When a Californian home security company chose their team building games, little did they know that the program would end disastrously, not just for the employees but for the company as well.
In the fiercely competitive game, sales teams were pitted against each other. Throughout the game, the competitors’ name posts were fixed in strategic places to make the employees ‘fight the crap out of each other’. In the end, the winning team ridiculed the losing team by making them wear diapers, feeding them baby food and throwing pies at them.
After the event, employees sued the company and it had to pay out USD1.7 million as damages! So much for honorable intentions!
A huge number of team building games fails because they share at least a few – if not all – of the elements above. They think that the best team games are those that pit teams against each other through fierce contests and throw up clear winners and losers. This is ironic because most companies desire more cooperation between employees, not fierce competitiveness. They want an atmosphere where knowledge is shared and success is achieved together. Then, where is the sense in selecting team building games where the focus is on competition rather than cooperation?
Some of the main reasons why team building games fail are as follows:
- No understanding of final goals and objectives: Many employers like to spring a surprise on their employees but this can be counterproductive. When participants do not know the end goals, there could be seriously hostility between them. Instead, companies should inform the team members of the teambuilding program. In fact, companies can go one step further and give team members the power to choose. By respecting the team’s views and decisions in the matter and by giving them what they want, companies take the first step towards effective team building.
- Trying to scare employees into being a team: Facilitators sometimes push a huge challenge on the employees as the very first activity. Quite naturally, this makes more than 90% of the participants hold back from giving their best. Facilitators must design games so that there is proper sequencing of activities starting with games that address the group’s current state of being. Do the team members know each other well? Is there a conflict that must be resolved before the team can work as one? The level of complexity must go up slowly to ensure that everyone is able to contribute evenly.
- Stiff competition = rivalry: Competition is not the basis for team work, cooperation is. According to studies, more than 87% of times, greater advantage goes to teams that took the cooperative approach instead of the competitive one. The reasons are not hard to find. When you try to make one team (or team member) win, everyone loses. If people get a feeling that they weren’t good enough, it lowers their performance. Often, competition uncovers the inner jerk in the participants and some people may even try unfair means just so they can win. Besides, people learn much less when they are fighting against each other. Therefore, team building games must focus on imparting lessons instead of finding and rewarding winners.
- Lack of commitment: Sometimes, management makes the mistake of considering the program an exercise in futility, something that is done to keep the employees in good humor. This feeling gets conveyed to teams automatically and results are unsatisfactory. Team building is a value mission and there must be a belief at the highest level that the company thrives on the culture of team spirit.
- Working with the wrong consultant: Finally, the quality of team building games is only as good as the quality of the team building Event Company you are working with. Experts in the field have the technical proficiency to guide management in choosing the best activities for their goals. When looking for a team building consultant, it is vital to find someone who is passionate about what they do and are ready to work with you for the success of your team.
If a company has had a bad experience with team building games in the past, the reasons are likely to be one or more of the above.