Bonding experience

One thing I’m grateful for about my job: there’s no “team-building”. No enforced “fun”. There’s the occasional social event when, for example, someone leaves the unit and they put out quite a decent spread of food and drink to encourage participation, but no one is obliged to come along, there are no targets and no one writes a report about it afterwards.

I was chatting to a friend on the metro to work this morning and he was on his way to an away day with a bunch of people with whom he ostensibly works but about whom in reality he knows little or nothing. The idea is that they’ll wander around the streets of Brussels, shivering and muttering together. The highlight of the day will be a guided tour of the Palais de Justice.

I can only think of two occasions when I’ve been forced to participate in workplace extra-curricular activities. The first was when I had a job in a supermarket as a teenager one summer, and we went out for a day’s paintballing. That was a lot more fun than I anticipated, although the plethora of small circular bruises covering my body the following day made it look like I’d contracted some rare and exciting form of pox. Also, activities involving simulated violence between colleagues (and/or bosses) are asking for trouble, in my opinion.

The second time was also pretty enjoyable, if not perhaps in the way intended by the organisers. The small company (literally a handful of staff) I worked for when I first arrived in Brussels organised annual away days (or “retreats”, as some call them. That seems more appropriate to me; I love the idea of retreating from work), and the first year I was there they proposed a couple of days in Pisa. They later admitted that they’d chosen the city by simply picking something cheap and close from the Ryanair destination network, but still, it was a nice idea. The only problem was that, this being Ryanair, the flight options were either 5am or 6pm. Considering that “Brussels South” is over an hour’s drive south of Brussels itself, the morning flight would have meant getting up before you even went to bed, so most of us chose the evening flight. The directors had chosen to fly over the previous evening (not an option for us, as they only wanted to subsidize one night in the hotel). Dinner was scheduled for 8pm that evening, so we thought we’d just about make it in time for the nosh.

But of course we were delayed. Considerably. And of course we had nothing better to do to kill the time than sit at the airport bar. So eventually we turned up, three sheets to the wind,  just as the directors were sipping their after dinner coffees. They were not amused. We made our excuses and some small talk before they retired to their accommodation and we continued into town to look for another bar. The team meeting the next day was a rather subdued affair due to the directors’ mood and the staff’s collective hangover. Indeed at one point the office manager asked to be excused due to ill health.

Needless to say the company has, to date, never organised another away day.