Get ready to wave the white flag and retreat. It’s time for that least favorite of mid-year rituals: the corporate kumbaya, a.k.a—the dreaded summer management conference.
It’s about this time every year that C-Suites across the country pack their pasty selves up for an ocean front view of corporate synergy. Unlike its more sober counterpart, the year-end-crap-that-means-we-gotta-seriously-start-planning-for-next-year management meeting, the mid-year retreat is supposed to be all about fun and bonding. Which means it sucks much, much more …
A boondoggle thinly disguised by an aggressive agenda of team building, best practices, and outdoor activity, the summer retreat might actually be fun if you were going along with a group of friends. But once you throw corporate colleagues into the mix, bonding starts to look a whole lot more like bondage.
Someone always has the bright idea to plan these things at the end of the earth so you spend more time traveling than actually meeting, and with every waking moment scheduled, it’s not like there is any time to explore off the compound.
Of course, only half of the summer retreat takes place in a chilly conference room. After getting the prerequisite Power Points out of the way, you are herded outside for the tyranny of team building on the beach. It’s obvious that these activities are arranged by someone young and male; no one over the age of, say twenty-three, or female, would possibly think anything positive could come from a bunch of pale, paunchy execs stripping down to sweat in the sand over tug-of-war.
Try as I might, I haven’t found the business upside to getting pegged by a “dodge” ball, and I’ve certainly never learned anything other than a lesson in humiliation from carrying an egg on a plastic spoon in my mouth. Yet it seems my yearly summer bonus always includes a fat margin of sand-sucking shame no matter how I protest I’ve climbed too high for another trust fall …
The reward of being a good team player during these “friendly” competitions is usually a steamy poolside picnic of soggy buffet food and fake-fruit margaritas. I suppose “relationship building by the water” looks good on paper, but not when you’re hanging with (he’s so) Harry from accounting and (Speedo-sporting) Stefan. Talk about too much information.
Finally, it is almost over and there’s nothing else to check off the retreat to-do list except to watch the newbies get wasted on watered down beer and to take bets on who will end up getting lucky.
Then the alarm is buzzing and it’s time to start the long haul home. Because you’ve done this before, you know that as soon as you’ve licked your wounds and recovered from your jet lag, the team photo will arrive, ready to frame and proudly display in memory of all the good times you had at this year’s summer retreat.
Remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say, my door is always open …
Never miss a Musings from the Corner Office column again. Just click on the author’s name at the top of the story, then select “Be notified when writer publishes” at the top of the page. We’ll send you an email as soon as a new column is published.