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All I find after the love-and-happiness tomfoolery of corporate team-building is inner pique


Jeremy Maggs is a veteran journalist, television and radio presenter, and MD of communications firm, Bold. He is the author of ‘WIN!’ and ‘My Final Answer’.

To riff on the Groucho Marx observation, I would not want to be part of a team that would have me as a member. But somehow in this new age of contrived corporate collegiality we have no choice but to join them and participate in activities designed to promote and develop cohesion and cooperation.

Some years back on a lavish week-long junket dedicated to consuming as much single malt whisky as the Speyside could offer, I was paired with a famous local female television presenter for a team-building activity in which I had to stand blindfolded behind her while she had both arms tied to her sides.

Manoeuvring expensive crystal glasses, I was instructed to move one towards her mouth. Most of the contents spilled down her shirt and my hands made unplanned contact with parts of her anatomy, which I imagine was the intended purpose, resulting in great guffaws from the audience. I also regretted breathing great wafts of garlic haggis canapés into her neck.

So mortified was I, that I had to settle myself with a stiff libation after the ordeal, and as luck would have it, there was plenty on offer. Whenever we meet these days, she purses her lips and makes a quick getaway. I don’t blame her.

On another team-building occasion, I was blindfolded yet again and subjected to a food-tasting competition. The organisers of this bout of corporate tomfoolery still refuse to pay for the pickled fish stain on my LL Bean Oxford cloth shirt.

He didn’t understand that at my age, the only thing I have left is my inner rage, which I was quite prepared to channel directly towards his peroxided, high-fade, loose pompadour head of hair.

I’ve refused point blank to do a fire pit walk on the grounds that it would cause irreparable skin damage despite a promise that pre-burn meditative chanting would make the experience painless and memorable.

And I mercifully declined what was called an opposite gender day where I would have to dress in a skirt and stockings.

Imagine trying to sell that ridiculous idea to a bunch of critical, society-sensitive millennials these days.

Talking of that complicated cohort, they loved a recent event I was dragooned into. The invitation said to arrive at sunrise and assemble on the lawn outside the office. Loose, colourful clothing was recommended. My hackles rose when I saw turntables, a loudspeaker and headphones and was told by a young man in a pectoral-straining, tie-dyed, sequinned tank top that I was going to recapture my inner peace as I moved to the music.

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He didn’t understand that at my age, the only thing I have left is my inner rage, which I was quite prepared to channel directly towards his peroxided, high-fade, loose pompadour head of hair.

The concept entailed moving and dancing to the music in the headphones, a set of which each of us would wear but would be unheard by passers-by and those in nearby offices.

The music I heard sounded like two enthusiastic fornicating whales off the coast of Hermanus doing their thing to the sound of power tools.

My polite inquiry about whether they could pipe in – if that’s the right term – that morning’s edition of the BBC’s Global News Podcast was met with a blank stare.

And so, my ordeal began as Kahi or Jalen or whatever his name was, exhorted us to close our eyes and let the music guide our souls. We were told to embrace the beauty of the new day, connect with the rhythm of nature and dance like nobody was watching.

Well of course that was bollocks. People were leaning over their balconies with tears streaming down their faces as they watched us, mainly me, gyrate and stretch our hands to a “sunrise holding infinite possibilities”.

I heard Jalen whisper that at this moment we were all as one and to let the gentle music speak to our souls.

The music I heard sounded like two enthusiastic fornicating whales off the coast of Hermanus doing their thing to the sound of power tools.

Kahi exhorted to me to radiate love and happiness and to leave all my worries behind and dance in the present.

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At this point I was fervently praying that my Achilles tendon would snap or that Jalen would get a call alerting him to a family tragedy. Sadly, no such luck. But following the lead of the permanently dull in-house chief risk officer, I joined his imaginary conga line of two in the direction of the breakfast buffet that the CEO had kindly laid on, post dancing.

Images of a bacon and egg plate with lashings of toast and butter gave way to complimentary kale smoothies and I could have sworn I saw Kahi smirk and give me the middle finger as he moved on to the yoga stretch component of the morning.

There is an old African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

When it comes to team-building, my plan is to move at the speed of light, in completely the opposite direction. DM


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  • Joe Schlabotnik says:

    My feelings exactly – and to add insult to injury, there always seems to be a clique of idiotic,
    over-enthusiastic, brown-nosing sycophants eager to demonstrate to the bosses their loyalty to the company-yeugh!!

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Hilarious and painful at the same time. I cracked up at the enthusiastic whales! A great description of corporate folly in action

  • Diane Black says:

    Spot on, Jeremy! Most of the time these junkets are a waste of good money and working time. Much the same as ghastly workshops which one is compelled to attend and endure “ice-breaker” activities when one longs for an ice pick to assassinate the workshop guru! Do they still “park” matters on the side but never quite get to them? It reminds me of the Cockney saying “What about the workers?” Thanks for the laugh!

  • Martin Koch says:


  • Jenny Hall says:

    Wow Jeremy! I’m so impressed with your knowledge of the jingo-lingo BS. That fading peroxide buzz in sequin shirt 😂 Some sanity has survived. We oldies don’t keep up with corporate shenanigans and fake team building rubbish . In the 1990’s an large investment bank offered cruises for performance bonuses. My super-wise husband and corporate man of integrity, called them expensive feed-lots and we walked the many upper decks a zillion times to reduce the fake-food load. The ship has got bigger and bigger and seems as unsinkable as the Titanic?…. keep writing so we can believe in our sanity for awhile longer.

  • Ritey roo roo says:

    Money making (or wasting, depending on which side of the fence you’re on) balderdash. Great for the narcissist boss and hangers on though. Best parts are usually the catering. But also great to get out of the office for a day and the venues were always quite poshe..

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