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Fun & Games at Work

Bonding with colleagues and clients can be difficult and boring. As your relationship progresses, unless you are both unstoppable bons vivants there will come a time when long lunches and pub sessions are no longer interesting. You will all get fed up with hearing each other's motorway delay stories, and how nothing but bad things are happening to your figure. Sitting around eating, drinking and smoking with the same old faces is dull; it's time to get some exercise. And while you're at it, entertain your client/colleague in ways that are at once insightful, healthy, competitive and possibly risky.

In the manner to which you are now accustomed, we proudly present I-resign.com's Guide to Sport and Working Relationships.

 

Football

A beautiful game best played with workmates against deadly competitors or clients. This is the arena where you can establish which of your colleagues are ready to put the boot in, or take a thump for the cause, and which are going to back out. Your commitment to your company or peer group can be deeply expressed by playing on through pain, standing up for a fallen comrade or making a last-ditch tackle. In short, football is war.

Who and Where
Typically, football is still considered a manly pursuit; you can assume that most of the organised leagues will be populated by blokes. They will bawl and bludgeon their way through hotly contested inter-departmental, inter-company and inter-club league matches at lunchtimes or after work, then drown their sorrows on bitter shandy and crisps. These players of the gentleman's game will typically evince forthright opinions on everything and everybody, and will stand up en masse to anybody who questions them. Five-a-sides are played out in municipal gymnasia and park pitches are available for hire for the eleven-man game.

Pros

Footie gets the blood rising, fosters a team spirit and a will to win that one day might worm its way into the company-at-large.
Lots of people play it, so there shouldn't be difficulty finding a venue or some willing opposition.

Cons

Your team will inevitably contain one closet hot-head. One too many high tackles, tugs-of-shorts or unnecessary lip and they will surely see red. In the scariest case, this person turns out to be you! It may lead to little more than a tense after match drink-up, or go as far as a visit from the local constabulary.
Getting changed in a car park.

Relationship Building Verdict
Football is great for the winning team's morale, less so for the losers. The post-match pubbing will be a time for group hugs and declarations of undying friendship for the victors, accusations and reprisals for the vanquished. The winners will have ready-made anecdotes of derring-do and heroism that will serve to bond them closer. Even losers can be bonded in defeat - as long they have really tried hard. Anybody not pulling their weight in either case will be rounded up and pilloried.

Useful Links
http://www.ladies-football.co.uk/ - Ladies Football
http://www.nonleaguefootball.co.uk/ - Non-league Football

 

Squash (Or Racquetball)

For the last few years I have been playing squash with a client. We are evenly matched and play out our slogging matches every few months. It's reached the stage where my client will rush through our agenda to get on to the far more important business of arranging our next game. It gives both of us an easy icebreaker in pre- or post-business chit-chat. The state of our injuries is of particular interest; any signs of weakness are severely punished on court!

Who and Where
There's no gender bias in squash - it just takes two relatively fit competitors, evenly matched. Otherwise, while one is exercising nothing more than a few wrist muscles, the other will be left a mess of grazed elbows, jelly-legs and burnt-out lungs. Squash was the craze for power-hungry executive heart-attack victims in the nineteen-eighties, now it is a more egalitarian exercise. Play with your co-worker, boss or client in municipal or swanky squash clubs. Practise in a windowless room or garage if you must.

Pros

It's one-on-one and you have your own private room to act out secret merger plans or pay-rise negotiations. In practice, unless you modulate your tones to a degree holding a conversation is impossible.
It takes just an hour out of your day.
You will lose weight.

Cons

You'll be in very close, very sweaty, proximity to your playing partner. They will run into you.
You are likely to run head-first into the wall at some point, and quite possibly receive the eyeball-sized ball in an eyeball.
You will sweat buckets and see tunnels.

Relationship Building Verdict
This is a real one-on-one respect-building exercise. Try hard and play fast and you will win instant points. Shared physical pain has the power to pull two people closer, so if you aren't up to the same skill level as your opponent, try to get them breathing hard - it will bring them down to earth and they'll respect you more. Crow on winning or bust your racquet over a let call and you will look foolish and petulant. Get down to business in the changing rooms or over a glass of lukewarm tap water in the bar.

Useful Links
http://www.squashplayer.co.uk/clubs/clubsAtoZ.htm - UK Clubs
http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rnr/squash/ - US Directory

Join a Tennis Club

The way you play a game of tennis says a lot about you. Do you rush to the net in a death-or-glory fashion, stay at the baseline bashing the ball as hard as possible, or deflect patiently and wait for your opponent to make a mistake? Keep your eyes open when you are taking on a client or colleague - unless they've had all the personality coached out of their game, it will shine through in their play.

