When times were good you turned up to these days with hope, said your piece and went away feeling hungover, but bonded.
These days, with all the pressure around to perform, chances are you’re feeling more cagey and reticent about spending two days locked in a hotel room with your colleagues.
So, how can you turn it into a positive 48 hours for yourself?
- Decide to be present. Instead of spending days and hours resenting the thing, make a firm decision to turn up and take part. You’re a big girl or boy. You can choose how you want this time to be for you.
- Set realistic expectations. Approach the whole event with a curiosity, neither too hopeful, or too pessimistic. You might then be surprised.
- Set some goals about what you’d like to get out of the event. They might be things like understanding what your boss sees as the future direction for your unit. Or thinking about how you might be able to contribute to the team in a new way.
- In advance, talk to your friend, partner or child about this event in a way that lightens it for you. Have fun with it. Imagine your boss’s earnestness in trying to re-engage everyone, when you know how critical people are feeling towards her right now. Visualise a colleague getting up to some of his hysterical antics. Laughing about it in advance allows you to empathise with the human side of it, and builds your resources.
- Avoid the water cooler till after the event. By contrast, bitching about the upcoming workshop with any of your colleagues who are viewing it with cynicism will only depress you. Don’t give yourself that experience.
- During the event, do something fun. Even if your boss or colleagues aren’t aware of what that is. One idea is to wear some ridiculous underwear – those fabulous red Christmas boxer shorts your aunt gave you last year, or the Agent Provocateur lingerie that makes you feel good about yourself. No-one else need know. The point is that, when the mask painting is in full swing, or you’re being encouraged to hug papier mache trees, and it all feels a bit crazy, you can think about how ridiculous or inappropriate your knickers are and giggle to yourself.
- Resolve to say only what you feel comfortable to say. There’s a big expectation at some team builds that you will get all your baggage out in the open and resolve it. In business, there’s a fine line to walk between saying what you need to say to be understood and productive, and unburdening yourself. Remember that, no matter the setting, this is still a corporate event – it’s not group therapy. You have to guard your psychological safety because that’s not often something the trainer will have been trained to think about, or that your boss will be worrying about.
- You may be treated like a child: you don’t have to act like one. Bosses can sometimes be patronising, expecting you or your colleagues to dumb down or play small. You can observe this without taking it on.
- Take whatever time out is on offer. Go to the gym or pool. Read your book; listen to music on your phone or MP3 player. Or call your friend, partner, child, or dog. Do anything that reminds you that there’s a life awaiting you beyond this offsite, and ground yourself in its reality.
- Finally, watch what you eat and drink. Coffee, sugar, chocolate and alcohol are all often available on tap during these events. I’m not advocating total abstinence, but I do suggest you watch your consumption. In excess they numb you out. Alcohol in particular can lead you to say and do things that, in the morning, you wish you’d rather not.
So what about you? What could you do to make your next team build a great experience for you?