Team building events: valuable bonding or insufferable time waster?

Posted in Employers

Posted by Joanne Caine
Published on 16 November, 2018

Is a grapefruit really going to make your team more productive?
Fun by formula is rarely enjoyable. There’s a heavily staged falsity to many team building events. Which is why they make some employees squirm with discomfort. Yes, prescribed awkwardness is a common trope with many team building events. As if you can embarrass your workforce into productivity by forcing them to dance in front of their colleagues. The fake intimacy of passing a grapefruit from one person to the next without using your hands or arms. All while you’re thinking: what on Earth does this have to do with my actual job?
Of course, having your physical boundaries challenged is one thing. The team building event can take an altogether more sinister twist when emotional boundaries are poked and prodded. Cue needlessly invasive questions about your deepest fears and anxieties. Or your greatest fantasies. Or your most prominent childhood memories. Not everyone is comfortable with discussing their past. But hey, apparently it’s all for the good of “the company”. It’s not hard to see why many team building sessions end up reducing morale, rather than boosting it.
Managers: think about what you’re doing
The intentions behind throwing a team building event are almost always good. But teams are built in the folds of what happens among your workforce on a day-to-day basis. And that comes down to good management.
Aimless team building for the sake of team building - without any strategy or focus - is unlikely to get results. Sure, you might get some ‘funny photos’ for the company Instagram page. But, you know, who cares?
Clear goals, clear roles, a shared sense of purpose, everyone aware of their contribution to the common goal, regular feedback: these are the ingredients that build a team. Give your staff the opportunity to share their voice on projects and make a meaningful, tangible contribution. That’s what makes a workforce gel.
Anyone for fizz?
That’s not to say team building doesn’t have its place. It just needs to be more considered. Or perhaps use days out to reenergise and reward your team, rather than expecting them to forge closer relationships just because they’re strapped inside a zorbing ball together. Here at Cathedral Appointments we get around the communal area regularly with tea and cake or a glass of fizz and ruminate informally on the week or we head out for drinks after work - it’s a great way to bring the team closer together. We also do two big days out each year these have included cocktail making classes, a trip to Exeter and Cheltenham Racecourses, River Exe Café, Pig at the Coombe to name a few.
The point is that there’s no pressure on completing certain challenges. Or learning something new about members of the team. It’s all about taking a break from the demands of working life and making staff feel that they are part of something bigger than their individual jobs - and that’s great for morale. If you are relying on team building events to build your team, perhaps you’re missing the point.
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Managing Director

I joined Cathedral Appointments in 1998 to cover a maternity leave and never left. I now own the business and love my job. I've a great team of consultants who work with me in ensuring that Cathedral Appointments provide an excellent service to candidates and clients alike.

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Team building events: valuable bonding or insufferable time waster?

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