When the BOFH suggests a team-building event, on his own time, there has to be some devilry brewing...

Year 1998 - Episode 6


"Of course I bloody did!" the pimply-faced youth (PFY) shouts angrily, slamming the phone down.

Sensing tension in the air, I ask him what's up.

"A bloody user - he's been to the boss and complained about his network speed and got the OK to get it fixed..."

"And you don't fancy the overtime?"

"I'm sick of bloody overtime."

The poor blighter is getting stir-crazy from spending so much time in the office. I remember only too well the feeling of depression as I contemplated another day of calls from users whose passwords didn't work when their caps keys were pressed down. Until I discovered the wonders of electricity, contact adhesive and tinfoil. But that's another story.

"What you need," I reply, noticing a shadow behind the glass panel of our door, "is a break. A chance to re-establish yourself as a member of a team. If there's one thing that contributes to workplace harmony it's the feeling of belonging to a group with a common cause."

I interrupt the PFY as he reaches for the yellow pages - no doubt to look for psychiatric hospitals - and point to the Boss's blurred form outside the door.

"But, it's not a good idea."

"Why not?" The PFY is getting into the swing of things.

"Don't tell the Boss, but a company I used to work for had this team-building weekend and when they got back, performance was up to such a level that they laid off 30 per cent of the staff."

When I looked again the doorway was free of shadow.

Later that afternoon, the boss, looking benevolent, returns.

"I know it's short notice," he says, eyeing us intently, "but I've noticed that morale is down a little recently, so I thought maybe some of us should go for a team-building weekend. Apparently one of the hotels in Brighton has conference and relaxation facilities. I was thinking maybe this weekend?"

That 30 per cent must have really got to him because half the IT department is on his list. The PFY and I make a show of reluctantly accepting the offer.

Friday night arrives and the PFY and I find ourselves at the hotel along with the other IT sheep. By a strange twist of fate, our room access cards no longer access our allocated rooms, but the large staterooms at either end of the corridor.

"Who are we to argue with fate?" I ask the PFY as I place the magcard writer back in my luggage.

"See you in the morning."

Morning dawns and it's time to pay for our sins...

The head of IT has a trust exercise where the victim falls backwards off a table into the arms of his or her co-workers. But everyone was curiously reluctant to try it out after the PFY thought he saw Kevin Costner outside the window at a critical moment of the demonstration.

The boss, however, isn't dissuaded by the head's confinement to bed, and has a myriad geeky games to enthrall us with.

"I can't take much more of this!" the PFY gasps as we're finally allowed to go to the bar at eight o'clock.

"I know. It's a bloody nightmare."

"And he's going to try some 'trust' thing about one person leading another person in a blindfold around the building tomorrow."

"Filthy. Although..."

"No, no, he's said he's not going to be in it. Besides, he knows where the stairwells and balconies are."

"Damn! Well, desperate times call for desperate measures."

"What are you going to do?"

"Buy the boss a drink or two."

A couple of hours later I've snaffled the boss's room card from his wallet and am making my way to his room while the PFY keeps him at the bar...

The next morning everyone's on deck, but there's no boss to be seen. I join the crowd of onlookers.

"All right, what did you do?" the PFY asks curiously.

"Guess."

"You watered his electric blanket?"

"No."

"Livened up his toilet seat?"

"No, but much warmer"

"How much warmer?"

"As warm as say, a Jalapeno pepper, coated in glycerine and placed strategically at the top of a jar of suppositories where it might be grabbed by a drunken sufferer of piles just before bedtime."

"You bastard. Will he turn up?"

"I don't know." I gave the issue some consideration. "What are the chances of the police releasing you when you're found stark naked in a hotel lobby beating the crap out of an ice machine?"

"About the same as the chances of a team-building exercise that can't be played in the bar today?"

"Exactly." I was proud of the PFY's perpicacity. "Make mine a lager!"