Wednesday, 11 March 2009

My thoughts on corporate team spirit

Before I embark on this enitrely unprompted rant, please let it be known that it has nothing to do with the company I work for specifically, but is directed at HR people and directors across the world who insist on corporate teambuilding or "company bonding" sessions... I'm just moaning becuase I feel like it, savvy?

From obstacle courses to drumming circles and company braais (BBQs), teambuilding activities have become big business. Companies vie to outdo each other on their so-called social events and HR people are positively drooling over the new torture devices available to them for reducing staff to a cowering state of submission.

Seriously... Do you enjoy your company teambuilding activities? Aside from Angel, whose company takes her to the shooting range (hell, I'd enjoy that too), I can't think of many people whose faces light up at the mention of a company teambuilding day. Or is it just me being sad and jaded again?

I can't understand what would make people want to strap themselves into a harness to conquer their fear of heights in front of a bunch of work colleagues (some of whom may be hoping for the harness to break). Or having to come into the office for a "family day" on a Saturday.

I mean, really - if I chose to conquer a fear I'd do it somewhere that wouldn't put me at risk of embarrassing myself in front of the people I have to see all day every day at work. And if I want a family day, I'll spend it with my family. Don't people who work together see enough of each other during the week? Most of us see more of the person one cubicle over than we do of our spouse, for goodness sake. Why would we want to drag our families along to sit with a group of people who are probably all thinking the same thing we are: "I wonder if the boss will notice if I slip out after just one drink?"

As far as I'm concerned, your company has you for a vast amount of time. You're there five or six days a week, from morning till late afternoon / early evening. So if they can't engender a team spirit in you during office hours, they are bloody unlikely to do it outside of them.

Yes, I know. There are companies who do teambuilding tastefully. I once worked at a business where we were treated to a day at the spa together instead of having a Christmas party. That's awesome, IMO.

But then there are the rest. And they (as seems to be the norm with twits) are in the vast majority. From drunken themed dinners at the local conference centre (Oscars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Medieval are just a few I can think of off the top of my head) to exuberant games of paintball, they've got teambuilding down to a fine (Salvador Dali-like) art. They throw words like "employee engagement" and "high impact company learning experiences" around as they tell competitors of their brilliance and bask in the glow of their own haloes. Hah!

Have you noticed how many of the activities they pick to supoosedly build team spirit actually pit colleagues against each other? Think about it... Sport tournaments, paintball, the amazing race (a current favourite), "fun runs" (that's an oxymoron in my book), raft building and various other "entertaining" games all end up with people facing off and trying to beat each other.

I know it's supposed to be a lighthearted and enjoyable game, but if you've ever seen TSC (or me, actually) lose at anything, whether it's Monopoly, tennis or something else, you'll know that some people are just bad losers and will not be encouraged to an attitude of team spirit through daft corporate games. Unless they win, that is. Then I will smile at you, pat you on the head (if I can reach, which if you've met me you'll know is unlikely) and tell you how nice it is to work with you.

Obviously, work is a good place to meet people, and I have nothing against friendships that begin at work and blossom beyond. But... surely we are capable of finding our own natural friendships without being forced to endure a day of sweating next to Garlic Gary from accounts while you both pretend you're having fun doing three-legged races and wheelbarrows?

There are some people who are not natural athletes and object to being forced into physical competitions where they're bound to be seen as a loser. There are those who just plain suck at anything to do with rhythm and are understandably not keen to participate in the corporate drumming circle you've planned. And there are those who just don't like people and resist having to emerge from the bowels of the offices (where they chose to work for a reason) to join a discussion on "what we learnt this week".

As they say, you can't please everyone. My response, with regards to company teambuilding, is simple: Don't bother trying. Give it a skip altogether and we are more likely to be happy with that. Or I am, at least.

18 comments:

Thomas said...

I agree! At least I haven't yet had the misfortune of having to be involved in any team building exercises -unless company poker counts?

Anonymous said...

