There are three words that strike fear and panic into the heart of anyone who has ever spent any time working in an office (no, not ‘coffee machine broken’, it’s worse than that):
‘Team building session’.
Certainly here in the north of England, we are generally not the types to get excited about the contrived jollity, and the messages about team spirit, working together, and corporate vision, often delivered by an over-enthusiastic man/woman-child with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
Just to be clear, I’m all in favour of team spirit and co-operation, I just think there are more humane ways of achieving it!
In the interests of research, and just to make sure I’m not missing the tone of the times here, I typed the phrase ‘corporate team building’ into my search engine of choice (no gratuitous advertising here folks, certainly not without a fee!) Having mercifully avoided any form of team building for a good few years now, I thought I’d better get a feel for how the land lies here in 2014; who knows, perhaps everyone has grown up, and these identikit sharp suited consultant types have decided we, the workforce, can now safely be treated like adults when being brainwa…sorry, team-bonded (if that’s the right phrase!?)
But you know what’s coming.
Result number one generated by my search engine of choice was a company that shall remain nameless (again, fee required!), promising “fun and effective corporate team building events.”
Right…might be OK, tell me more…
…“we offer memorable and engaging team building activities through the power of play.”
I see. The power of play, eh?
I now understand in what world paint-balling seems like a good option; if only I were a pro-cyclist (sigh).
I know what you’re thinking: “come on ragtime, this is a piece about the depressing world of corporate team building, don’t try and shoe-horn in a cycling reference; just admit you’ve run out of cycling related ideas to write about, and continue with your pin-sharp dissection of workplace nonsense.”
Bear with me.
If I were a pro-cyclist I could be experiencing the kind of corporate team building experience that most of us would more accurately call ‘a holiday’. I read recently about a number of pro-cycling teams and their methods with envy:
Tinkoff-Saxo (the team of Contador, and now Sagan and Basso, among others) decided on an expedition to climb Kilimanjaro; no easy task, but a pretty exciting way to spend pre-season – it certainly beats an afternoon of Giant Jenga in the battered conference room of a faded local football club (trust me, I’ve been there). I must confess I’m slightly disappointed that Contador and his pals aren’t actually riding up Kilimanjaro, but I suppose they may have some reasonably water tight excuses for that (based on logistics and the laws of physics, probably).
Team Garmin (now unfortunately, in the post David Millar era…sob!) apparently had a get together in the Cayman Islands recently. I’m not sure what they were getting up to, but presumably it wasn’t to do with filling in tax returns – I have a mental image of Ryder Hesjedal knocking back Pina Colada’s by the pool, which may or may not be accurate.
And Team Sky? Surely we can assume they put together some kind of biometrically tested globe-trotting-no-expense-spared pre-season project designed to deliver clinical levels of team spirit at maximum efficiency…erm, well…they did indulge in a spot of water sports off the coast of Weymouth, here in the UK. Perhaps this is the first stage in a new down-to-earth approach for Froome and co?
I can imagine even this little jaunt would produce logistical difficulties though; finding a wetsuit skinny enough to cling skin-tightly to Chris Froome’s emaciated physique, for starters.
So while you’re steeling yourself to go paint-balling, or orienteering, or even, heaven forbid, to build your team spirit through the power of play, think of the likes of Froome, Contador, Sagan and Hesjedal.
Pro-cycling might be just about the toughest sport out there, but it clearly has its perks.