As someone who has done team bonding and hated team bonding, it’s easy to think of a couple reasons why people don’t like it.
- It’s Mandatory: Anything that becomes mandatory, automatically becomes less attractive. No one wants to do anything because they have to, but if it’s a choice, people don’t seem to mind as much. It’s like doing chores: Doing the dishes seems like a lot more work when you have to do them than when you just opt to do them yourself.
- It’s After Work: Who wants to spend all day at work and then spend the night at work? The worst is when it is directly after work, so you don’t have time to go home, change, eat, or relax for ten minutes before you have to go back.
- The Activities Are Forced: No one wants to do trust falls or go around the room telling people something interesting about yourself. The activities are not actually made for team bonding. Even going out to dinner does not reinforce team bonding. The cliques will stick together, while leaving out the same people.
- It’s Intimidating: Now is the time that you make friends at work. There’s pressure from the boss to get along, there’s pressure from the team to get along, there’s pressure from the organizer to get along. Sometimes team bonding is intense and grueling for some people, introverts, people with disabilities and the like.
But don’t worry, some team bonding exercises can actually help bring everyone together.
Here Are Some Ways to Fix Team Bonding:
- Give Employees Some Options: Instead of mandatory team bonding, maybe offer some incentives, so your employees have a choice to come or not. Maybe offer food, beverages, prizes, maybe even make the team bonding a paid event.
- Take a Day off: Make the day a half day, so your employees don’t come to the team bonding worn out. Employees have lives and things outside of work to do. Kids, pets, other obligations make team bonding stressful. Your employees are probably thinking about things outside of work and are not fully present at the team bonding.
- Get Feedback: What do your employees like to do? Ultimately, these exercises are meant to help them. You won’t be able to please everyone, but if you ask your employees for ideas, they may be more willing to go. Maybe try an escape room, bowling, or my personal favorite: Footgolf. It doesn’t have to be a high pressure scheduled experience. Letting your employees just talk and get to know each other may help them bond better than any trust fall could.
- Make Team Bonding Open: Don’t call it team bonding, take the stress out of it. Say the company wants to take you all out for an afternoon of golf or games. Maybe offer them the chance to wear casual clothing. Make it as comfortable an experience as you can. The more comfortable your employees are, the more engaged they will be.
Team bonding does not have to be a dark, looming shadow. It can be enjoyable, but as an employer, YOU must take the steps to make it that way.