Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Team building" is one of my pet peeves

"Team building" is one of my pet peeves. This is usually how it goes:

Morale and employee productivity in your business have been steadily declining through the year. You, the manager, conclude that you need to do something to "fix" it. SO, you opt for "team building". This usually takes the form of a staff lunch, or a staff outing to paintball/casino/beach/braai/bowling, or you get a "productivity expert" to come in and take your employees through various "team building exercises".

In most cases, you, the manager have probably missed the real issues leading up to your employees low morale and productivity, and there are a few things you need to understand about human nature in the real world.

A meal or an outing does not make up for year-long abuse. If you don't know how to work with your employees, how to capitalise on their strengths, how to bring the best out of them, then you need to face the fact that you need to acquire the necessary skills to be a real manager and leader.

A meal or an outing does not magically fix bad working relationships between employees. I work with a woman who hardly ever responds to my emails, who does not give me her best effort, and who simply does not bother to try to help me when I ask for it. Unfortunately, we are co-workers  - so I do not supervise her. Taking the situation up with her supervisor produced no improvement, and in fact made for extra surliness in my usual dealings with her. In Texas parlance, "a meal or an outing ain't gonna fix that!"

A meal or an outing does not compensate for lack of systems and procedures, for lack of planning and vision from Management, and does not make incompetent managers or employees suddenly, magically competent.

Well, you say, this all sound very negative! (Funny, I'm often told I'm negative when I point certain things out...)

OK, so when does "team building" serve a useful purpose? Paradoxically, "team building" works when things in the workplace are already going well. It works to strengthen bonds and enhance relationships when bonds are already strong and relationships are already good. It is not a substitute for good management, for planning, for systems, and it does not provide a "quick fix" for working environments that are troubled. You, Mr or Ms Manager, need to find other ways to resolve those issues.

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