Hey! I was only joking. Can’t you take a joke?
I get these kinds of calls all the time.
Me: “Hello. This is Beth.”
Her: “Hi. I’m in charge of finding a fun retreat for our team. Do you do that?”
Me: “Hmm. Well, yes. Sometimes. Can you tell me more?”
Her: “Oh, well, we just want something really fun. We all get along really well (sigh) except there is some tension. We have a new project (initiative, boss, office space, policy, computer system, standard, etc. etc.) and some people are having a hard time adapting."
Me: “What does that look like? The hard time adapting?”
Her: “It’s nothing new. Two staff aren’t talking to each other. And one is the head of the project. Some people like her the best so they aren’t giving their opinion in meetings, but instead are talking about it afterwards and sabotaging progress."
Me: “Why do you think they aren’t talking?”
Her: “It’s been that way forever. The manager’s sister used to do childcare for the other manager’s kids. And then there was some misunderstanding. I think that was about 5 year’s ago. Now they just don’t interact unless they have too. Everyone knows about it. We just avoid putting them on projects together or having them in same the room.”
Me: “Do your clients feel the tension?”
Her: “Oh I’m sure. It has been going on for years. Some people only talk to one or the other. Some clients avoid one. It’s kind of a running joke.”
Me: “How does the owner handle this?”
Her: “Well, he shows up in a different mood everyday. We actually communicate his mood using weather reports. Someone will say, ‘Hot in here today’ or ‘Feels like the wind is picking up’ or ‘Calm and cool all day’. That’s how we help each other avoid walking into a hornet’s nest."
Me: “Hmm, any other concerns”?
Her: “Well, now that you ask. I read something on Facebook that sounds like two other people are unhappy and at least one is actively looking for a job. Oh, and one person just went out on a stress claim. It is hard to keep track of it all because we let our human resources person go a few months ago and now I’m doing HR and payroll! That’s why I get to coordinate the fun day. Anyway that’s how I came up with this teambuilding idea. I was thinking of hiring you or maybe going to the paint ball place? Oh and we only have two hours for the fun day."
Of course I want to assist after an inquiry like this one. I really do. But I also know that a few hours of fun for this group is like drinking a few shots of whiskey to numb the pain of a broken limb. It may feel good for a little bit, but the when the effect of the whiskey passes, the limb is still broken – and maybe suffered more damage from the numbing.
Asking people who aren’t functioning well together, who have long-term resentment, diminished trust and lack leadership, to turn on the fun for two hours is not fair and causes greater damage in the long run. It is the perfect venue for frustration, anger, sarcasm and intimidation to be let loose – all in the name of good fun! You know the statement well, “Hey! I was only joking. Can’t you take a joke?”
If you recognize any of the patterns and trends above and are seeking a longer term remedy, the kind of support that eventually makes a two or three hour “fun day” actually fun – give me a call 978-614-5405 or send me an email email@example.com.
I share more scenarios where consultants make all the difference here: It just isn’t possible to be a prophet in your own land…and other times to hire a consultant!
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