Team-Building Mistakes that HR Should Avoid

May 20, 202112:04 pm1508 views
Team-Building Mistakes that HR Should Avoid
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What was the strangest, most unique team-building activity that you have ever experienced? Jogging with your supervisor to build trust? Playing Nintendo with coworkers to maintain collaboration? Or doing ‘horse whispering’ to learn effective communication? 

Team-building programs are required to strengthen employees’ relationships; and because it is vital, team activities should be enjoyable. In practice, however, employers are sometimes proposing bizarre team-building agenda which results in unexpected reactions, such as the following example from quickbase

One employee said that his team did ‘horse whispering’, a method of taming and training horses with non-aggressive methods. The team went to one of the local horse ranches so they could do horse whispering with real horses. The activity was meant to help employees learn about effective communication. But the activity went wrong when one of the horses got overexcited, galloped towards the centre of the barn where they were being briefed. One of the teams nearly got trampled by the horse. “It was a bonding experience to a certain extent, but only because we all thought we were going to die,” added the employee. 

Another ‘strange’ team bonding activity is bathing with managers to build trust. Bathing together has been a norm in Japanese culture. Therefore, when a non-japanese works in Japan, he/she might feel strange to have such team bonding. This happened to one respondent who worked in Japan, where he experienced his worst team-building exercise; taking a bath with his boss and supervisors of the same sex. The team-building was called ‘naked relationships’ and was thought to build trust. This employee said, “After showering and washing your hair in a group facility, you sit in the bath together and talk and bond. The idea is that when you are naked, everyone is equal and you will feel free to discuss things and joke about things that you would not in the office setting.” 

See also: 4 Team Building Ideas For Your Next Event! 

What team-bonding should represent and achieve 

There are still plenty of “unique” team bonding activities according to quickbase – some might be hilarious while some others seem horrible. Being different in building one’s team is wholesome as it might give a different experience to your employees. However, you should not go too far and jeopardize your team’s wellbeing by being different. Team building is supposed to be a fun activity where everyone can enjoy. The program should also involve stress-relief activities and help employees build or strengthen their skills. 

In a BBC interview with Alison Green, author and creator of the workplace advice column Ask a Manager, she said that team-bonding events are supposedly about designing activities to boost the cohesion of a team and increase communication, co-operation, and morale. Most importantly, the activities should align with corporate goals. Green also disclosed that employers often created events that involve things like humiliating dance performances, rope-climbing courses, emotional or physical story sharing, and other endeavours where the connection to business goals is not quite clear. 

These types of team-building can be tremendously annoying for employees – and result in the opposite of raising morale, Green added. For example, when team building involves sharing emotional stories, those who prefer privacy or might have trauma or abusive experience during childhood might think the game is not fun. This type of team-building activity might also revive an employee’s trauma from the past. Consequently, instead of strengthening the bond, the activity might jeopardize the collaboration and harmony in the team.  

What is considered real and impactful team-building? 

Real team bonding is not about one or two events per year. It is more about how a team runs, day-by-day, achieving their goals as well as those of the company’s. People can achieve a better result and feel like part of a real team if they have a chance to share their input and talk over challenges – and if they see that the input is welcome and truly considered. 

With that in mind, when building activities for team bonding, keep in mind to avoid these things: 

  • The assumption that everybody is equal. In essence, people have different skills, temperaments, behaviours, likes and dislikes, and so on. 
  • Forcing your preference just because you think the activity will give good outcomes. As a leader, you should consider all the impact it might cause on employees. Hence, ensure that the activity does not involve things that will discourage or demotivate particular employees. 
  • Avoid being subjective when planning activities. As a team leader, you must strive to always be as objective as you can be when dealing with team members. 
  • Do not plan bonding events that have no clear-cut goals. 
  • Stop being the boss during team building. Although different roles and positions are present in the events, ensure that everyone plays equal roles in the team building activities, by respecting each other. 
  • Stop assuming that team building is a one-time event. Close bonds within a team do not just happen overnight. Oftentimes, it takes years of effort on both ends. If you want your team to foster teamwork and work closely, try organising team building sessions at least twice a year with clear goals as mentioned in the aforementioned discussion. 

What you need to do in building activities for your team are, as follows: 

  • Carefully design the team activities by being detailed, for example, what are the employees going to do to achieve the required result? Will there be an adverse impact on each employee? Does a certain employee have fear or trauma that will make the team bonding activities not effective? 
  • Make it relevant to your business needs. 
  • The activities should be by choice and look to include people in one way or another. 
  • Your team should feel they can do the activities in a safe and secure environment. 
  • Experiences are good but the activities should be linked to specific skills and techniques to help build capacity. 
  • These types of events need the right level of facilitation to ensure their impact, both physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For example, when you want to do paragliding activities to relieve your team’s stress, make sure there is a leader or expert to assist during the activity. Other facilities, such as safety tools, should also be prepared. 

It is far more effective and useful to involve your workgroup in grappling with real challenges as part of the normal course of business when building team activities. Do it right, and your team will talk about the shared benefits for years to come – even attracting candidates who are in need of working with well-cultured companies. 

Read also: HR Picks: 10 Virtual Team Building Tools to Promote Transparency and Collaboration 

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