As UK businesses continue to adopt the practices employed by our friends across the pond, team-building days and other company-centred social events are being used in the hope they will garner some kind of togetherness in the office. They don’t have to be the kind that involve catching your day-buddy as he falls limply but confidently into your arms – they can be anything as simple as a company picnic or family day. Most people would rather be somewhere else on their day off, but miss one at your peril. Here are the reasons why everyone hates this kind of enforced sociability.
\#14 You have to win tasks to impress the boss
If you can’t get even over that cargo net or limbo under that garden cane then just how far do you think you’re going to get in the advertising game? Bosses love winners, and even though “it’s only a bit of fun” they won’t be able to help their brains categorising you in with the rest of the company chaff if you screw up a simple task.
\#13 You can't win tasks because you colleagues will resent you
The flip side of impressing the bosses by pounding your opponents (colleagues) into the ground is, of course, the fact that you won’t exactly be endearing yourself to the rest of the group. It’s a no-win situation of the highest order, unless you don't mind looking like a teacher's pet. The unfettered competitiveness that bursts forth from desperate employees can make team-building days more akin to one of the later chapters of Lord of the Flies.
\#12 Nicknames earned on them can stick
Fall off the swing rope and into the boggy ditch and you could be looking at “Swampy” every time you stare into the mirror. Swampy probably isn’t going to be the man to head up the sales department or make any progress with attractive new co-workers, no matter how capable or charismatic he is.
\#11 You have to get to know each other, but don’t dare be honest
Get on with people, but if your true feelings come to the surface force them back down because you don’t want to rock the boat and upset management. Unless you really do. It’s like group therapy but the group is mainly made up of people who don’t want help because they don’t have a problem.
\#10 Differences between people are underlined and heightened
If you are constantly at odds with someone over how to do minor tasks in the office, getting on to more serious topics or a team-building exercise can really blow the relationship wide open. Minor grievances can turn into battles for leadership and petty squabbles turn into all out wars of words.
\#9 You have to have fun, but not too much
Don’t complain, but at the same time don’t be seen to be enjoying it so much that it seems like you really don’t have anywhere better to be. There is a rare breed out there that revel in these kinds of activity days, but you can already guess who they are in your office without having to go on a team building day. They are, ironically, the ones who should probably have most to fear from any kind of test or assessment.
\#8 It’s usually your time, not theirs
You would think that if the company really wanted to get people in good spirits and with a common passion they would give you some time off in which to do it. However, the majority of team-building and social days are still held during your free time, which automatically has everyone's back up before you’ve even got there.
\#7 What to wear?
Is it business? Casual? Sporty? Members of both sexes can end up looking like a fool, merely by arriving in the wrong gear. Too formal and you’ll look stuffy and no fun, too casual and you look scruffy. Too sporty – too keen. Women have the extra pressure of having to look good, but not too good or you risk the slutty tag.
\#6 You can drink but you really shouldn’t
The pressure to be relaxed, engaging and confident can have many of us reaching for the bottle early on. There is often a good supply of booze because management don’t want to look like tight-fisted puritans, but tread carefully, because one too many can loosen the tongue and evaporate self-consciousness. Both are the worst things that can happen at such an event and then it’s the Christmas party ’01 all over again.
\#5 If you’re not an extrovert you can look useless
The fact that many of the more intelligent members of an organisation tend to be introverts means they don’t tend to shine during team building. The mouthy, bossy idiot from security may, however, revel in pointless exercises, making him look like a real team player.
\#4 You lose a bit more respect for your employers
You’re good at your job and you’re probably not paid well enough. Why should you then be forced to do things you’re not comfortable with and which can often end in humiliation? Torturous team building or social events could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some high-value but reclusive eggheads.
\#3 They are organised by people not on “the team”
Team-building days are usually organised by the human resources – or HR – department, members of which are rarely seen in the main body of an office. Quite what their assessment can possibly be of the requirements of the team based on their limited interaction is anyone’s guess. As a result, the team is often forced into doing games and exercises they have no interest in or actively dislike.
\#2 You know the money could be better spent
Some of these company retreats or activity weekends can cost serious money, which always gets employees upset if there have been redundancies or no pay rises. If the aim is improving morale then the bosses fall at the first hurdle for throwing money at something seen as pointless when employees are feeling the pinch.
\#1 They usually have no relevance to your job
Need to attract more business through your new social media arm? Maybe trying to make a human bridge across an imaginary river with seven of your colleagues would help? More often than not the tasks and exercises we have to do on team building days have absolutely nothing in them to help your team reach its goals. Even the most imaginative abstract thinker would have trouble discerning the point of any of them.