Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Emotional vampires and corporate bonding

Somewhere in Hell, I hope there is a place reserved for the people who dream up corporate bonding strategies.

I'm not talking about Kriss Murrin and her freshness cupboard or the 'stir-fry' role-play (see "Today, Home Secretary, you're going to be a beansprout") - grisly as that sort of thing can be - but the really nasty ones, who persuade their victims to share their most traumatic childhood experiences with the group.

There's an example quoted in Sally Brampton's advice page in today's Sunday Times concerning a work course at which participants were required to 'talk through the highs and lows of our lives from as far back as we could remember'; in this case, reliving an old tragedy had a serious and lasting effect on the reader.

The emotional incontinence that characterises popular culture has spilled over into the corporate sphere where, I suspect, it is doing untold damage. Managers fall for the new-age psychobabble of catharsis and re-birthing, secure in the knowledge that they won't be the ones hot-seated for simulated playground bullying or parental abuse.

This whole idea of repeatedly raking over unpleasant experiences rather than letting the passage of time bury them away has become the norm - barely is the ink dry on reports of a catastrophe before counsellors are being bussed in from all sides to 'help' the survivors; in our secular society they have rushed to fill the void left by the consolation of religion, as Subrosa has eloquently described elsewhere.

And it's a short step from there to the assumption that all trauma must be relived; that there is something wrong with those who try to ignore it and carry on. In the same way, amateur genealogists are mercilessly stripping away years of oblivion to bring to light events best left forgotten.

And finally there's the Jeremy Kyle effect - emotional voyeurism. I'm sure his audience feel a sense of bonding as they vicariously wallow in the pain paraded on stage for their delectation, but it takes a special sort of mind to conceive of using the same phenomenon in a corporate setting.


  1. In many cases, the trauma will be the death of a loved one, so what's the point of persuading people to relive it?

    It may be a popular truism, but time really is a great healer. Not if these clowns have their way though.

  2. so what's the point of persuading people to relive it?

    The technique bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the brainwashing methods used by some religious cults; think of the loyalty and commitment some of these large financial corporations expect from their employees and you have something frighteningly Orwellian.

  3. that's quite appaling, I've done my share of 'role playing' or a sit is now known ' Total Immersion Reality Scenarios' at these sort of things. and I've gringed through every second.

    This sounds like CBT performed by an unqualified HR person, with no thought as to the consequences.

    I personally would refuse even if it cost me the job.

  4. PC, You're probably right about the HR involvement; the trouble is that there are plenty of people in responsible positions who just don't have the intelligence to appreciate the fact that they are unqualified.

    Unfortunately those tend to be just the sort of people who are attracted by the idea of role-playing.