If Lyle could be summed up in one word, it'd be "competitive." If he could be summed up in three words, it'd be "ultra-competitive jackass." If you had $21.00 on you, Lyle would make it a point to have $21.50. If you estimated that a task would take you twelve hours, it'd take Lyle eleven hours and 45 minutes. If a distant relative died, somehow two of Lyle's distant relatives died. He was the kind of guy that would play basketball against a nine year old to win, then he'd make fun of the kid for losing, then he'd make fun of the kid for crying. If a stranger asked Lyle what time it was, he treated it as a challenge.
Lyle was two levels above James W. in the company hierarchy (or, as Lyle would probably call it, "winning"). James reported to Rob, who reported to Lyle. Another team of the same size reported to Lyle as well. James and one of his colleagues knew about Lyle's obsession with winning and exploited it at every opportunity, usually teasing him to the point that he'd leave them alone. As is the case with most bullies being called out on their bullpucky, Lyle got defensive and eventually stopped visiting James during the day.
Clearly, there were problems with the team (and not with Lyle), so he had to take action. I'm better at team building than anyone else, Lyle reasoned. Time for a team-building exercise!
And he knew just the place, too: Lazer Zone X-Treme 2000!! It was the ideal environment for IT office team building — screaming children, sticky arcade cabinets, blaring nu-metal — paradise within just a few miles of the office. He sent emails to his two teams inviting them to play laser tag.
Everyone carpooled to LZXT2K (Lyle got there first), and stood in line waiting to sign in (Lyle signed in first). The teams in the laser tag game were the same as the teams in the office, with Lyle joining the team opposite James. They entered their names, put on their vests, and began the first of two games.
While James was skeptical of laser tag for team building, he had to admit that it was a good time and that everyone enjoyed the friendly competition. Everyone except Lyle, that is. Whenever he was hit, he'd throw up his arms and complain that he shot first and his gun wasn't working. Whenever he landed a hit, he'd laugh and praise himself loudly in third person. "How are you so awesome, Lyle? I don't know, Lyle, I just can't help it!"
The first match was neck-and-neck throughout, until James's team barely pulled ahead at the end. While everyone else was laughing and comparing score sheets after the game, Lyle sat in the corner scowling at his sheet.
"OK, tough guys," Lyle said, rising from his seat and crushing his score sheet in a clenched fist, "how about for the next game the losing team has to sing the 'I'm a Little Teapot' song here in the lobby!"
James rolled his eyes, realizing that it must've taken Lyle tremendous strength of will to not be howling profanities at his team. Everyone agreed to the wager before the second game began.
Five minutes into the game, James was getting the sense that something was amiss. Lyle's team had more than three times the score of James's team, and James could hardly land a shot on anyone! At one point, James had snuck up behind someone on the opposite team, and from three feet away couldn't get their vest to register a shot.
It was a laser tag massacre — James's team had lost by over 1,000 points by the end. And Lyle couldn't have been happier. "OK, let's hear it," he insisted with a toothy smile.
"Just one second," James said loudly enough for all to hear. He went over to the kid running the system to do some detective work.
"So... 'Skippy,'" James began, reading the kid's nametag. "I'm curious — is there a way to turn off all the vests on one team?"
Skippy immediately broke eye contact, looking down at his desk. After a pause, he sheepishly replied "yeah..."
"And did that guy over there ask you to turn off the vests for his team?"
"Y... yeah... He asked me to turn all of them off except one."
"Thanks." James excused himself and returned to the group.
Lyle still had a huge smile on his face. "Ah, so the losers came back! Have you got something you'd like to say, or perhaps, sing for us?"
James shot a disgusted look at Lyle, and after a brief, awkward silence, the teams returned to their cars. Lyle got back to the office first.
A few days later, Lyle sat James down to take him to task for figuring out his subterfuge. James was surprised that he was the one being admonished. "It's just that I didn't want my team feeling bad about losing twice," Lyle explained.
"No one would have felt bad," James explained. "Everyone was having a good time! Nobody was talking trash or trying to make one team feel bad." Well, except you, James thought.
Hopefully the next team-building exercise, a small company picnic, won't be sabotaged by Lyle.