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By Reon Janse van Rensburg

We all have heard it before: For a team to function well, it is important that team members should feel connected to each other. The feeling of camaraderie will not only make you and your team members work well together but it will also make life at work more bearable in general.

To achieve this cohesion, managers often suggest team-building activities planned and devised with great precision. Unfortunately, some leaders or managers take team building a little too far. Team building and team building activities may seem like a good idea at first, but the truth is that the mere thought of team building can drive some people crazy. Instead of spending time on activities like this, a better approach might be to help people become more productive or to sharpen or expand their existing skills. However, several incidents have been documented where team-building efforts have led to non-productive or even counterproductive outcomes.

This, however, does not mean that team building activities are not or cannot be of any use. When activities like these are properly devised and implemented, they can be of great value to an organization provided they are carefully planned and in line with the goal the manager wants to achieve.

Companies offer a wide range of activities in the name of team building. From events to socialising over drinks at a nearby restaurant or to extreme sports such as rock climbing or go-karts in the mud, team building activities can take just about any form.

So, how do employees feel about team building?

It is easy to attain that employees are passionate about team building activities when one only listens to what they say to their managers during or directly after the team building event. However, to get the real picture, it might be wise for companies to conduct anonymous evaluation surveys to find out what employees really think and how they really feel about the team-building opportunities in which they have participated.

On the one hand, as an employer, you will find that there are employees who are passionate about the idea and who enjoy it. However, a quick Google search will show that employees often complain about the very team building activities that they had been subjected to and that they say it was of no use to them.

There is a gap, or at least a potential gap, between what some managers and some team building facilitators, on the one hand, claim about team building itself and, on the other hand, how some employees feel about team building and team-building activities.

Should participation in team building for employees then be compulsory or voluntary?

A paper published earlier this year by researchers from the University of Sydney’s School of Project Management in the Journal of Social Networks found that participants had mixed feelings about team-building opportunities and that the research revealed ethical implications for forcing employees to participate.

The study found that team-building exercises that focused on sharing and intervening in personal attitudes and relationships between team members may be considered too harsh and intrusive, although the researchers say that a degree of openness and vulnerability is often needed to form deep, effective connections with colleagues.

The researchers further said numerous schools of thought suggest different psychological methods to strengthen relationships.

There is more value when employees can voluntarily participate in team-building opportunities. Forcing activities such as these on employees can be counterproductive, especially if it takes time away from work or time away from their families.

Rather than arranging a compulsory team-building outing, consider the following options to bring your team closer together

  1. Ensure that team building is task-orientated

Forget the rock-climbing excursions; rather give team members proper tasks to perform. The most effective way to strengthen teams is by getting people to work together and achieve results as a group.

  1. Ensure that team building is optional

For many employees, socialising interferes with the team’s work hours. Consequently, it often means taking work home or staying late to meet a deadline. Because time is a limited resource, social events compete with the time people would rather spend outside of work recharging their batteries. Therefore, companies should not make it mandatory. Some employees may thrive on more socialisation – but others may not. It is essential to give people as much control as possible over how they spend their time.

  1. Make team-building opportunities less demanding

You also want to make sure that whatever you are planning is not too demanding. Allow team-building activities to take place during work hours and provide opportunities for everyone to participate and feel comfortable while participating. Hosting a karaoke evening is not everyone’s forte, but embarking on a short hiking trail in which people of all fitness levels can participate is inclusive.

  1. Make team building more natural

Sometimes people will naturally make contact and do not need orchestrated opportunities. Think about providing places where people can connect informally, a place where they can walk and talk. A good example of this is to possibly have a lounge for employees or a cafeteria only for the employees’ use. Nice comfortable chairs and good coffee does wonders.

Sources:

Guide to Team-Building: Are Your Employees Refusing to Attend Company Parties & Events? – https://www.prevuehr.com/resources/insights/guide-team-building-employees-refusing-attend-company-parties-events/

Benefits of team building exercises jeopardized if not truly voluntary – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210225143709.htm

Team bonding: Exploring how mandatory and optional activities affect employees – https://nulab.com/blog/collaboration/team-bonding-exploring-how-mandatory-and-optional-activities-affect-employees/

Why you should ditch team building activities and just let people get to workhttps://www.fastcompany.com/90408773/4-things-you-should-do-instead-of-team-building-activities

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