share it.  We are attending a 4x4 GPS Challenge arranged by a company called Chillisauce.  The team is going to be in Land Rovers driving through a 250-acre course in Sherwood Forest.  They’ll go up and down bumps through ditches and round trees, and the cheerful philosophy is “if they get stuck, they get stuck” according to Dave, one of the instructors.  And they’re all happy to be there and very positive about the worthiness of these events.  Martin may be clinging to his mobile, just in case, and Marge “doesn’t do dirt”, but they’re all keen to get to know each other better, and think the day out is the perfect way to do so.

Chillisauce organizes all sorts of corporate events, leaning towards the more extreme side of things.  On one, a stuntman training course, they offer the intriguing opportunity to set fire to your boss; in a variation on the 4x4 theme, the driver is blindfolded and reliant on the directions of their passenger – crash and you lose points.  And while a lot of their events do sound like a great deal of fun to participate in, it’s hard to see the experience people have on them being very translatable back to the office.  And if that’s the case with Chillisauce, then it goes double for Choice Techniques Ltd.

Choice Techniques claims “Many teambuilding programmes which clients will see as parallel are artificial and do not create business issues effectively by building a raft, abseilling… and are often a series of unconnected activities.”  After all, what experience could be more closely connected to day-to-day office life than driving a 150-ton boat along the Thames?


Source: The Himalayan Times, March 27, 2005


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