Intended for healthcare professionals

Filler A day in the life of a doctor

The team building day

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1332
  1. David Isaacs, senior staff specialist, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia (davidi{at},
  2. Stephen Isaacs, consultant, Waltham Forest Child and Family Consultation Service, London,
  3. Dominic Fitzgerald, senior staff specialist, Department of Respiratory Medicine, Children's Hospital at Westmead

    “The main purpose of a team building day is to build a team,” the Facilitator begins smugly. A team building day is a cliché building day. The Facilitator can cram more clichés per square sentence and mix more metaphors than George W Bush. The Facilitator has a capital F, and the self satisfaction of believing that the profundity of his or her insight knows no depths. The word Facilitator has the same derivation as the word facile.

    “A problem shared is a problem solved.” Another purpose of a team building day is embarrassment. “Let's all begin by telling our names, two things about us that no one else knows, and, if you were a dog, what breed you would be.” A Rottweiler, you think, longingly.

    “There is no ‘I' in team.” Unless you are dyslexic. You resist the temptation to point out that there is a “me” in team. You also resist the even bigger temptation to point out that we would all be better off if there was no F in Facilitator.

    “Mates is an anagram of teams. By the end of today, we will all be mates.” Or meats. Or steam will be issuing from our ears.

    “You use more muscles to frown than you do to smile.” You wonder how many muscles you would have to use to wipe that supercilious smile off the Facilitator's face.

    “A happy team makes for a happy client.” The Facilitator is referring to what we used to call patients, because they needed plenty of patience. A client is a patient with attitude. A customer is a patient with health insurance.

    “The team is bigger than the sum of its parts.” Except the England World Cup football team, which was less than the sum of its parts. Other examples are possible.

    “There is a resolution to every conflict.” The team building day teaches you how to Deal with Conflict in the Workplace. Not, you regret, by improving your martial arts training. You are taught to deal with conflict by Mediation and Negotiation and Understanding and Mutual Goodwill. Sticking pins in wax images of the patronising little toe-rag in Human Relations is not Dealing with Conflict.

    There are upmarket team building days and downmarket ones. An upmarket team building day involves paintball fights and smoked salmon and avocado foccacio. A downmarket team building day involves pinball machines and salmonella.

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