Fun Team Building Criticism

Three people give each other a high five after successfully completing a team building task.Team building activities sometimes come in for criticism. Recently in the UK the company Vodafone published a survey which claimed to show that teambuilding activities are not effective. Various media and bloggers commented on this and, typically, examples of the types of activities used included trust falls (which we don’t recommend for health and safety reasons), massages from colleagues (I’ve not seen that in over 20 years in the business) and lingerie parties (nope, not seen that either).

Some of the adverts that have lampooned team building include this one from American Airlines which is well done and funny but, again, uses clichéd representations of team building activities. Business tends to like provable and measurable activities and it’s not always easy to include such things as fun and relationships in that. However, most managers know that time out and fun are important to get the best out of their teams.

With the Vodafone publicity and a fair amount of negative coverage of team building it’s not been the best start for the industry. However, sales don’t seem to have suffered and there is as much interest in events as last year. Fun events can be an easy target, particularly if people choose to misrepresent it, but most managers can see beyond that and know whether it’s something that their team needs and something that will help them to achieve their goals.


  1. Chris Anderson (@curbyscloset) · April 23, 2012 Reply

    Done correctly, they are very valuable. If team members are critical, it can undermine the whole effort. If leadership is lacking and team building is gimmicks, then it is a waste of time.

  2. JW Najarian · April 23, 2012 Reply

    I have no clue what the studies show and I would rather see a well done study then pay any attention to a testimonial, but that is all I have here.

    I have done many team building conferences and programs and I never cease to get something out of these experiences.

    Sometimes I have learned to work with others to meet goals and find opportunities I did not know I could. I have learned to leverage other peoples brilliance in mine and their favor.

    I have also learned how to deal with Sh*theads that are, for various reasons, not team players.

    I believe you need to learn to be a fantastic follower before you can be a great leader.

    So there is my two Cents.

    JW Najarian

  3. ransae · April 23, 2012 Reply

    Reblogged this on Ransae's Blog.

  4. ransae · April 23, 2012 Reply

    I agree with JW Najarian!

  5. sumpfbiber · April 23, 2012 Reply

    I can imagine that team building efforts are a delicate matter. For I perceived them as boring all the times I attended them.

    But then I believe just in leading the way, doing what your heart says. Others will follow if they think you’re doing good. Otherwyse maybe it’s time for a change?

    Even the quarrelsome are a good indicator for what’s going wrong in a team as they’re mostly “sucking” up all dirt in a group and finally spit it out.

    So, what then?`A free round of beers haven’t bought my men back. -.-

  6. janeyhevenbreak · April 23, 2012 Reply

    In these harsh times, the emphasis seems to be on activities that have a measurable and demonstrable return on investment. Unfortunately, some of the most important things are impossible to measure – staff morale, team cohesion, trust, being valued, relationships, communication.

    Team building (done well) can improve all of those. Particularly when companies have down-sized, the “survivors” will often need a boost. Working together well as a team may be intangible and hard to measure, but the results we be felt by the team, their colleagues and their customers.

    • James Coakes · April 24, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Jane. Often good managers know when their team needs a pick up and they have a good feel for the best way to do it. It’s convincing the organisations they work for that’s the challenge.

  7. suzanstmaur · April 23, 2012 Reply

    I suppose team building exercises can be a little disturbing if they reveal unfortunate personality traits, but in the workplace such traits will be discovered eventually no matter how much corporate bullshit staffers find to hide behind. So it’s better to get that out of the way sooner rather than later.

    However in hard financial times the first things to get the ax are usually a) advertising and b) training, which of course is utterly idiotic considering the fact that advertising and marketing are the lifeblood of a company’s output, and that training is the lifeblood of a company’s input.

    Ah, well, I’m glad I’m a solopreneur and don’t have “whey-faced” (to quote a good friend of mine) accountants and humorless CFOs to answer to.

    • James Coakes · April 24, 2012 Reply

      I think that participants do see another side of their colleagues when they socialise with them away from the office and the usual work environment. As you say, any problems are rarely entirely unknown.

      The evening stage when you add alcohol is sometimes the scene for the real problems. However, most of the time it’s a completely positive experience and even when there are issues it’s nothing that wouldn’t come out somewhere else eventually.

  8. Jeff Nutbeem · April 24, 2012 Reply

    If properly run, these can pay back over and over. A vital ingredient though is the build up and feedback pre and post event by the company itself to ensure the session is aligned to the company’s and team’s goals and issues. If the company doesn’t invest in that as well, the team will simply see it as a jolly. This, in turn, means less ROI which, in turn, means that it is one of the first things to be axed when budgets are tight.

    • James Coakes · April 24, 2012 Reply

      Yes, I agree that pre and post event feedback are essential for the value of the event to be recognised in future.

  9. jackiebarrie · April 25, 2012 Reply

    When I used to run project teams, an early team-building event was a great way of getting the members to go through the Forming – Storming – Norming – Peforming process more quickly, and therefore generate effective results back at work.

    • James Coakes · April 25, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Jackie. Bruce Tuckman’s Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing is a good model to know.

  10. Andy Fairgrieve · April 25, 2012 Reply

    Any activity that shakes up dynamics in a corporate environment is a good thing, to have colleagues suddenly see more dimensions to a team member is beneficial. Also the individual can go through a process of self realisation given the right activity. Modern team building events are more structured to allow these outcomes. I get involved in events as a film maker and climbing instructor, some of the results are quite spectacular.

    • James Coakes · April 25, 2012 Reply

      Film making is a very good activity. The result is fun and memorable and you get a lot of insights from what the teams put into the film.

  11. ginavalley · April 27, 2012 Reply

    Spending time together laughing brings people closer. It causes them to develop empathy and compassion for the people around them Being more deeply invested in coworkers leads to more attachment to ones job. That works best for both employees and employers.

    • James Coakes · April 27, 2012 Reply

      We couldn’t agree more, Gina. We see it time and time again on our events.

  12. mithuhassan · April 27, 2012 Reply

    thanks for sharing !

  13. ajarndonald · April 29, 2012 Reply

    Your team building projects look like they’re working so keep on building. 🙂

  14. Donna Morrison · May 3, 2012 Reply

    Building relationships takes time and intention. Nothing speeds the process along like a well led team building exercise. It must be time for research on current methods.

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