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Team-building exercises. The mere mention is enough to make even the most seasoned HR manager cringe. Here’s solace: No matter what you’ve been through, it likely won’t compare with these five examples, ripped from real life.
These are genuine answers from the readers of the QuickBase Blog:
- Everyone in the tub. It’s a common business practice in Japan to build bonds by bathing naked with managers, usually in a hot spring. These “naked relationships” (same gender) consist of bathing and hair-washing, then talking and bonding. The idea is that everyone is on the same level now, and discussion will flow more freely. Hopefully nothing else will.
- Horse whispering. One group of employees was charged with working together with horses, as a means of cultivating bonds. It might’ve been a good idea — until one of the horses bolted and nearly trampled an employee. It still was a bonding experience, because all of the workers were afraid they were going to die.
- Something’s fishy (or mammal-like). During this two-hour team-building exercise, people sat cross-legged on the floor, holding hands and keeping their eyes closed. The session leader then described, with vivid details, how they all were soaring over the ocean, flying into the “temple of the dolphin.” Then, the employees were told to open their eyes — to watch videos of real dolphins and how they were demonstrating leadership skills. Seriously.
- Lions and tigers and monkeys, oh my! A consultant was brought in to run a team-building session, by determining what type of workplace animal they were. The boss was determined to be a lion. But a “monkey” was pleased with his designation. His co-workers were told to lay off his sloppy desk, because it could stifle his natural simian creativity.
- Hope you didn’t just eat lunch. This one was perhaps the most-disturbing (and stomach turning). People were instructed to take a big gulp of a soft drink, then spit it into a co-worker’s mouth. Eww. Most people begged off, but some folks actually did it.
Not all team-building exercises are as arrogant or offensive.
If any of your supervisors float the idea, offer this advice before they get started:
- One of the biggest complaints is that team-building exercises have little to do with what really happens on the job. Does a proposed activity actually have any relevance?
- You can’t fix morale or communication problems sitting in a circle and singing Kumbaya. If this is the problem, management needs to take real action to address it.
- Consider your audience. Relay races and demands to pour your heart out probably won’t appeal to everyone.
What about you? Come across any nightmares costumed as team-building? Share with us.