August is the most popular month for the company outing. It's time to eat mystery mayo dip and watch the president incinerate mountains of hot dogs.
And what summer picnic would be complete without endless rounds of embarrassing and dangerous games? So to help you plan the tricky parts of this annual corporate tradition, I've come up with a few handy tips.
First of all, consider your audience when you're choosing the outdoor games. If attendees are engineers, avoid the three-legged race. They'll have many theories on the force vectors and coefficients of friction needed to win the race. I've seen some pretty nasty arguments break out when two engineers teamed up. First, they pulled out their calculators and tried to prove who had the better strategy. Next, they arrived at a method that needed to be field-tested. Finally, they agreed on a plan for a prototype that wouldn't be ready until the following spring.
Be sure to ban all BlackBerries and cellphones for the day. If one of those babies goes off during the tug of war or square dance, the communications fanatic will just take off to discuss pressing matters, leaving his or her partner tugging or do-si-do-ing all by himself.
Chooseactivities that are not competitive, and make sure you understand the games before you approve them. A friend of ours told of one event called human foosball. There were two teams, each person connected to the next person with a rope. When the ball whizzed by, everyone was supposed to move in unison. That sounds great in theory, but the actual results were painfully unpredictable. Weaker members of the team were dragged around like whimpering rag dolls by the more aggressive members. So much for teamwork.
Then there's paintball. The problem with this game is, those who understand how to play can take advantage of their weaker rivals and shoot them at close range, resulting in welts, hurt feelings, and a proposal to hold next year's outing at an anger management class. At the end of the day, you don't want half the staff looking like they had gone 12 rounds with Mohammed Ali.
Make sure the company president is in attendance to show that he or she is one of the gang by donning a “World's Greatest Chef” apron and taking a turn at the grill. Chances are good that the boss's efforts will result in a smoky, blackened lump that was once part of a chicken … or maybe a pig. Avoid the temptation to say, “Gee, B.J., your cooking technique is as polished as your management style!” Try turning the situation to your advantage by commenting that blackened food is all the rage these days and how this cuisine is so au courant.
If you follow these simple guidelines, your company outing will be a huge success and they'll sign you up to plan it again next year. But just in case, have your résumé updated and ready.
When he's not writing humor columns, Mike Donlin writes technical and marketing articles, presentations, and press releases for the electronics industry. He is based in Hudson, N.H., and can be reached email@example.com.