I’m just going to come out with a question that has been nagging at me for years. Why do companies and corporate offices insist on team-building exercises? What is the point of this torture? I mean, it’s almost as bad as mandatory group training. Maybe worse. Oh, I understand the intention is to create a stronger bond between employees to increase the quality of work and form relationships that will inspire us to stay on, blah blah blah. But that doesn’t mean those meetings and activities don’t feel like pure hell, especially for us introverts.
Even starting a meeting with detailed introductions is obnoxious and time-consuming. Why do I need to give my biography to these people? I don’t have things going on in my life that they need to care about. There is nothing that should be of interest to them and the work we need to do. Conversely, I don’t need to know about the details of their lives. Oh Cheryl, your daughter just had her 10th child? Congratulations, but what does that have to do with the project overview you were supposed to turn in yesterday? Also, is this an impolite time to mention the wonders of birth control?
I certainly don’t need to muddy the waters by getting to know folks or sharing my life story. I mean, honestly, unless everyone gets real cool about a bunch of stuff really quickly, it’s best I just keep things to myself.
Some of the team-building exercises floating around offices these days could potentially be an HR nightmare. Google corporate team-building exercises and the first option that pops up is Two truths and a Lie. This oddly popular game requires a person to make three statements (two true, one a lie, hence the name, folks), and the rest of the group is supposed to guess the lie. I can see where this would be a hoot with friends while having a drink over pizza. But there are so many things wrong with this game in a corporate setting. You know that saying, you can learn more by what a person doesn’t say than what they do say? I would say that concept applies here. The lie that someone makes up about themselves could say a lot about them. What about the response of the group? I can see trouble there as well. What if a player makes up a wildly outrageous lie, figuring they were safe from any post-game fallout later around the water cooler because surely the team would recognize such an outlandish fabrication… but because their coworkers have such a strange and unflattering opinion of them, they assume it’s one of the two truths? Talk about an awkward situation.
Here are my two truths and a lie:
- I hate team-building exercises.
- Team building exercises increase my productivity and help me form solid and lasting relationships with my beloved co-workers.
- I hate contrived social experiences in the workplace (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Some companies go with a more physical team-building exercise like camping or paintball (pretty sure I saw that in a horror movie once and it did not go well) or ax throwing. Ax throwing. Ax. Throwing. Oh sure, great idea! Toss a few disgruntled employees with an ax to grind (I know, I know, I’m hilarious, I’m here all week) together in a small chute while flinging sharp objects as hard as they can… what can go wrong? It just might take that feud between IT and the creative team to a whole new level.
I may be a raging introvert with social anxiety, but believe it or not, I’m great with people (don’t roll your eyes at me), but team building exercises and forced introductions complete with a mini-bio (and fun fact, don’t forget the fun fact!) are more than just a chore for me; they are agony. I despise the pop quizzes from hell they throw at us last minute in staff meetings and being forced to depend on the coworker who couldn’t even meet their simple data analysis deadline last week for getting out of that escape room in 10 minutes? Yeah, no thanks.
Now, if you need me, I’ll be in my office, away from everyone else, and doing something productive… which is where I wanted to be in the first place.
Team Building exercises are purely something that management uses to justify that they are managing their teams and thereby deserve a pay rise. A huge wank, just like those 6 monthly meetings where you are asked : Where do you see yourself in five years? What are the three best things about your job? ( holidays, flex days, and lunch)
1. If you don’t let me out of here in thirty seconds I’m going to start reciting Vogon poetry.
2. Mr. Fleming from IT Security is wearing teddy bear boxers over women’s lingerie as we speak.
3. In preparation for these team exercises, I took Arlo Guthrie’s advice and got totally blitzed last night so that I would look and feel my best today.
Wait, was one of those supposed to be a lie? Never mind, just hand me that paintball gun.
I worked for the in the NZ division of the same multinational I.T. company for 35 years and never once did they ever conduct a team building exercise that I can recall. On the other hand they did run personal development courses where some team building did occur as a side effect – not much teambuilding as staff were spread across NZ in 25 branches and a head office. The courses typically lasted three days (usually at a tourist destination) and had 15 to 25 attendees with no more than 25% from head office – often fewer
The exercises centered around understanding what each of us as individuals want out of life and how best to achieve that. Management considered the exercises a success if on average 15% of the attendees chose a different career path or to leave the company altogether within the following six months. Their reasoning was that through personal growth, people become more aware of their desires and aspirations. Employees are most productive if those are understood and met. Inevitably some will realise that those can’t be met by their current role within the company. The company considered that was a small price to pay for greater staff retention and loyalty.
In an industry where there was a strong demand for skilled staff and poaching of employees from competing companies was rife, the median length of service in the company was 19 years compared to 7 years across the industry as a whole. Speaks for itself really.