A post by Firestorm.
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 shit. 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 shit. 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, I still have no idea. I remember a lot of embarrassment, cynical nihilism, and mockery of the team that come up with this and wasted my weekend off.
I remember trying to organize team building activities in events, and getting feedback that “it was not team building… you know… like the things other places are doing.” Other places were doing things like a 12-mile-iron-man-obstacle courses. Clearly, somebody being paid more than me doesn’t know what a team is, and/or how to build and maintain an effective one. Paintball 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. These “bonds” do not survive the day-to-day pressure of office life where the focus is on delivering results.
I no longer plan this crap and make sure to get itineraries the moment something is announced. The moment I see one item that gets a tick against my checklist below? I’m gone. I am sick, my cat is sick, have already taken leave, or am out of the country. That checklist and reasoning is below:
Anything involving a “blindfold” and/or trusting a colleague to prevent injury.
- I do not want somebody else getting injured because I fucked up. The company won’t protect me from that personal injury lawsuit.
Anything involving “trusting” a colleague to catch me/prevent me from falling etc.
- I don’t want to get injured because someone else fucked up. I can’t afford a lawyer to sue that guy either.
Anything that involves anything athletic or worse, team athletics.
- Most of us work in an office. We’re not in great shape. Making us run/hike/do obstacle courses is going to build bitterness and resentment. If there is a team element, the weakest and/or slowest are quickly identified and become scapegoats for letting the team down.
Anything that involves martial arts, melee weapons or – in one rare case – firearms.
- This is not a joke. I’m serious. Refer to all previous points made.
Anything that involves competing against other people.
- Believe me when I say that competition brings out the WORST in people. Especially “healthy competition.” Force people to compete, then expect them to WORK TOGETHER afterwards? Just…think about that a moment.
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 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’ve not even started, and you’ve already got resentment brewed – not brewing.
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.
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