Team building events can disrupt teamwork if done wrong. Here’s why.
When it comes to building group dynamics and team building, stress shouldn’t enter the equation. Yet, that’s what almost a third of U.S. office workers are feeling when it comes to traditional team building activities their managers have planned for them.
Why the stress in group dynamics and team building?
When you dislike something, that’s a major source of stress, especially in the workplace. Mandating work activities that employees dislike means you’re inserting a form of non-productive stress into the workplace that really doesn’t have to be there.
We’ve quoted this study before, and we’ll quote it here again because it both fascinates and alarms us at the same time. It’s a 2012 study performed by Wakefield Research, on behalf of cloud computing company Citrix.
The study tells us that nearly a third of U.S. employees secretly dislike team builders. Since that leads to stress, the types of team builders that aren’t popular are actually counterproductive. Imagine paying for a team building event that decreases productivity!
Here’s how bad team builders can be counterproductive.
David W. Ballard of the American Psychological Association (APA), says group dynamics and team building are closely related. Events that cause workers to feel embarrassed or exposed can disrupt trust. They add to the tension in the group too, and that in turn can lead to increased cynicism.
From embarrassment to widespread morale issues: it’s a slippery slope! Ballard mentions ropes courses, wilderness programs and paintball in his description of corporate team-building programs that can make employees feel uncomfortable. Others include trust exercises touted to result in “amazing performance improvements”.
We agree: all those activities mentioned by Ballard can be offered in a complete vacuum to the office environment. Trust is better built by sharing common goals and experiences together, not by literally trusting one another to catch us when we fall!
How does winning at paintball translate back to productivity in the office?
Ropes courses: not all of us are daredevils, so that sort of physical activity is bound to make some employees feel left out, inferior, or just plain stressed out.
As Ballard puts it, “Recognize that people have different preferences and respect employee boundaries regarding physical contact…”.
Besides, wheres the message? When you’re too busy learning how to climb a wall, there’s no room left for important team building lessons. That makes it difficult for employees to see the takeaway from the event.
So, team building events which cause stress or which place unfair importance on physical ability are just plain bad for business. If you want to improve group dynamics and team building, find an event that everyone can get behind.