“Now we’re going to go around the circle. When it’s your turn, please say your name, your role and one thing about yourself that we might not know…”
We’ve all experienced some form of the dreaded ‘team bonding’ exercise, whether it’s induction at uni, off-site activities at work or even sometimes in family units. Regardless of the setting, bonding activities are always pretty painful and manage to feel forced.
It’s difficult to say why activities that are supposedly designed to strengthen our relationships and communication tools actually feel as though they create the opposite effect; an uncomfortable and nerve-wracking experience.
Although managers might persist that we’ll work better in a team environment afterwards, new conclusions have surfaced from Sydney researches, finding most participants actually resent compulsory bonding exercises. The research also revealed ethical implications in forcing employees to take part in these activities.
In our current workplace conditions, with many people still working from home at least some portion of the time, businesses have been extra aware of a need for workplace “culture” and in their defence, it’s a pretty difficult thing to create without face-to-face contact.
Although it may be understandable that they’d turn to Zoom dress-up parties, weekly quizzes or roundtables, it’s now been proven that some team-building exercises can be too heavy-handed and intrusive for workers to feel comfortable participating, ultimately decreasing their motivation to get up for work in the morning.
Researchers do say that some degree of openness and vulnerability is often necessary to make deep, effective connections with colleagues, it doesn’t take away the fact that not everyone feels comfortable to be openly vulnerable on command, especially in a group setting that perhaps is still new to them.
“Many workers told us that they despise team building activities and see them as a waste of time,” says lead researcher Dr Petr Matous.
“People do not want to be forced into having fun or making friends, especially not on top of their busy jobs or in stressful, dysfunctional environments where team building is typically called for.”
Taking different personalities, states of mind and types of workers into consideration in a modern working world, there are ways to go about team bonding activities that are less painful and forced.
Approaches where people can opt out discreetly, conduct similar activities within selected pairs, or choose to do something different to strengthen their working relationship should be readily available, or an approachable topic to discuss.
Even something as simple as going out for a coffee during the working day can help to strengthen an everyday relationship with your colleagues.