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Team-Building: What Employees Really Think of Team-Building Activities
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Team-Building: What Employees Really Think of Team-Building Activities - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: What Employees Really Think of Team-Building Activities

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: What Employees Really Think of Team-Building Activities

They hate them. The end.

The truth about team-building activities is simple, yet it seems to elude executives at an alarming rate: Almost everyone would prefer not being made to do them. Of course, your employees would prefer not doing harassment awareness training, fire drills, or any number of other things you have to make them do, so if you feel team-building is called for, it’s unlikely to happen on its own and you might as well plan something good.

If an activity is fun, it will build good relationships. If it’s not fun, it won’t. The problem is that different employees have different ideas about what’s fun, and the trick is first to figure out what will work for most of your team, and then to decide how to handle the outliers.

Two factors will almost always work in your favor: Food and company time. Pay for lunch. And do the activity on company time. It’s tough to complain through a free lunch and getting paid to go ice-skating.

Stay away from extremely contrived or overly structured exercises, and if your plan avoids the potential for embarrassment, confrontation, or (too much) competition, most of your employees will play along with no real griping, as long as it’s on company time. If it is also fun, it will go beyond the realm of something to be endured and become something truly beneficial for your team. Yet there are always a few edge-of-the-circle people who can complicate things, and you should be aware of their thoughts. Keep in mind that these categories label only an approach to team-building activities, not the quality of anyone’s work.

  1. 1. The All-In People:
    You won’t have problems getting these people to participate: whatever you come up with is going to be great with them. The problem will be that others may perceive them as kiss-ups, causing some to resist getting involved. You may want to meet with the All-Ins ahead of time and ask them to tone it down just a little so as not to intimidate the others. They’ll know what you mean because they’ll almost surely have been asked this before.
  2. 2. The Passive Participants:
    They don’t mind any of the activities as long as they’re allowed to participate passively. They prefer to observe, or they feel shy in overly interactive environments. They don’t need or want to be excluded; they simply want the option of being included on their terms. Plan activities that allow them to participate in alternate ways: if you take the whole team bowling, suggest that if any employees don’t want to bowl, they would be a big help if they kept score or took photos.
  3. 3. The Non-Touchy-Feelies:
    Closely related to the Passive Participants, the Non-Touchy-Feelies may be fine with any active involvement as long as their sense of personal space is not infringed upon. They resist overly revealing conversations about feelings or vulnerabilities, or they’re uncomfortable with casual physical content. Don’t ask them to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya,” and don’t ask them to gives hugs to five co-workers, and don’t ask them to turn to the right and give the colleague next to them a shoulder massage. Non-Touchy-Feelies are grateful when you acknowledge their discomfort, and many will be fine if you simply call out, “Non-Touchy-Feely people may stand aside while we do this part of the activity.” This lets them observe comfortably without looking for a reason to escape to the restroom.
  4. 4. The All-Business:
    Every team has one or two members who only care about the work. They don’t necessarily disdain co-workers, but neither are they interested in forming friendship beyond the professional level. They show up at every meeting, turn all their work in on time, and participate actively in every project, but they do not like bonding activities. The most fun thing you can do for them (and for the rest of your team) is to tell them in private that you would love their participation, but if they would rather show up for the just the first part and then sneak away, you won’t have a problem with it.
  5. 5. The Complainers:
    The worst thing about the complainers is that most of them just need something to complain about. They are just as likely to enjoy the activity as anyone else, but they’ll still feel the compulsion to find fault. You can usually head this off by saying at the very beginning that complaints will be reserved for the evaluation at the end of the day, and that you will happily meet anyone afterward who wants to suggest ways it could have been better. Say it like you mean it, and if any of them takes you up on the offer at the end of the day, listen with sincerity. Because darn it: sometimes the complainers are right.

Most teams have a social coordinator, the one who, without being asked, gets together the thoughtful someone’s-in-the-hospital gift and makes sure everyone gets a chance to sign the card. If your activity is even moderately successful, capitalize on the good vibe and ask your social coordinator to plan a no-bosses activity a month or so later, with the direction that participation will be optional and you will foot the bill, or at least pay for the first round. Nothing brings a team together like complaining about the boss over drinks the boss is buying.

 

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Team-Building: What Employees Really Think of Team-Building Activities - Executive Leadership Articles

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