Forced Group Bonding Exercises Can Suck It
I used to have this boss, and he was such a card. For instance, one time he decided that our team* should do these bonding exercises. I understand why, because we were a social mess, but I don't usually do bonding exercises, especially when they feel completely forced and unnatural to the group. It's not that I don't want to get along with other people, because I do want to get along with along other people. I claim to dislike other people all the time, but the fact is that I actually kind of like other people. My problem with group bonding exercises is that I don't like groups. I am more of a one-on-one kind of person, and if we connect naturally and find a rhythm together, or if we don't connect naturally and have to work to find a rhythm together, that's great, but if you and I and ten other people are suddenly being made to fall off tables into each others' waiting arms to prove that we don't want to physically harm one another, then you can find somebody else to bond with. How about we just shut this love-in down and go do whatever each of us does, okay? Nothing personal. I just don't want to have get touchy-feely with you. I pay a therapist for that. And I might support a small corner of the Alexander Keith's company.
Part of my bonding-games issue has to do with the eventuality of having to touch the skin of someone I'm not intimate with. It feels like poking a lizard of a kind I've never seen before. I once ended up having to pretend choke-hold this sweaty woman in a situation like this, and she looked so pained about my having to touch her sweatiness, and I felt so pained about my having to touch her sweatiness, and while we were supposed to be having some kind of emotional trust breakthrough during which we realized that we really could believe in each other's ability to properly color-code the file folders, we were really looking into each other's eyes apologetically and willing this coerced, inappropriate touching thing to stop.
So, this boss I used to have wanted our team to do this bonding exercise in which we told other people on the team how much we liked them. Who you had to fawn over was determined by which name on a slip of paper you pulled out of a coffee tin, and it felt worse than that time you accidentally saw your grandma naked and stood there frozen while she laboriously pulled on a pair of pantyhose. Or that even worse time when you thought it would be fun to hide in the laundry basket with the hinged lid and realized that you were sitting in a box in the dark inadvertently smelling her underwear.
To make a slightly longer story slightly shorter, he launched a thinly-veiled threat against my job with a what-if-you-had-to-do-this-to-keep-your-job statement, and I said that that would be too bad because I hated looking for work, and then nothing else happened, because you can't fire someone for not wanting to have come up with stuff about how much they like a random coworker whose name they happened to pull out of a coffee tin when that someone could be doing something like, oh, I don't know, their job.
The reason I woke up to write all this down at four in the morning is that while I was lying in bed trying not to fall back into a dream about a cat with a fake button-eye who is infused with the spirit of Ellen DeGeneres, I suddenly remembered what happened to a woman I used to know when she was coerced into a group bonding weekend at a Christian summer camp. One of the last exercises was a challenge for a large group of them to make a human pyramid, and when they did it, someone took a picture of both the front and the back of it and then published it in yearbook-style document so that everyone could have the memory of this important event hidden in a cardboard box in their basement forever. Do you know that precious memory has been stored away in probably fifty different people's basements for the last twenty years? When the photographer took a picture of the back of the human pyramid that my friend was in, he immortalized the fact that she, in stained white pants, was the unsuspecting recipient of an unexpected period. Every once in a while I think of that and wonder if she ever schemes to take back those stupid bonding exercise weekend mini-yearbooks from fifty basements across North America, because I
* I hate it when people use the term "team" to describe a group of people who are not playing sports. As far as I am concerned, there is an I in team, it's just silent: T-E-i-A-M.