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Work, Rest and Play – Staff Team Day Hell March 27, 2010

Posted by Audit Monkey in Working Life in Britain.
Tags: ,

This is going to be a bit of non-post but a handy hint to remember for the future.

As all of us will know, employers often like to organise ‘team days’ to allow the team to bond and build better working relationships. In my experience, you get more bang for your buck if you hold informal Christmas Drinks in the office of an afternoon rather than ‘themed’ events. One, it’s cheaper for the employer rather than decamping to another part of the country and second, you are treating your employees like proper adults rather than children. I’m still mentally scared from a team away day(s) where the participants were obliged to indulge in cross-dressing games and play ‘jenga’.

In context, this begs the question, what an earth is the message you sending to your staff? That you are of the opinion that your staff are immature and should be treated as such? Do you have a low opinion of their abilities and treat them in kind? Needless to say, playing games is terribly infantile but more worryingly, coercing employees to indulge in such activities is an omnimous form of control.

Anyway, I’ve been spring cleaning this morning and found a question regarding morale boosting days in a FT Money Section from October 2009. A business owner has asked for advice regarding a staff day for team purposes and surprise, surprise, some have declined the invitation. Is the question is ‘can I emphasis that it is compulsory and if they refuse, consider disciplinary action?’

The answer is that employees have an implied obligation to obey the legitimate and reasonable orders of their employer and if they refuse, this may be grounds for dismissal. However, insisting on attendance may not be seen as a legitimate order if the activities don’t fall within the employees’ usual duties or job descriptions. If the employees may have good reasons for not participating, particularly if the activities are physical or conflict with religious beliefs, the employer can face a claim for unfair dismissal or discrimination.

Obviously, to avoid a confrontational situation or ritual humiliation in front of colleagues, one should pick one’s employer with care but I appreciate this can be fraught with difficulty, especially during a recession and you never quite know what a firm will be like until you cross the threshold. Moreover, if you don’t ‘participate, you inevitably label yourself as a non team player. Alternatively, just pray that cross dressing isn’t part of the dress code.

“A vision of hell”.


1. ITaudit - March 30, 2010

Are companies still doing this? Haven’t seen it in a while in the USA.

In the past, we did the “fall backward and your team will catch you” exercise. Frightening.

Too often, as you noted, the exercises are silly. How does making yourself look stupid build the team? Teamwork is built on common goals and trust, not the ability to act silly together. Fun is fun, but if you want to be silly together, go to the pub.

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