This is a user submission to IRL. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, and do not represent the opinions of IRL or its affiliates.
Does corporate team building actually work?
To be very honest, after 15 years of working across three countries (Hong Kong, Switzerland, Malaysia), three separate industries (Hospitality, Education, Creative Multimedia) I can honestly say that Corporate Team Building is a crock of s**t.
I have been on both sides of the coin here people. I’ve been the unfortunate monkey participating and also inflicting this nonsense on other unfortunate monkeys.
I’ve seen a lot of insane, and just plain dumb s**t.
We spent an entire weekend learning a Maori War Dance
Image via Te Puni Kokiri]
One of my top experiences was being hijacked for a weekend, sequestered in a Country Club to learn The Haka. I spent a weekend learning a Maori War Dance, its history, symbology, and meaning.
But…what did the Haka have to do with team building, fostering morale, interpersonal communication/soft skill development, leadership, or mentoring?
Five years later, and I still have no idea. All I remember is a lot of embarrassment, cynical nihilism, and mockery of this wasted weekend.
Sure, we’re creating bonds – but at what cost?
Image via Unsplash
I remember trying to organize team-building activities in events. The feedback that I got was:
“It was not team building… you know… like the things other places are doing.” Other places were doing things like 12-mile-iron-man-obstacle courses.
Most of us work in an office. We’re not in great shape. Making us run, hike, or do obstacle courses is going to build bitterness and resentment from those who are unfit.
If there is a team element, the weakest and/or slowest are quickly identified and become scapegoats for letting the team down.
Believe me when I say that competition brings out the worst in people. Especially “healthy competition.” Force people to compete against each other, then expect them to work together afterwards? Just…think about that a moment.
Don’t get me started on those exercises that involve a “blindfold” or “trusting” a colleague to catch you from falling.
If somebody gets injured because of my mistake, the company won’t protect me from that personal injury lawsuit. And if I get injured, I can’t afford a lawyer to sue that guy either.
Image via Muhammad Taufik
So I no longer plan this crap. The moment I see a team-building exercise like this? I’m gone. I am sick, my cat is sick, already taken leave, or an out-of-the-country relative has died.
Team building exercises should be done on company time
What really irks me is that most of this Corporate Team Building crap takes place outside of regular office hours. I’ve spent at least 40 hours a week, seeing people I most probably do not want to see during my downtime.
If building the team was so damn important, then it should be taking place during regular office hours. After all, it’s the company that wants to build the team.
When these things are badly scheduled, nobody wants to attend. You haven’t even started, and you’ve already got resentment brewing from your colleagues.
It is an ironic circle of aggravation
Don’t get me wrong… Paintball, obstacle courses or even a Kapa Haka does get some people to feel closer. Shared emotions can help build a bond.
But these “bonds” are created over having fun and a good time. They do not survive the day-to-day pressure of office life where the focus is on delivering results.
Image via Unsplash
It is an ironic circle of aggravation: The teams that need Corporate Team Building don’t know how to do it and can’t get it.
The teams that don’t need Corporate Team Building know how to do it, but can’t share the success formula because they never studied it.
Sad to say, 15 years of work experience, three countries, three industries, I still don’t know what truly effective Corporate Team Building is supposed to achieve or look like.
For more stories like this, read: I Was Sidelined At Work Because I Didn’t Own A Smartphone and The Interesting Ways Malaysians Procrastinate at Work.