Have you been a victim of the dreaded off site? What’s an off site you say, well if you have to ask, you have not been to one and probably don’t work in the office of a large corporation.
For the uninformed, an off site is where you go with a group of fellow workers, live there for a day or more, eat together, play together, do all kinds of team activities and most likely accomplish little.
In other words, it is just like a meeting but with ambiance. On the plus side you probably get free drinks and to see your fellow workers in more of a, shall we say, realistic environment.
If you want to be sure you are at a bonafide off site, here is what to look for. A room with flip charts, lots of sticky note pads most of which will end up on the flip chart or on the walls or on the flip chart pages which have previously been stuck to the walls. There will be several rolls of masking tape, water and handouts… all of which will weigh three to four pounds and which you must diligently carry away from the meeting before tossing them.
There will be one or more expert speakers, on occasion these may be PhDs who are there to give you some kind of a test so that you too can learn about your quirky personality already abhorred by your fellow attendees.
You will in all likelihood gain three to five pounds at an off site because of the prevalence of snacks, big lunches and dinners and mindless boredom for eight hours a day. You may be tempted to throw paper airplanes or even an occasional spitball, resist such efforts. The familiarity that is generated at the off site won’t last and your colleagues have long memories. The only thing worse than a spitball in the meeting room is getting drunk at the bar and telling your associates what you really think, even the PhD (who has probably already gone home) is not going to help you out of that one.
If the co-worker sitting across from you has his laptop on the table, ask him to turn up the sound so you too can hear the music.
The meeting will likely be “casual” and in that way you may learn more about the lifestyle of people than you ever wanted to know. Somehow casual at an off site takes on new meaning, especially at the bar.
If you participate in one of those team building exercises hope to God that the person behind you who is supposed to catch you as you faithfully fall backward is not the same person who you reported for stealing pencils and coffee packets the week before.
When you are asked to align yourselves into small groups for a breakout session it is time to hit the restroom, take an important call or busily leave the room with the Blackberry ® buzzing in hand (arrange for the appropriate notification from an associate for whom you later return the favor). Never, never volunteer to be the person who “reports out” when the breakout session is finished, that is unless you like taking full responsibility for the five other people who now are in a position to disavow everything you report as the teams conclusions on a subject that no one on the team had any clue about in the first place.
Be mindful of the parking lot, no, no that’s not where you left your car. The parking lot is the place where the really good ideas (and stuff nobody wants to deal with) go to die, something like the elephant graveyard. The parking lot is the flip chart in the corner of the room where the following are written:
A really dumb idea that is placed there to avoid embarrassing the idea giver
Ideas that are completely and utterly not understood but that fact is not admitted to by anyone in the room
Good ideas that will be lost in the wind when the page of the flip chart is torn off (with an interim stop taped on the wall).
There is a newer trend these days which involves rating something where your opinion is asked and the results are tabulated without any semblance of confidentiality by placing a brightly colored dot on a line drawn on a page from the flip chart now taped to the wall. “Where do you believe our organization lies today in terms of respecting diversity?” Diversity, I thought this was a budget meeting?
Finally, you may be confronted with an “evening session.” Personally I am a morning person so I have no memories of any past evening sessions to share, but I have to think that the evening session when most people are full of dinner, want to call their families or in rare cases want to hit the fitness center are at least as productive as the previous eight hours.
Game room anyone?