I can only imagine that the writer is someone who shares my antipathy when it comes to the nonsense that we are forced to endure in order to pick up our pay packet. What’s more after launching my own investigation into this topic, I have yet to find one single person who can see the benefit of role play, ice breaker games, team building exercises or character forming days. Call it what you will but I call it a modern form of torture.
My first experience of this work related hell came in my final months of university. This was back in the 80s so, whilst not exactly new, I like to think that such idiocy wouldn’t have been tolerated by the tougher, war formed generations of yesteryear. They didn’t have to invent ridiculous tests of mental resilience and team building because presumably these things were being played out for real whilst dicing with death.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the only reason I ever went into teaching is because I didn’t have what it takes to survive the ‘milk round’ experience. The very name makes me want to vomit and, for those of you spared the horror, it’s a system whereby students are recruited by companies for graduate training programmes.
My only fleeting connection came in the shape of British Rail, who invited me to a recruitment selection exercise in the middle of nowhere. I remember taking a train to Cheltenham before a taxi ride to a hotel in the wilderness, where I found lots of other young people all about to be rudely introduced to the real world. I can’t fully describe the nightmare that unfolded over the next two days but, let me just say, it involved an endless merry-go-round of team games and role play whilst the instructors
hovered, scribbling furiously on clipboards. I spent my entire student overdraft on the mini bar, trying futilely to alleviate my suffering.
To put the whole debacle in perspective, let me just explain what the job would have entailed. Successful candidates were to be placed on a two year training programme, becoming adept in every aspect of the company, such high flying tasks as manning the buffet bar and selling tickets, before becoming management. Anyway, I didn’t get that far. A combination of public humiliation involving a role playing exercise about some missing jewellery and a hangover from hell due to mixing the grain with the
miniatures did for me. I spiralled over the edge, refusing to participate any further and was consequently sent packing, labelled defective where management material was concerned. I applied for teacher training the very next day, if nothing else I reasoned it would give me another year’s reprieve until I was booted out into the world of work.
Teaching used to be above peddling so called motivational nonsense but, over the years, it’s been repackaged as a corporate industry with managers instead of head teachers and all the accompanying jargon and gobbledygook. I have been relatively successful at dodging courses and training but I’ve not come out of it totally unscathed. My worst one involved a weekend in a listed stately home in some Godforsaken place, where we were moulded into middle management, skilled at spotting a weak link at a hundred paces and taking decisive action to weed them out. After all, as we know ‘A team is only as strong as its weakest link.’ There wasn’t even a mini bar to numb the pain!
The conversations I found myself having after the Boardwalk Empire episode have left me reeling at some of the experiences I have heard and wondering who actually dreams these things up. The most shocking came from a friend, whose sister lost her job and had to claim job seeker’s allowance. Despite already feeling crushed and demeaned after being forced out of a job she had held for twenty years, in order to prove her job readiness, she had to endure two weeks of role playing hell. Anybody who didn’t comply lost their benefits; the princely sum of £56.25 per week. Why in the world would anybody think it’s a good idea to kick a person who is already down?
In my current job, I have a lot of leeway because it’s temporary and they need me more than I need them. It didn’t, however, stop some management representative from raising the subject of team building. One idiot, predictably a young man in his twenties, suggested paintballing. Now, I don’t want to offend anybody but my view on this is if you are still paintballing over the age of twelve, you maybe need to join the army or consider counselling. Luckily, I was able to stop the conversation in its tracks with a stern look.
All this modern madness begs the question of who, if anybody, thinks that these initiatives are beneficial in any way, shape or form. Every single person I have spoken to shudders at the mere mention of the words role play or team building. Rather than bringing out the best in anybody, they succeed only in humiliating people and engendering feelings such as alienation and misanthrope. In fact, the next time some moron even breathes the word role play near me, I may not be responsible for my
actions. Let’s just hope there are no irons at hand.