BOFH: You'll have to really trust me on this team-building exercise

Why shouldn't the stairwell be the preferred location for our fun?


BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 9 So I get into the office and immediately I sense a disturbance in the natural order of things – mainly the jarring combination of too much aftershave and an overdose of enthusiasm.

It gets worse when I get upstairs and see a large wooden tabletop with the word TEAMWORK inserted into it in removable multicolored plastic letters along the top.

"Hi team, this is Jamie and he's going to help us with our post-COVID morale issues!" the Boss gushes once the office has reached quorum.

"Hi everyone!" Jamie blurts, presumably before anyone can ask, "what post-COVID morale issues," while trying to top the Boss' enthusiasm in both volume and voice pitch.

"I'm Jamie and I work with teams just like you to help you get the best out of each other!"

Across the room I see the PFY reaching around in his pockets for his backup linoleum knife as Jamie motions us all over.

"I thought we'd start today with a quick icebreaker!" he burbles, directing us all over to the table and picking the letters out of the slots in the table. "We just need about four people to pop on a blindfold."

"This is a great game!" the PFY gushes. "And great for morale! My grandad told me that they did the blindfold game at one of his old jobs."

"Oh yes?" Jamie says. "And who was he working for, one of the tech giants?"

"No, no," the PFY counters. "He worked for Joseph Stalin. But great for morale. It might have just been the extra office space though..."

I could be wrong, but I think I just sensed an improvement in morale.

"So, what we're going to do," Jamie continues, "is the people with the blindfold each reach into this bag and pull out a letter. Their team guides them to insert that letter back into its corresponding hole in the table. The team who's replaced the most letters when we run out of letters is the winner! So, are we ready?"

There are some general grunts of resignation as people form into teams and start; Jamie handing the reins to the Boss while he pops downstairs to his car to get the scoreboard. I note that during the distraction the PFY has taken one of the letters from the Bag and popped it into the bin...

The game starts and there's a surprising amount of excitement as the letters are spun and twisted and crammed into the holes in response to the shouts of the various teams. The game ends and the Boss checks his pad before looking up.

"There's something missing from the A hole," he hints.

"Yeah, he's getting the scoreboard now," the PFY chips in.

This morale thing seems to be going great guns.

Jamie's late morning session is a gruelling self-awareness session where we're supposed to realise how much time we waste on computers instead of spending quality time with people.

He shows us a heartrending video about the long-term harmful effects of "IT isolation," how it affects our clients, our workmates and, ultimately, ourselves then opens the floor to a discussion on how we can be more present.

"I mean we're not bad really," the PFY says. "We had a Boss who was way worse than us.  He once spent about a month plugged into his machine with no interest in any of the projects we were working on."

"And by the way you say that, I sense you had to intervene?"

"Several times – just to try and snap him out of it."

"And did that work?"

"I really don't know," the PFY says. "After a while they wouldn't let me back into the cardiac ward." 

It seems like office morale is inversely proportional to Jamie's enthusiasm.

We break for lunch and I see Jamie preparing some mattresses for old party favourite – a trust fall exercise.

I sidle over to him and suggest if we really want to foster trust in the group we should be doing this without mattresses – and in the stairwell – but this isn't Jamie's first dog and pony race, and he politely declines.

The PFY is the next to try, suggesting that we could really maximize relief and trust by putting broken glass on the mattress. "I mean who's not going to trust a co-worker who saves you from broken glass?" he asks.

"The person who saw you put the broken glass there in the first place?" Jamie responds.

The Boss makes some affirmative noises and Jamie obviously feels empowered so I have to take the Boss aside.

"I think you're missing the big picture," I say to him.

"I don't think I am," he says. "This is great for team morale."

"I didn't mean that big picture. I meant this big picture," I say, holding up my phone and pressing the play button.

A small video starts playing of the Boss on the phone sounding quite harassed.

"I don't understand."

"This is you, on the phone last week?" I ask.

"Yes. There was a note on my desk to call that number."

"The number of, let's see... uh...  'Argumentative Escorts' – a premium-rate phone service – for a call which lasted... uh... 33 minutes. We spent over 100 on that phone call on the company bill."

The PFY adds:  "Anyway, maybe – in the interests of morale - we could uh... all just get back to work, no questions asked?"

VICTORY – a dish best served however you wish to do so...

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