Should employees care about their trusted colleagues and the brand they represent when they are offsites?
“It’s been 15 years of my employment and I have never attended any offsite said, my colleague. My family just doesn’t allow me” she added. I was bringing together all my colleagues for the first time and I needed a full house. “This is where you get to bond with colleagues better. It will be a different setting, you will experience colleagues from other locations, there will be lots of informative sessions. You will understand our vision, direction and it will also be fun” I persuaded her till she said yes. However, that day on my way home as I reflected on my multiple offsite experiences I wasn’t sure about my assurance to her.
The Dancing Prince
As a first time manager, I was excited about my first offsite at Agra. About 40 of us had gathered in a resort. We loved the visits to all the historic places during the day and as it happens a cocktail dinner was planned with senior leaders who had arrived from Hq. Most of the team were experiencing an event like this for the first time and were happy to just down their drinks with some chit-chat. Just then somebody increased the volume of the music and some Bollywood hits started to play out. To all of our surprise, we saw our boss’s boss the quietest man until then breaking out on the dancing floor. Many of us were nervous as we didn’t know if it was ok to dance with senior leaders. Just then our sales head pulled one of our lady colleagues for a dance.
There were just two women amongst the 40 and it was clear they weren’t comfortable about what just happened. The lady in question continued to dance with the old drunk pro; every time she retreated back to her seat he would pull her back to the dance floor. As her supervisor, I helplessly looked at my boss who was looking the other way as the leader in question was his boss. This went on till the DJ ended the music. It was clear that there were many red faces that night including mine. Next morning breakfast was a challenging one when I asked my colleague about the previous evening. She said if your super boss is sort of forcing me to dance and both my immediate bosses are not intervening what do you expect me to do? As a 24-year-old manager, I could only plead helplessness. I think the dance floor is the most awkward place to be in an offsite. The most innocent looking colleagues in the office hallway turn rogue with a couple of drinks and with dance and music as an excuse to bond.
The Usual Suspects
All offsites have some usual drills. A speech by the CEO or business head who organizes it. Some external facilitator to take you through some team building activities. Invariably after the team building activities, you are supposed to exclaim your familiarity with your colleague who has been sitting next to you at the office. Men like to play cricket and they force everybody to get into that game so that few of them can show how well they can bat with novices bowling. The boredom amongst the remaining is palpable but who cares? Then there is this act of getting into the pool and breaking all norms the resort would have set for swimming. Here again, there is a wide display of pushing and pulling of colleagues who are uncomfortable with water.
But, it is not just your colleagues whom you make uncomfortable but also the other guests who have unfortunately chosen to holiday at the same time in that hotel.
Most employers organize offsites for annual kickoffs, new product launches, a celebration of milestones or for team building exercises. Depending on the size of the organisation and the context hundreds of people congregate in luxurious hotels. Almost every guest in the hotel gets to know about it as there is a prominent display of the brand. Plenty of employees wear their company logo Tshirts while they indulge in all the activities at the hotel. So, besides having fun and bonding with colleagues maybe there is a need for the employees to protect their brand image too in those surroundings for at least a couple of days.
But, executives are so immersed with their fun that they forget about the remaining guests who are sort of held to ransom with their en masse unruly behaviour across restaurants, pool, gym and other common areas. I forgot to add the anthakshari fans who only stop when the other guests in the neighbouring rooms complain. Even at 2, AM people tend to say give us another 10 minutes and we will be done. Hotels also plead helplessly as they have no control post signing up with their high-value customer.
I have to admit that not all offsites are coloured with these bad behaviour. Many organisations ensure that the employees have a good learning and bonding time with colleagues besides fun. There are still plenty of organisations who conduct offsites with a sense of purpose. However, we all know that offsites sometimes tend to become off-limits for good behaviour. This post is a flashback to the not so good times during offsites.