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Team-Building: When Team-Building Activities Attack
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Team-Building: When Team-Building Activities Attack - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: When Team-Building Activities Attack

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: When Team-Building Activities Attack

A well-known international bank fired several employees recently when, during an offsite team-building activity at a go-karting track, they filmed a mock execution in the style of terrorist organizations and posted the video to Instagram.

A Washington, D.C. company held a team-building event at a paintball field. Things went downhill when employees ganged up on supervisors, turning the exercise into victimization, rather than camaraderie-developing fun.

A company in China is reported (by a source of questionable veracity, to be sure, but the video exists) to have conducted a team-building activity in a public space, where female employees were told to hang grapes in small bunches around their necks. The grapes rested on their chests, while male employees, instructed to use only their mouths, raced to eat the grapes in what was supposedly an effort to increase friendships between co-workers.

Obviously, team-building exercises can go very wrong very quickly, and professionals should know better than to participate in such inappropriate ways. With the execution video and the paintball attacks, employees crossed lines, and their behavior reveals poor judgment and a lack of respect for coworkers and for their companies. Friendly competitions can get overly contentious, and a creative effort such as a video on Instagram can be misinterpreted—these are pitfalls every professional is aware of and should guard against in a workplace environment.

Yet reports don’t say whether or not the events’ organizers set firm boundaries and clear expectations, something they ought never to take for granted. When you remove your team from the office, one of the goals is to break down a few barriers. Yet some lines must always remain, and this must be communicated by the company leadership. People must be respected at all times. The location is an extension of the office. Err on the side of caution. Be a good human being. If these expectations are not clear, disasters like these are the responsibility of leadership.

The paintball and grape mishaps point to larger issues than unclear boundaries on the day of the event: they indicate underlying problems in company culture. Every firm has unhappy people, but ganging up in a hostile manner (unhelped by the very nature of weapons designed to look like firearms) and sexually suggestive line-crossing may underline foundation-level dysfunction for management and executives, especially if there was no effort by coworkers to stop their teammates from getting out of control.

When team-building activities attack, there’s usually enough blame to spread around for everyone: employees who cross lines, managers who define lines poorly, and companies whose cultures foster feelings of animosity or behavior that demeans others. A good team-building activity can be invaluable in nurturing a hundred benefits, but a bad one can do exactly the opposite, an important thing to keep in mind in every step of planning and implementation.


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Team-Building: When Team-Building Activities Attack - Executive Leadership Articles

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