Team Building for People Who Hate Team Building Activities

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Unhappy participants can derail your team building session. Here's how you can handle the 5 most common complaints.

Team building can sometimes seem like an excuse to get out of the office, but it can also help employees feel more engaged within the organization.

And having engaged employees can have a huge impact; companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 percent.

Unfortunately, there’s always at least one person who just doesn’t enjoy these activities and will complain about it.

Here are five reasons why people hate team building activities and how you either as a leader, trainer or facilitator can overcome these objections to ensure a fruitful session:

1. “Team Building Activities Are a Waste of Time!”

For workaholics, taking a day off to bond with colleagues can seem like a complete waste of time. They would rather be finishing that monthly report or putting the last touches on that important project proposal. The root of this feeling is that they just don’t see the benefits of team building activities.

What you can do:

Explain the objectives of the team building session. Share with participants the company’s short-term and long-term goals, and how the team’s performance will play a part in achieving those goals. Let them know that the team building is not just fun and games; it’s meant to strengthen team performance.

Be sure to link the activities and discussions to the training objectives and desired learning outcomes. During the review at the end of each activity, participants should be encouraged to share how they can apply what they learned in their everyday work. If each participant feels like they’ve learned something that adds to their own personal development, they won’t view a team building day as a waste of time.

Related Article: Make It Count: Team Building Ideas That Will Make Your Employees Love Their Job

2. “Team Building Activities Are Stupid”

There are some pretty silly team building activities, and the person who feels this way has probably unwillingly participated in such activities in previous sessions.  Maybe they’ve had to run around making animal noises or had to be blindfolded as a colleague led them through an obstacle course. You can’t blame them for not wanting to go through that again.

What you can do:

It’s simple: don’t make participants do silly activities! Take into account the age range and physical abilities of your group and ensure the activities are suitable for them. Know the training objectives and use activities that will help you achieve those goals. Select activities that are fun but do not force the participants into awkward or overly uncomfortable situations. More importantly, ensure that the activities actually do lead to a learning objective. It’s okay to push participants outside of their comfort zone, but do it in a reasonable manner.

3. “Team Building Activities Just Tire Me Out. They’re Always So High-Energy.”

For some people, the phrase “team building activities” conjures up images of rowdy participants competing against each other in a loud and chaotic atmosphere. This is a nightmare scenario for introverts. Introverts account for about 50 percent of the U.S. population, so chances are there are a few introverts on your team who do not enjoy prolonged periods of high-energy activities. 

What you can do:

Recognize that your team members have different tolerance levels for high-energy activities. Vary the pace of the activities throughout the day and build in some quiet moments for reflection. This allows introverts to process the information they’ve learned. You may also want to organize some of the groupings for some activities to ensure a good mix of extroverts and introverts. Do monitor the energy levels of the group and be flexible. If their energy or focus is low, it may be time to move on to something else. 

Related Article: 5 Team Building Activities That Don't Suck

4. “Team Building Is So Awkward. They Just Force Us to Do Things Together.”

There are team building activities designed both for groups that already know each other well and groups that don’t know each other at all. You can select activities to fit their comfort level. Regardless of whether participants know each other, icebreakers can help bridge the gap and create an environment of camaraderie. One objective of team building is for colleagues to connect outside of the workplace and get to know each other on a more personal level. A certain level of awkwardness is to be expected as the group tries to breach that wall.

 What you can do:

Team building doesn’t always have to be a structured program that involves a trainer. Social activities and spending time together outside of the office could be your first step before you embark on a specialized program designed to strengthen your team’s performance. If you are having a structured full-day session, it is important to build rapport between team members right from the start.

Be attuned to their responses to the activities and who is not participating. If a participant expresses reluctance, you or the trainer could discreetly speak with them and address their concerns. When participants feel safe with the group, they’re more likely to follow the program and trust in the process. 

5. “I Hate Being on the Losing Team.”

Team building activities can be competitive in nature (i.e. pitting one group against another, with one emerging as the winner), and this can have a negative psychological effect on the larger team. Competitive team building activities do not encourage an experience of success. Imagine this: you’re a competent hard worker who’s excellent in your job. Then you lose in a team building activity and are told all the reasons why your group failed. This feeling of failure can create a feeling of inadequacy that seeps into the workplace. 

What you can do:

Competition (and the consequent success or failure) can teach your team a lot about improving communication, effective leadership and the power of planning. However, to balance this, collaboration is needed to highlight how much they can achieve together as a team versus as individuals. So select activities that celebrate both competition and collaboration. 

During a team building session, actively manage any participants who are overly competitive. When reviewing, remember to frame the activity as a learning experience rather than just a success or failure. Reiterate that it is the process that matters more than the outcome.

Related Article: How to Improve Relations Between Your Managers and Employees

Get the Most Out of Your Team Building

Team building activities can be a useful tool to promote cooperation and problem solving in your organization or a potential source of anxiety and frustration. The best results occur when everyone in the group has a positive approach and actively participates. Use the strategies above to address objections and get everyone on board so you can get the most out of your next team building session.  

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