In our Season 6 opener of DBAs@Midnight, we talked about (among other things) the giant pain that is company-mandated team building. I’m writing here from my experiences as an IT professional, with many years of work, and many hours wasted in “building teams”.
Team building assumes that you are part of a working team – fair enough so far – and that non-work activities can help strengthen and improve the relationships within those teams, with the end goal of better productivity for the company. It really does seem like a fine idea, as far as that goes, and I applaud managers and brass for realizing that workers are more than cogs in a machine.
The thing is, a great many people hate-hate-HATE team building.
I’ve been to team building events that included silly games, dancing, picnics or bowling, pointless (and endless) motivational speeches COMPLETE WITH LOTS AND LOTS OF POWERPOINT, and on and on. The active stuff was generally embarrassing. The picnics and bowling were nice I suppose, but afterward measured little to no impact on working conditions; it was effectively a company party. The speeches were…not good for anyone’s enjoyment of life, to say nothing of productivity. Never has so much minesweeper been played by so many people, in such a small, sweaty room.
One of the big problems is that team building is rarely done for teams – it’s done across departments, and so you have groups of people mixed up together, doing things that at least half of them despise. It’s hard to plan even a party for a large group of people, much less a goal-focused set of activities. Too many personality types. The introverts won’t want to sing, the extroverts will get bossy about the logic puzzles, the lazy ones will spend all their time on Plants vs Zombies 7, The Reaping, and now you’re not so much team building as you are shoring up existing roles.
And the really great thing is, it’s always mandatory. You never get asked whether you’d like to participate in team building, or what might interest you, or how you think these things might be run well. In short, team building tends to be a funnel that transforms perfectly useful time into long, awkward uselessness.
I’d like to hear from people who’ve had good team building experiences. I’d like to hear from those of you with bad. And, can team building be done “right”?
Tune in to DBAs@Midnight, the only live webshow for DBAs, by DBAs, Fridays at 11pm Central on http://webshow.MidnightDBA.com for the next Big Idea. When you watch and chat live, you’re part of the discussion! (Show is NSFW for language.)