Corporate Bonding

I have always wondered what goes on in a locker room before the big game.  Growing up in the pre Title 9 world of women’s sports, there was simply no such thing as a big game.  The only thing going on in our pregame locker room was putting on the uniform, if one even existed.  There was no coach helpfully pointing out that “the only thing between champ and chump is U.”  The implicit concept was that pride and self motivation and basic concepts of team work should more than suffice.  Basically there should be no reason to tap into some collective primal competitive juices.  Besides, it was unladylike.   The closest thing to a team experience that I currently have is my church bell choir where everyone has to be totally on their game to avoid a dystonal disaster, like last week when my bells were in the wrong hand.  Would a pre performance pep talk have sharpened my focus?   The thought of all of us in our royal blue robes shoulder to shoulder, jumping up and down in unison with the choir direction in the middle exhorting us to hit those 8th and 16th notes is ludicrous. 

In the corporate world, I have experienced the occasional bonding exercise – typically a silly parlor game devised by the clever folks in Human Resources to foster team unity.  However, as an independent consultant comfortably isolated in the lower right hand corner of the Meyer-Briggs grid, I have been cynically unreceptive to such efforts, figuring that my professional pride should provide more than enough motivation.  Recently, I got another chance when Aequitas, one of the consulting companies I work with, summoned me to a company retreat.  This is the company that I had thought was on the verge of collapse due to a dwindling client roster, but the managing director and principal investor had decided to give it one last shot and had hired a whole new slew of consultants. He wanted to get us all pumped up about being part of the Aequitas team. As I packed to leave, Nick said,  “I can’t imagine anyone less likely to respond to this type of meeting.”” 

We all sat around a rectangular table and the moderator announced, “ want each person to tell the group why you are passionate about working for Aequitas, and then tell us about one interesting thing that you like to do on the weekends.”  At this point I was half listening, idly trying to find a third anagram to join the couplet of “doorbell” and “bordello.”  All of a sudden the moderator said, “Let’s start with you, Elizabeth.”  I was sitting in the middle of the table, and had presumed that we would go around the table clockwise, giving me plenty of time to prepare my contribution.  And now, suddenly, here I was the first to go, and I realized that whatever I said would possibly set the tone for the whole meeting. 

Should I take the very noble approach and say that I was motivated by the knowledge that our collective efforts might make medical innovations accessible to patients, and on the weekends my passions were church and family?  This was a very weighty drop-of-a-hat decision that was thrust upon me and with minimal time for deliberations I decided to go with the more light-hearted approach.  I explained that every single project that I had worked on was intellectually stimulating in some way.  I had just spent three months researching fecal occult blood.  At the beginning, this project seemed like a total loser, but by the time I completed the 80 page treatise I was completely captivated.  And actually this was true.  The group seemed to respond to this anecdote – either to the theme of intellectual curiosity or the gentle potty humor whose appeal, I am convinced, is universal.   For my weekend passion, I elected to tell the group that I play goalie on a women’s ice hockey team, that I had chosen this position since I did not know how to stop or turn and wanted to be well padded, and that our record was 2-6, meaning we had won two games in six years.  Self-effacing humor always plays well.

As we moved around the room, I did feel a sense of unity emerge, and then suddenly the head of business development person burst into the room,  “I have unbelievable news, we just won the Sanofi-Aventis account and this was a blind RFP.”  The place erupted in cheers, and the managing director, who presumably had been hemorrhaging money for the past year, put his head in his hands.  I thought he was going to cry.  He straightened himself up and said, “This is great, just great.  I knew that if we got the right team together – I mean all of you sitting around the table because you ARE the Aequitas TEAM. We are nothing without teamwork, and I know that with this TEAM we will be successful.”” Emotions were rising.  He then stood up and with a raised finger said, “I make this promise to you.  If we can do 8 million dollars of business this year, I am going to take you all to Italy!”  This really got the group going, and I heard quiet chants of, “I-tal-y, I-tal-y, I-tal-y.”  And then something totally unexpected happened.  I found myself standing up and with a discreet fist pump, I announced, “The road to Italy goes through Sanofi-Aventis!”” The place went up for grabs.

What had happened?  I was convinced that like hunting and gathering, my subconscious competitive core was a mere smidge of its former self.  Over decades if not generations of neglect, it had suffered from disuse atrophy, replaced by conscious and deliberate motivations. And yet here I was, participating basically from the neck down.  So maybe with the proper training to call forth more instinctual motivations I could become a better hockey player or bell ringer. 

The buoyant mood persisted into the evening poolside cocktail party, where a signature  “Aequatini” was being served with great fanfare.  I knew I should partake, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drink this awful looking concoction, whose aqua blue color reminded me either of windshield wiper fluid or AquaVelva.   Besides, I felt that I had already done my part in stoking the crowd, so I compromised and told everyone that I was drinking an Aequatonic instead.   

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, post, stop) and the number of asterisks indicates the number of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with either the previous or following line.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers.  

The ******* of ruthless competition is something I’ve tried to suppress,

And I thought jingoist corporate boosterism had no chance of success.

But suddenly there I was paying homage to a symbolic corporate *******

That somehow had stimulated a long forgotten primal receptor.

So have ******* for your innate dog-eat-dog world survival skills,

They are still lurking beneath and will even trump your intellectual will.










Spectre, specter, respect


Corporate Jargon, Chapter 2

A scut puppy is a – – – – employee, like the office gopher,

In contrast a cube potato is lazy do-nothing loafer.

A square headed girlfriend is a computer who has become your soul – – – -,

A turd in the punch bowl describes a problem that just can’t wait.

Foaming the runway is a last ditch effort when there’s no time on the clock,

Kevork is when a – – – – member kills an idea just like that crazy doc.

A baby seal meeting is when you’re beat to raw – – – – and left for dead,

Finally, prairie dogging is when a cubicle dweller pops up his head.

Tame, mate, team, meat

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