Good Food, Good Relationships
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The same could be said about employees. Besides the usual fine-dining or pub-hopping, companies are now embracing cooking lessons to foster bonds between their employees. Alumni share how food has become the universal language among the staff of their respective companies and how it has facilitated team bonding.
Michelle Tan (MBA 2008):
Food events, also known as “brown bag” events, set the mood for a more relaxed atmosphere. Food is a great conversation starter, and a wonderful tool to forage for new friendships. When I first joined the company, it was through lunch sessions with my colleagues that I was introduced to the soft aspects of the organizational culture, and taught how to better adapt to my new work environment. Till today, I make it a point to never lunch alone so that I can sustain the bond with my colleagues. Due to the fast-paced and stressful work environment, I sometimes find it hard to engage my superiors on a more personal level. Fortunately, my company organizes occasional “drinking sessions”, whereby selected staff are invited to mingle with senior management over a round of food and drinks. It was by attending these “brown bag” events that I eventually managed to know the senior management better and build rapport with them. It is thus important to organize occasional out-of-work events to build people close together as staff bonding is vital in keeping staff motivated. As the business saying goes, a happy workforce is a productive workforce.
Clifford Koh (MBA 2010):
My colleagues and I often have lunch-outs with bosses as such events are opportunities for interaction in a casual environment. Another way to break the ice would be to share background of food from our own culture. For example, I introduced custard buns, which were not commonly ordered, to my team during a tim sum outing. Sometimes, my senior colleagues would also share ways to prepare dishes for our respective families. Personally, I have gained from their teachings to prepare bak kut teh for my wife during our wedding anniversary last year. Sometimes, we even discuss various types of food for fertility, for slimming and for neuro-enhancement. I once attended a tiramisu-baking course organized by SAFRA that was definitely different from the usual movie or bowling events. Such events not only identify the better cooks, but also create a talking point within the office. In general, social get-togethers over food allow people to take time off from their work schedule and recharge for the longer journey ahead. They are also opportunities to get to know one another and one another’s family so that we can all look out for one another in the future.
Edwin Chong (MBA 2008):
Satay is one of the best foods that teams can bond over as it involves sharing and having many conversations. When I used to work in Raffles Place, it was common for us colleagues to head to Lau Pa Sat right after work for some good satay. Now, I would bring my staff out for drinks at Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay, just to “chill out”. Before food events are organized, it is essential that the event organizer be mindful of food restrictions and other considerations. For example, I would order halal food as most people can eat it, order barbecued food for variety, or even hold sit-down dinners at restaurants during festive seasons. Sadly, the last one was a rarity due to the hectic nature of the industry I am in. If only my staff and I had more time out of work, I would definitely engage my team in cooking events and see true teamwork in action!
Kirti Chopra (MBA 2010):
After closing every deal, my team and I would go out for a team lunch or dinner. I always go out for lunch with my colleagues on a regular basis and that is actually the time when we share the happenings in our lives and connect with each other. Whenever a new person joins the office, the informal orientation of the person happens during these team lunches. When one is eating, one’s formal guards are let down and others get to know how one really is. I think a social get-together over a barbecue or a potluck meal is a good idea to break the ice and promote camaraderie amongst the team members.
Toh Ern Chong (MBA 2008):
To break the ice before any company lunch or dinner, I would recommend to my bosses the restaurants that the team had visited before. I would also share with my colleagues the new “makan” places that I have recently discovered. Although cooking events may not necessarily cater to the masses, I would not mind getting my department to try out this novel bonding activity. Besides, doing something differently could trigger innovative ways of doing things at work. Also, it would be a more unique experience that my department can “boast” about to the other departments!
Caroline Wan (MBA 2008):
Food is a nice topic to talk about, especially with people whom I just met. Usually I will begin by asking whether they like Singapore food, then talk about where the best local food can be found. As most people are also excited to share their food tastes, conversations get going. Just from talking about food, I can also find out more about the personalities of the people I meet, for example, how receptive they are to new things, like new cuisines.
Prateek Jain (MBA 2009):
After working for some time in my company, I was moved in a new project team. I found the manager of that team to be very serious, and as a result, we rarely spoke. One day, we went for a team lunch. The food was excellent and we started discussing the food. To our surprise, the manager revealed how much he knew about food – from different cuisines to even how the delicacies are prepared. It turned out that he was actually a good cook. Being a food buff myself, I launched into a long conversation with him on food. We had a good time and since then, my perception of him has totally changed.
Sulabh Jhajharia (MBA 2007):
By finding a common ground – food – and with no salaries, designations or job roles whatsoever to separate us, my team and I began to see each other beyond just our job titles, and this helped break a lot more than just ice! As we are all big foodies, we also enjoying finding out the ingredients that go into the food we eat. I am looking forward to cooking events held for my company as I think we can discover so much about each other in such a relaxed and enjoyable environment. It is also a great way to learn about and appreciate other cultures that are usually best represented through their cuisines.
Jaimin Shah (MBA 2010):
After my first week at work, my bosses invited me to Friday beer with their friends. It was a very good opportunity to have open and frank conversations – not just food; alcohol, too, helps to get people talking!