Team Bonding

photo: courtesy of www.gobowling.com

photo: courtesy of http://www.gobowling.com

Don’t we just love the sophisticated dinners we get to attend in the name of ‘Team Bonding’?

I imagine some teams have it very bad. With unrealistic pressures, unpleasant colleagues, repulsive bosses and rude interns, I wonder if such situations could get any worse. Believe it or not, we are human and at the very core of our being is the need to belong, be celebrated and be acknowledged. Maslow knew exactly what the opposite felt like was how he had that figured out.

Teams are only as relevant as their performances are to the overall objective of the firm and just like every other association of individuals, factions are inevitable. The reality of frictions between team members explains how possible it could be to carve out 3 opposing groups from a 4-person team. Human interactions aren’t without the possibility of disagreements and it’s as a result of this that the concept of team building/bonding activities must have arisen.

For the average team, it usually starts slow -usually stiff; with everyone waiting for everyone else to make the first move to the dance floor. The younger colleagues often seem to eat a bit more than usual and I doubt it’s got anything to do with being hungry. I suspect it’s a plot to suddenly become invisible behind the heap on their plates and ultimately go unnoticed -in an attempt not to be called upon to give a speech.

Ofcourse, these occasions usually provide the boss with an opportunity to show-off his knowledge of expensive wines. For some reason, bosses also tend to act a little more friendly/open than usual. The truth is, once the initial awkwardness fades, guards are let-down; allowing the evening to take on a more familiar, warm and sociable atmosphere. From my experience, most leave with a fresh impression about others and a more cordial relationship than had previously ensued often obtains.

Team bonding activities aren’t limited to fancy dinners. Retreats, Group Travel, Paintballing, horse riding, cart racing, bowling, etc…  whatever your team decides.  Just as quarterly team bonding activities would be more preferable to those organized annually, I’d recommend that the planning of it should be a team effort with each individual having a specific role to play. The importance of involving everyone in the team serves to increase involvement as well as encourage a positive attitude towards the team bonding exercises selected.

Team bonding (activities) make for a less charged work environment. From the view point of the business, it serves to build trust among employees, it fosters a healthy work environment, enhances co-operation, breaks down communication barriers and seeks to eliminate feelings of exclusion among staff -possibly leading to increased productivity. Correspondingly, when properly executed, employees find it to be quite refreshing and rewarding.

When next you find yourself dreading an upcoming team bonding event, bear in mind that the lack of it hasn’t done much to improve the current (team) dynamics at work -logically, things could only begin to get better with its inclusion.

Implication for HR
The issue of how long a team bonding event will continue to foster good relations among team members often comes into question. The norm shouldn’t be to rely on these activities to yield any drastic changes. Rather than organize a periodic social-session which is essentially administrative, HR should endeavour to ensure that the underlying policies of the organization are such that promote an enabling environment for teams to thrive and function harmoniously. Initiatives aimed at promoting employee engagement across board should also remain HR’s top priority.