Why I hate team building days

Why I hate team building days

“We’re going to cross this field with two buckets and one plank, whilst carrying a pound of mint humbugs. If we do this, we’ll be a better team!”
No, what you’ll be is a group of snarky people. What you’ll have is a group of people ruining the clothes their hard earned money has paid for, snapping at each other for minor infractions, and resenting the day you were ever born.

We don’t do this sort of malarkey to build relationships with friends or make our family dynamics better. Let’s face it, for many of us we limit that type of enforced organised fun to once a year – Christmas.

So why do many managers or employers think that throwing together an assortment of people with nothing in common that their workplace will have a positive effect? It increasingly seems to be the go to option in fixing any issues with staff engagement or unhappy teams. Is it because employers increasingly feel that its’ their responsibility to help people like each other, or is it just a hangover from the 80s that workplace culture can’t quite shift?
The majority of people come in to work every day with a few simple objectives – do their job well, be paid appropriately, and to be able to coexist with their co-workers. Developing friendships is a bonus but they grow organically and takes time. I really can’t see how forcing a group of people to go potholing for a day, learn to juggle, or feel pressured into a night of boozing changes that. In fact, if there are already any motivation issues, anxiety around work, or frictions between co-workers, this sort of “organised fun” is likely to aggravate it, and be completely counterproductive.

Perhaps it’s just the introvert in me, but I’ve worked with some amazing teams over the years, many of whom I’m still in touch with, but line management or corporate initiatives had absolutely nothing to do with it.

I’ve worked for many types of organisations and in many industries over the years. Each have had their own form of team building. Some have been painful, some have been cringe worthy, and some have been downright inappropriate. Others have been fun, enjoyable, stimulating. Sadly, the latter is definitely in the minority, but in large part have been instigated from the bottom up, by people just liking each other.

Where “team – building ” works, is where it happens organically – people who like each other go out for a beer after work, or have a regular lunch in the canteen; colleagues engaged in similar work meet regularly to share best practice and de-stress. It happens where employers devolve responsibility and enable employees to work flexibly and feel valued. Basically it’s about empowering people and an environment where you choose to support each other.
Telling people that they would, or should, be more invested in their work or teams by participating in an activity, which is usually the complete antithesis of their job (and indeed hobbies, values, beliefs etc), simply does not work.

What do you think?

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1 Comment

  1. Pickinguptoys
    1st June 2018 / 9:30 am

    All of this.Teambuilding exercises make me die inside.It’s embarrassing and the ‘team’ they’re building sees each other once a year, if that!

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