I recently had to attend a mandatory staff retreat that was full of the sorts of things that you’d assume a staff retreat would want to address – strengths and challenges, communication, team building exercises, mission and goals. Some people find them invigorating and helpful, but there’s always those few of us who are sitting in the corner wishing the floor would swallow us. And I’m in that latter group.
Being that my employer is Catholic, there was also plenty of prayer and reflection at this retreat. As an atheist, I don’t see much point in reflecting on all the ways God works in my life. So instead, I decided to think about why I dislike retreats and motivational seminars so much.
1. There’s something about it that feels phony. In this retreat, we did talk a lot about cheerleading and how that’s superficial, which I appreciated. But I’m not sure any real work can be done in a day or two, so by their nature, these things are always a little superficial.
2. The good intentions never seem to manifest themselves into any sort of discernible change or action plan. I really feel like I’m attending a pep rally for adults – it’s an attempt to get us all jazzed up and enthusiastic, and in some cases it works, but that lack of actual evolution contributes to my “this is such phony nonsense” mindset.
3. People who get choked up talking about teamwork or giving pseudo-inspirational speeches about how amazing our group is. I appreciate the sentiment to a point, but when you start crying…you’ve kind of lost me. In general, I dislike emotional displays at work. Reserved appreciation is fine – crying because you’re so inspired by our team is just uncomfortable.