Perspective | May I Please Skip the Group Hug?
I was grocery shopping when the public ding-dong sounded. “Would senior management please proceed to the conference room,” a metallic voice said, “for the afternoon group hug.”
Stunned by the imbecility, I paused to regroup. A fellow passing by said: “It’s alright. He really did say that.”
A broker pal is, as I write, preparing for a week-long ‘teamcation.’ All 22 members of his office are going on a company-sponsored vacation together in an eco-lodge in a down-market Spanish resort — all to encourage bonding. Had I been forced to attend such an abomination, it may have encouraged something less positive.
Some Wall Street finance companies now reportedly encourage (a.k.a. require) employees to join in company-sponsored marathons, ironmans and arctic treks. Those not fit enough to compete, goes the mantra, aren’t ready to take on the competition. How this fits in with diversity in hiring, I’m not sure.
How did all this unconscionable idiocy start? A consultant, I’d wager, a baby boomer, probably in New York City, delivered a paper to one of his clients on corporate culture. He probably proposed that, to make them better workers, employees should be pampered a little. Why not bring teams together in informal settings and let them bond?
Memo to employers: Some people thrive outside the team regime. Some are lone wolves, eating only what they kill. Some burn in the sun. For all these and more, a week spent struggling to maintain one’s office face and demeanor could cause psychological problems.
It must have worked. It needs only one company in the world to do something that works before everyone has to do it. Sooner or later, even the most conservative among us, actuaries, say, are using words like ‘silo’ or ‘execution metrics’ and embracing change management and disruption. From there, it’s apparently a short hop to the whole company spending a week together in hell.
Memo to employers: Some people thrive outside the team regime. Some are lone wolves, eating only what they kill. Some burn in the sun. For all these and more, a week spent struggling to maintain one’s office face and demeanor could cause psychological problems. You may want to weed out these non-conformists, but they’re probably the ones driving your company forward.
Too cynical? How long, I wonder, before it’s all ’round to the local tattoo parlor to have the company logo emblazoned on everyone’s forehead?
Apropos the consultant, The New Yorker ran a cartoon of two detectives looking at a corpse lying on the floor. “From the severity and quantity of the wounds,” one detective says, “I’d say he was a management consultant.”
Since late last year, I have been looking for a way to work the following into a column. Now is the hour. Since insurance people are all, at heart, mathematicians, you might enjoy this: In January, we went from 2017 (a prime number) to 2018 (two times a prime number, 1009). Next year will be 2019, three times a prime number, 673. This has happened only three other times in the past 1,129 years.
Try making conversation at the next bonding session with that information. You won’t be asked back. &