Hellish Construction

I’m just going to come out with a question that has been nagging at me for years. Why do companies and corporate offices insist on team-building exercises? What is the point of this torture? I mean, it’s almost as bad as mandatory group training. Maybe worse. Oh, I understand the intention is to create a stronger bond between employees to increase the quality of work and form relationships that will inspire us to stay on, blah blah blah. But that doesn’t mean those meetings and activities don’t feel like pure hell, especially for us introverts.

Even starting a meeting with detailed introductions is obnoxious and time-consuming. Why do I need to give my biography to these people? I don’t have things going on in my life that they need to care about. There is nothing that should be of interest to them and the work we need to do. Conversely, I don’t need to know about the details of their lives. Oh Cheryl, your daughter just had her 10th child? Congratulations, but what does that have to do with the project overview you were supposed to turn in yesterday? Also, is this an impolite time to mention the wonders of birth control?

I certainly don’t need to muddy the waters by getting to know folks or sharing my life story. I mean, honestly, unless everyone gets real cool about a bunch of stuff really quickly, it’s best I just keep things to myself.

introvert hell

Some of the team-building exercises floating around offices these days could potentially be an HR nightmare. Google corporate team-building exercises and the first option that pops up is Two truths and a Lie. This oddly popular game requires a person to make three statements (two true, one a lie, hence the name, folks), and the rest of the group is supposed to guess the lie. I can see where this would be a hoot with friends while having a drink over pizza. But there are so many things wrong with this game in a corporate setting. You know that saying, you can learn more by what a person doesn’t say than what they do say? I would say that concept applies here. The lie that someone makes up about themselves could say a lot about them. What about the response of the group? I can see trouble there as well. What if a player makes up a wildly outrageous lie, figuring they were safe from any post-game fallout later around the water cooler because surely the team would recognize such an outlandish fabrication… but because their coworkers have such a strange and unflattering opinion of them, they assume it’s one of the two truths? Talk about an awkward situation.

Here are my two truths and a lie:

  1. I hate team-building exercises.
  2. Team building exercises increase my productivity and help me form solid and lasting relationships with my beloved co-workers.
  3. I hate contrived social experiences in the workplace (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Some companies go with a more physical team-building exercise like camping or paintball (pretty sure I saw that in a horror movie once and it did not go well) or ax throwing. Ax throwing. Ax. Throwing. Oh sure, great idea!  Toss a few disgruntled employees with an ax to grind (I know, I know, I’m hilarious, I’m here all week) together in a small chute while flinging sharp objects as hard as they can… what can go wrong? It just might take that feud between IT and the creative team to a whole new level.

I may be a raging introvert with social anxiety, but believe it or not, I’m great with people (don’t roll your eyes at me), but team building exercises and forced introductions complete with a mini-bio (and fun fact, don’t forget the fun fact!) are more than just a chore for me; they are agony. I despise the pop quizzes from hell they throw at us last minute in staff meetings and being forced to depend on the coworker who couldn’t even meet their simple data analysis deadline last week for getting out of that escape room in 10 minutes? Yeah, no thanks.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be in my office, away from everyone else, and doing something productive… which is where I wanted to be in the first place.

The Holiday Party (or How NOT to get on the Naughty List)

There’s still plenty of time to be put on Santa’s Naughty list. So watch out! What’s the quickest way to do this? Oh sure, you could deface Nativity scenes in front of a church or slash inflatable snowmen in your neighbor’s yard, but I tend to think that most of the people reading this blog aren’t evil in that way (you’re not, right!?) so I’ll focus instead on a common slip up that even the best of us can fall victim to, thus ensuring a lump of coal in the stocking.

The holiday party. Two words of advice: be careful. If you haven’t had your work party yet, heed these words. You don’t want to be that person. There’s one at every holiday gathering. That person who drinks too much. That person who makes inappropriate comments to the senior partner. That person who for one night mistakes his work colleagues with his old college buddies. Be careful, everyone.

I don’t quite understand what happens at these parties, but it’s almost like there’s an aerosolized drug in the air that turns some of the people into Mr. Hyde versions of themselves. Maybe the pull of finally being able to cut loose is too great an urge and they have trouble reeling themselves back. Maybe the desire to get things off their chest is too strong to stop once the eggnog is flowing through their veins. Maybe the stress of the whole Secret Santa gift thing is too much to bear. Whatever it is, this transformation is mystifying to me mostly because it happens every year.

I’m not saying not to let your hair down some. Have fun. That’s the point of the party, after all. But also be mindful for goodness’ sake.  These are people you’re going to have to see again on Monday in the conference room. Do you want to be the reason people quickly shush whispered conversations when you walk into the room? Doubtful.  But alas, the holiday party brings out all kinds and those whispered conversations are going to take place about somebody.

The worst (in my opinion) is when the secret Casanovas start showing up. You have the IT guy who has a couple mugs of mulled wine and decides the party is the best time to bare his soul to the svelte account executive he’s been harboring a crush on for the past six months. It’s pretty simple: try not to ask anyone out on a date at your holiday party, especially if it’s your boss. Trust me, it’s been known to happen more than a few times. Another simple rule: if the object of your affection has on a wedding ring, abort abort abort! And ladies… please, please, please keep ALL of your clothes on. No matter how tempting it might be to do otherwise. Essentially, whenever you do something where HR might need to get involved, you know you’re going down the wrong path. Sadly, with a little too much mulled wine, you might not realize this until Monday morning…therein lies the paradox of holiday work parties.

On top of that you have the guy who decides to go all Chevy Chase on his boss and let him know how he really feels (oh come on, who hasn’t seen Christmas Vacation?). Not a wise move either. Hilarious to the rest of us… obviously. We’ll be sitting at our tables enjoying the hell out of it. But it’s definitely not a wise move for him.

And should you end up in a mutually amorous situation, do us all a huge favor and find someplace truly private to have your tryst. That sorta, kinda semi-dark corner just 6 feet away from the dance floor is NOT as hidden as you may think. People will see and then they will talk.  Oh, how we will talk!

I don’t know which alter egos you readers have, if any, all I’m doing is advising that you exercise some caution. That flare-up of your more hedonistic self isn’t going to be the one that has to look co-workers in the eyes on the next work day.  It’s worse than that walk of shame home after a one night stand (*ahem*…I only know this from what I’ve seen on T.V.).  Because the walk of shame to the conference room for that Monday morning meeting, past people you’re going to see every day for the rest of your work life with that company,  is going to be a killer.

Have some spirits and bond with your fellow cohorts, just try not to end up on that Naughty list. It’s a hell of a lot easier getting off Santa’s than your boss’. Or so I’m told.

XMAS naughty or nice