Corporate.activities.ideas.npgCorporate activities ideas

My company, TrivWorks, has been producing employee team building events in NYC, Southern California and nationwide for nearly eight years. Our team trivia events are proven group bonding activities which address a variety of workplace issues. As such, I wasn’t surprised when I received an Email inquiry from somebody at a major Fortune 500 company last month, stating that the team had a problem with communication, and that they wanted to address it.

I called back and left a voicemail, then followed up with an Email – neither of which received a reply (my first clue that yes, this place did indeed have a real communication issue!). When I finally got the inquiring party on the phone, I listened carefully to the requested goals and objectives of the event, and was asked to submit a detailed formal proposal, which I promptly did.

Alas, I received no acknowledgement.

This in and of itself isn’t all that uncommon – people lead pretty busy lives after all, as I’m sure you yourself can attest! I followed up the next day – and the next, and the day after that.

Still no reply.

Finally, a full week after submitting the proposal, I decided to give I one more try and send a last Email. This time, the response came swiftly – albeit in the form of an “Out of Office” message:

“I’m out on vacation until next week – please Email Bob Smith if your matter is urgent.”

Now, normally I wouldn’t classify failure to respond to a proposal as “urgent” – however, the date which this person had given me for the proposed NYC team building activity was rapidly approaching, and if we were indeed going to produce the event, we would need to know ASAP in order to make the necessary preparations on our end. Seeing how I had nothing to lose, I went ahead and Emailed Bob Smith.

“Hi Bob, my name is David Jacobson – I was in contact with your colleague last week, who had requested a proposal for the upcoming event date. I haven’t heard back, however, and it looks like their absence from the office will be a bit extensive. Might you be able to provide me with a status update, or perhaps point me in the right direction?”

I hit send, and within seconds I received my reply…ANOTHER “Out of Office” message:

“Hi – I’m out this week for vacation, please Email Sue Jones if you need anything.”

I’d never seen anything quite like this before. Typically, when you are going to be out of the office for any length of time, it’s customary to include a contact in your “Out of Office” message who is – well, who is still IN the office! I mean…really? You don’t check to see if your go-to person is also going to be out on vacation, during the week you plan to be? (follow this link for a related article on how to leave the office properly for summer vacation).

More out of curiosity than anything else, I copied and pasted my Email to Bob, edited it for Sue, and hit “send.”

You guessed it:

“I’m away for vacation until the end of next week – please Email Joe Brown with anything requiring immediate attention.”

By this point, I pretty much knew that reaching this client was going to be a lost cause. However, I couldn’t help but reflect on the irony of the situation. This person had reached out to me stating explicitly that the team had a communication problem, and here I was, seeing the depths of this problem firsthand!

Now, I’m just a lowly corporate entertainment vendor who was asked to put together a team building exercise proposal. Imagine, however, if I was a senior executive trying to obtain a timely piece of information? What if I was a prospective client, inquiring about products or services? Or an existing client with a pressing matter? You can no doubt see where I’m going with this.

My point is, such poor communication is more than amusing at best, or annoying at worst. It can lead to serious, business-affecting issues, which can potentially have major impact on the bottom line. Hopefully, you don’t have to work within an atmosphere where communication is clearly such an issue. But if you do think that the above example sounds a bit TOO familiar, or wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for your company, department or team, then I have the following helpful suggestions:

  • Admit there is an issue – I do commend the person who contacted me in this case, for at least acknowledging there is a problem. It takes a lot to own up to that, and even more to actually go online and research potential ways o address it
  • Share your concern with your team – Don’t do this in a vacuum. I realize that communication is already an issue here, but let it be known among the others involved that you have identified a potentially destructive issue with how your team functions, that that you intend to do something about it
  • Set clear goals – Doing so will help you pinpoint exactly where you think the problem(s) lie, and help clarify in your mind what it is you feel needs to be achieved in order to remedy
  • Develop a solution – This may be a trivia team building event like I produce, or other corporate activities which are completely different. However, if you want to address the problem you need to come up with a plan of action, after you have identified the specific areas you wish to focus on.

One of the really good things about communication is that it’s one of the “soft skills” areas that consistently show the fastest improvement rates, provided you implement quality solutions designed to address them. With a dedicated focus and clear goals and objectives in mind, a team leader can greatly improve the way his or her team communicates with clients, prospects, and each other.

For further reading on useful ways to improve communication among the members of your team trough company activities and other methods, visit