The Office Outing

If you have any brains, you will comply with company or management requests. It goes with the territory for most employees and accommodation works better than retaliation. My boss got the idea in a sudden frenzy of creativity to bond the staff by having a corporate “sensitivity” outing. For most of us, feelings are private and not to be shared with colleagues, especially superiors. In other words, we loathe such events.

OK. I know they are ostensibly good for us to enhance cooperation and productivity. I wish my boss had another way, however. The day loomed in the too near future. An overnight in the outdoors—a glorified camping trip—was the order of the day. We all got out the worn and tired old bed rolls and Coleman stoves. It had been too long for this kind of boyhood event. Grudgingly we boarded a group bus and headed into the wilderness, such as it is.

A bit corny at first, it became more fun and relaxing after a few beers and a round of campfire songs. Personal stories, then a lecture about bonding, were highlights of the evening. The boss was in rare form as he recounted similar trips and the positive results obtained. We understood his perspective and went along for the ride like a good cavalry. Why not? The simple food prepared fresh over the fire was good and the moods were even better. I think we had to admit the success as we laughed a lot and learned quite a bit as intended.

The program was an eye-opener. We talked freely the next morning, bright and early, sipping fresh coffee and devouring cinnamon buns. We had an hour to roam about and take an introspective walk if we wanted, or we could just stay at camp and chat a bit more. We reveled in a new kind of connection.

Before boarding the bus to return to civilization, the boss handed out a special business backpack like this to each employee emblazoned with the company name and logo. Also embroidered on the surface was the individual’s name and the date. It would commemorate the experience and become a reminder as we used the bag from time to time in our daily lives. And we did. We liked the spirit imbued as we loaded it with gym gear or weekend get-away stuff. Some of us just used it for storage. No matter. It was our special common bond and a symbol of friendship and belonging. How apt a gift from what turned out to be a “sensitive” guy in the best sense. There was nothing weird about the event or the aftermath and we actually looked forward to future trips. Somehow, we knew the first time was to be the best in memory and we treasured it as a revelation and insight into ourselves and others. We had never had the occasion to get outside of our own heads and learn to “hear” others. We never understood the meaning of adapting to personality differences and learning tolerance. We were on a mental high.