Alex Kjerulf, the Chief Happiness Officer has a (typically excellent) article pointing out the top 5 reasons why most team building events are a waste of time.

Companies today want their employees to cooperate more, to work well in teams, to share knowledge and to work to achieve success together. That is why it makes absolutely no sense to send them on trainings that are mainly competitive in nature. Even when these events let people work together in smaller teams, competing against other teams, the focus still ends up being on competition, not cooperation.

There’s a simple reason why these events are almost always competitive: Competition = instant passion. Setting up a competition activates a primal urge in many people to win at all costs, making them very focused and active – which looks great to the organizers.

But there’s a huge downside to this – which means that not only are many team building events a huge waste of time, they can be actively harmful to teams.

Alex goes on to point out the top 5 problems with competitive team building events. For a less competitive approach to team building I encourage you to consider the following:

First, try to take the pressure out of it for all the reasons Alex mentions in his article.

Second, try to keep it loosely structured. For example, a trip to a baseball game is great because it gives everyone a common experience but also leaves plenty of time to chat and get to know each other.

Third, involve everyone! You’re not going to get everyone all the time but it’s important to do things that everyone is able to do. It’s fine to encourage people to go slightly out of their comfort zone, but don’t plan an event that you know certain people won’t go to.

Fourth, have at least some of your team building/social events during work hours. Lunches can be a great opportunity for this. The important thing is to involve the people who may not make it to after work events.

You can’t force people to have fun, but you can certainly give them the opportunity. Honestly the best team building experiences I can remember have been practical jokes – always in the best of humor of course. It may seem unlikely, but you’d be surprised how many people want to help when you say you’re going to fill the CEO’s office with balloons!

team building, office, work, leadership