Who and Where
Tennis is a most convivial game, and doubles can even be played at such a pace to allow chit-chat between shots. This makes it ideal for a match-up between you, a client or boss, and your respective partners. There's no room for anger here, and apologies for a winning shot are the norm. Ideally, this should all take place against a backdrop of ancient trees with the sun beating down and the smell of freshly cut grass in the air; cucumber sarnies and Pimm's at the ready. Of course, a more muscular and squeaky game of singles can be had year-round at your indoor courts (See Squash).

Pros

A nice game of doubles puts everyone in the mood for relaxing. After the exertions of play, your partners can be sent off to get to know each other while the subject of business is tentatively approached and swiftly retreated. Today's all about relaxing in the sun and, frankly, work can wait until Monday.
You don't need to get sweaty or out-of breath unless you want to.
Everyone looks good in tennis whites.

Cons

Nice clubs can be expensive to join and always come shipped with a grouchy secretary who will annoy you all by arguing about the state of your whites and shoes.
The weather can be relied upon to be unreliable.
Your backhand will have an off-day.

Relationship Building Verdict
For the more advanced business relationship, the tennis court is a place to see the character of your opposite number. If you can both remain relaxed, you will get insights into each other's personalities you wouldn't have necessarily gained. Also, it's a fun, non-contact and generally respectful sport.
Substitute tennis with crown green bowls or outdoor bridge if you fancy.

Useful Links
http://www.lta.org.uk/lta.htm - The UK Lawn Tennis Association. (Go to Clubs Zone)

 

Rounders, Softball, British Bulldog or Ultimate Frisbee

Fun for everyone, these games can be played in a park with almost no equipment and vast numbers of players. A basic grasp of the rules and a smidgen of skill are all that's required for an afternoon of raucous entertainment. Everyone is guaranteed to have a good time, whether it's playing the game or lying on the grass shooting the breeze and drinking lager. The game might last all afternoon, but nobody needs to keep score - the aim is to bond with your pals and mingle with potential sexual partners.

Who and Where
Except in the most serious of circumstances, these activities should not be considered as sporting. A large, mixed sex group of co-workers, clients, friends and hangers-on can troop off to the nearest patch of green with the barest minimum of equipment: a bat, ball and four jumpers for softball or rounders; a Frisbee and four jumpers for Ultimate; four jumpers and some plasters for bulldog. Make two teams of roughly equal numbers and play.

Pros

Only the real jocks will take this outing seriously. Drinking, smoking and malarkey mean that the real action is going on away from the playing-field.
You don't need much special kit or a special place to play.
You might meet fun, exciting, sexy new people.

Cons

Requires a really hot, sunny day.
You have to organise a lot of people to make it worthwhile.

Relationship Building Verdict
These games are great ways to get everybody happy and relaxed. You'll get to know deeply personal things about each other, and as the drinking session extends long into the starry night, singles who have never exchanged glances before will mysteriously disappear and arrive at work together the next morning. Promise.

Useful Links
http://www.upa.org/ultimate/rules/rules.shtml - Rules of Ultimate Frisbee.
http://www.partydirectory.com/games/g002.htm - British Bulldog explained.
http://rounders.punters.co.uk/rules.html - The (far too serious) rules of rounders.

 

Office Olympics

When you hear the words corporate and fun in the same sentence, be very very afraid. To the darkest recesses of some middle-managing mind came the idea of corporate team-building exercises. Blindfolds, bridge-building and falling-backwards games are the grist to this mill, and we all hate them, don't we? Imagine a competitive version of these games, lasting for days on end, involving a whole company. That's Office Olympics. Sounds scary.

The games themselves can be highly themed to your working environment. Take the example of the Kent State, Oklahoma, Library who ran an Olympics in 2000. There, events included book-balancing, arm-wrestling and a triathlon comprising discus-throwing, rubber-band archery, and paper-wad basketball. Corporate fun never sounded so good!

Who and Where
This is going to take a department or entire company to run successfully. It could take place in the confines of an office, or a hired suite. Your aim should be to mix with people you haven't met before, while at all costs avoiding actual participation.

Pros

The whole company is in the same place.

Cons

Everyone is forced to play stupid games.
For one horrible moment, you might think your boss is OK.

Relationship Building Verdict
The only way this brand of fun can unite people is in their hatred of the whole sorry affair: the well-organised will arrange a sick day; the strong-willed will band together and escape to alcoholic freedom; the weak-willed masses will reluctantly remain to contest the prizes none of them want. Avoid.

Useful Links

http://www.corporatefun.org/corporate_games_page6_1.htm - Corporate Fun?
http://web.mit.edu/jenclee/www/office_olympics.html - Some game ideas (movies)
http://www.stater.kent.edu/ - The Kent State Library Olympics.