Corporate teambuilding is the biggest load of shit ever, just a waste of time and money, I don't know which imbeciles think it actually has a positive, lasting effect in bringing employees "closer together" or helping them work more in unison at the office, whatever. The same people who dreamed up EQ and its supposed importance are probably the ones responsible for team-building events.

Helen said...

I have never had te misfortune of having to do anything more onerous than the usual end-of-year dinner funciton, which can be awkward but I usually survive.

And we played paintball once, that was awesome...

but i agree, the idea of building human pyramids and describing youorself as a fruit or a vegetable doesn't really fill me with joy!

momcat said...

Our company's admin division held a paintball event at the end of last year and the irritating Group Financial Manager ended up getting hit the most! The events dont improve teamwork anyway.

Arkwife said...

Bwahahahahahahaha......sorry, I'm still laughing too much at "Garlic Gary" to give a proper answer.

phillygirl said...

I totally agree ... to a point. I *hate* the race / competitive type of team building event. But I do think it's great fun to have a day off work to do something more sociable. Sometimes even in a company of 35, you don't really get to know the people you don't work directly with and over a company braai / cruise down the Vaal, I've been lucky enough to meet some people I get on better with than the people I directly work with. To be honest I'm dying to work for a company who'll organise me a Crime Scene Team Build day :)

Glugster said...

I already don't wan't to talk to my colleagues. Why on earth do I want to do it after hours. My social/personal life and my work life is two very very very seperate entities.

Being Brazen said...

I am not a big fan of company team building at all.

Kitty Cat said...

I agree with you! Forced team-building often creates resentment, actually. But I worked for a company that would treat us to a paid for dinner at any restaurant we chose, and THAT was a nice team-building thing, if you could call it that, 'cos then we, as the staff, could socialise in a relaxed, paid for, enviroment, and we got free food!

Sass said...

I'm giggling a bit.

Being a stay at home mom, I always think of my house as my "corporation."

Team building...would that be a themed party with my kids? ;)

The Running Golfer said...

Oooh I hate it too! There is nothing more annoying than having to spend your personal time, doing utter garbage with people you only tolerate cos it pays the bills. It sucks big time and I have yet to see it make a difference in any company.

Dash said...

i can't believe that philly girl was the only one that even halfheartedly defended these types of events. ok, so you don't want to do it in personal time grumpy grannies, but you don't like company time ones either?

I personally find it so much more enjoyable when you can talk to your colleagues about something other than work, and perhaps you guys might dislike them less if you actually embraced getting to know them on a personal level. MRH, poo to you all!

po said...

Wow.i never get to do that kind of stuff, being a mad scientist and all. It actually sounds kind of fun to me. Annything to be out of the lab :

Louisa said...

LOL! I see your point Tamara, but I have to be honest...I like team building BS outings in whatever form they come in, even if I don't particularly like the team.

For me, it's like you are often in semi-combat situations with/against these people. Sometimes it's nice to see them out of that environment and to remember that no matter how much of an ass they are in the meeting or the office they are still a person after hours, some even nice enough to get other people (like family) attached to them.

*shrug*
Guess I'm just weird that way. ;-)

Elise said...

CEO once emailed Gay Bos and suggested we had a team building day. Gay Boss held a company meeting. His exact words were "Go have a fag with each other and get back to work. Job done."

I loved having him as a boss xx

The Jackson Files said...

Well I work for my Dad. With my Mom. AND my sister. Sometimes my Dad takes us all out shopping and buys us perfume and stuff - BEST TEAMBUILDING EVER.

acidicice said...

Perhaps we could come up with some ideas for a fun team building? I've had to plan one once...and it's not easy.

angel said...

Hhmmm... I came from a huge corporate that didn't do that kind of thing at all, to a small private firm who do it fairly often. They call it a "fun day" though, and you don't have to take part if you don't want to. They are determined to make sure their staff take the time off that they need, and that we like what we're doing. Our company has taken us microlight flying, on a canopy tour, abseiling, white river rafting (which I missed because I was on a training course) and last year we did the shooting. And there's no competing against each other either, it really is meant as fun.