Workshops, games, and ice-breaker sessions are an inevitable part of corporate life. The goals and objectives that they seek to achieve are often defeated because of poor vision and faulty implementation, leading to a colossal wastage of precious resources.
But on the positive side, they do provide a welcome respite from the usual routine and offer interesting opportunities to everyone concerned. They are generally held away from work locations, so you get to visit new places, meet new people, make new friends, try out some new food, and sometimes do some shopping as well.
I have attended so many of these sessions during my last 3-decade-old career that I have lost count of them. But I do remember that they were always fun.
My most recent experience of a workshop I attended in Hotel Fairmont, Jaipur, in June 2019, was, however, completely different. It was organized by our Principals.
See these pics below.
Inside Pink City (Jaipur)
This time, I was tired at the beginning itself because of the previous day’s hectic schedule and road travel. My fatigue didn’t wear off despite a good night’s sleep in the hotel. The organizers too appeared to be equally frazzled.
At Fairmont, Jaipur (at entrance)
Our first group activity of the day began at around 11 AM with about 40 of us dealer sales staff. We were split into two groups. Each group included some senior managers too. As it was supposed to be a fun activity, our seniors had a laid-back attitude.
Each group was given 15 square-shaped cardboard pieces. We were to imagine that they were boats and we were given the task of using them to reach an imaginary island on the opposite side as a team. We were to be creative as a team and devise the best strategy to cross the flooded river in the shortest possible time.
At the end of his instructions, our organizer suddenly announced, “Each group will have a leader who will ensure that the task is perfectly executed.”
This was quite unexpected, because activities like these are meant to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration, not for training people in leadership skills.
I got another shock a minute later when I found myself the leader of the team.
Well, as soon as the game began, there was a big chaos while we planned our strategies.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, our organizer pointed his hubristic finger at me and exclaimed, “Your feet are not on the cardboard. That means you are in water and drowned already! How will you take care of your team?
He had a scolding, hectoring tone and he sounded as if all this was for real. I was embarassed because all eyes were turned on me.
I smiled sheepishly and diplomatically followed the remaining instructions. The session ended a few minutes later, to my utter relief. As I had expected, our organizer manipulated the activity to drive it to the conclusion that “We performed better in the second part because we all collaborated as a single team.”
Another speaker took over after we got back to our seats. He also had a task in store for us: “Four of you from each of the 4 tables will play the role of customer and call a salesperson located in a different city from yours. Once you are through with this, you will give your feedback in an open discussion in post lunch session. Remember to start with positives and mention negatives later.” It was meant to check and demonstrate our dealerships’ overall responsiveness to customers’ enquiries.
Well, four best salespersons were chosen from each table and called.
From our table, the first salesperson was on his weekly off, so his response lacked enthusiasm. The second one was excellent while the other two had a few deficiencies. Similar performance was observed on the other 3 tables too.
This was sufficient fodder for the post lunch session.
As per his promise, the same speaker carried on the baton after lunch. He began by dividing us into two groups, those who did the mock calls and those who didn’t. I was in the second one.
He asked, “Why didn’t you guys call?”
“You said only 4 should call. We followed your instructions.”
He frowned and said, “Okay, you people stand in that corner and those who called will stand here. They will discuss their feedback on the mike, positives first, negatives next.”
For next one hour, the feedback session dragged on. I felt drowsier than before and my legs threatened to buckle under me. I wondered why we were made to stand like school children in a group punishment. We could have listened in a sitting position too.
I don’t know what the others thought, but I felt this kind of treatment was unjustified in a professional environment.
Well, sometimes, you just have to put up with certain things and remind yourself that this too will pass.
Around 5:30 PM, the workshop ended and we found pakoras and tea ready for us on the table when we came out of the conference room. They were tasty and unlike the just concluded workshop, left a good aftertaste in the mouth.
Here are a few more pics clicked on our way back home…