Magazine article Management Today

Safe and Happy Bonding

Magazine article Management Today

Safe and Happy Bonding

Article excerpt

My firm went on one of those bonding teambuilding exercises a few years ago. We proved to be the worst firm ever, according to the rugged ladies who ran the thing. They were clearly mystified at how unco-operative, un-teamy, uncompetitive and altogether uninterested we seemed to be. We didn't want to form human chains, we didn't want to walk five miles of country road to pick up a clue, and we didn't want to stay up late for anything except drinking.

The reality of a small, informal working 'sofa-culture' like ours was that we knew each other well already, and, let's be honest, we were rather snobbish about it, we thought it was naff and American.

Bonding weekends have historically had a distinctly Boys' Own background and we absolutely weren't - and aren't - a boys-only culture. The Mark 1 bonding games - those paintball guns - were often devised by ex-Army and sports types, who think their way into corporate life is paved with martial and sporting metaphors. We simply didn't fit the mould.

But this year we had Music Therapy and that was lovely. Bang African drums, learn choral bit parts to fantastically PC songs ('I will lift my brother up, he is no heavy...'). We rehearsed on the Friday and performed for families on Saturday. It was utterly painless, broadly non-competitive, definitely unmilitaristic and modestly bonding. Nothing horrible was required and nothing unrealistic expected. And as a result people have felt rather warm and wet ever since.

There's a lot of it around. Sooner or later, stand-offish, shy or snobby, you'll find yourself at one of these things. If you're king of your company, you may go as champion of it or just as a notional team member.

If you are champion of the event, you can sometimes get away with a token appearance at the beginning and end, saying this is a time for ourselves, time to open up to a different kind of experience and to think about the big issues. Then you absent yourself, because your time is so obviously more precious - and the team is left thinking you're a superannuated old sordid who wouldn't know teamwork if it hit you round the face. At a stroke, you've reduced the credibility of the whole event, but you've got out of the grim bits.

But, as a team member, what's in it for you? …

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