Rob Reaks , December 2, 2019
Close encounters of the cringe-worthy kind – team-building horror stories and how to avoid them! From holding a live tarantula, to climbing inside a cave, to telling that colleague what you really think of them, corporate away days and team-building exercises are loathed for their one-size-fits-all approach to healing a toxic workplace.
Yet, with many employers facing the nightmare scenario of high staff turnover, low retention and tension in the workplace, can they be blamed for trying to exorcise the office demons with a light-hearted day away from the desk?
After 3 decades in the business of creating great group travel experiences, Red7 has compiled the very worst team-building horror stories as well as its top tips for creating a corporate away day that actually works.
The top five terrible team-building blunders are:
Brutal honesty is not the best company policy. A popular method of getting staff to bond is by asking them to reveal what they really think of one another. A common yet misguided activity involves co-workers saying one positive thing and one negative thing to each-other – to their faces, in front of the entire team. Unfortunately, this kind of activity often ends in tears as people are far more likely to listen to the negative criticism then they are the positives.
On one hand, there’s tedious trust exercises and long days in the boardroom, on the other there’s snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes and (sorry) giant cockroaches. (Gosh, it’s like an episode of I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here!) Available as a professional service, these team-building exercises involve an animal handler leading the office through a nerve-wracking workshop designed to confront fear.
There are many reasons that this exercise won’t work – most will refuse to take part and those willing to handle the creepy crawlies will quickly turn the workshop into a competitive sport, which defies the point of team building.
Any activity should respect the personal space of everyone involved – if colleagues wanted to get touchy-feely, they wouldn’t need a team-building day in the first place! Activities that involve getting up close and personal with a co-worker should be strictly prohibited. The trust fall is too cliche to even consider, but some companies have gone much, much further to bring their employees close together. One company opted to have their staff exchange mouthfuls of fizzy drink. That’s right, they literally had to spit the beverage into one another’s mouth. Pretty disgusting if you ask… well, anyone.
Nothing screams ‘model employee’ louder than going into anaphylactic shock for the sake of participation. Unappetising bowls of ‘finger food’ are the expected fare at any corporate away day. Whilst some employees might love munching on peanuts and Bombay mix, these snacks can have deadly consequences as over 20% of the population suffers from an allergy. One company asked staff to hold hands (ugh, see above!) after consuming peanuts. This kind of bonding activity can have fatal repercussions for allergy sufferers.
The Descent, The Cave, The Cavern, As Above, So Below, The Ruins… how many horror films about cave diving even are there? Anyone that’s up on film will be more than wary of jumping into a cave, as will the estimated 5-7% of the global population that suffers from claustrophobia.
Team members may feel pressured into going along with the plan, despite having a phobia, and end up in a situation that they find terrifying.
It’s true that extreme activities such as abseiling, white rafter rafting and paintball can be a fun and exhilarating experience for groups, but beware! Consider everyone in the team first – competitive and/or physical endurance activities work best when the team members have similar levels of fitness and competitiveness. These activities can cause a major divide if they become an excuse for more sporty employees to show off and can seriously demotivate their co-workers.
So, don’t pick an activity that is unhygienic, disgusting, too personal or potentially dangerous, and think twice if your activity of choice is competitive or scary.
Team-building horror stories and how to avoid them! Well, that’s a long list of ‘don’ts’! Luckily, Red7 is on hand with five top tips to turn that horror show into a comedy.
From gin, to wine, to chocolate, to cheese, incredible tasting experiences can really bring a team together. Learning cooking skills can also give a team a great shared experience – chocolate, cupcake and pizza making are all easy to master and give the team the satisfaction of enjoying their achievement in a delicious finished product.
Eating together can give the team a real boost. Researchers at the University of Chicago recently found that eating the same or similar food can promote trust and collaboration between people – even total strangers.
There needs to be a balance between exercises that give extroverts the chance to shine and ones that give introverts the chance to energise. Having regular breaks, booking a space with a less-crowded relaxation area, planning some one-on-one or small group activities and simply being mindful of the balance in the group will allow the less outgoing members of the group team to take something away from the activities.
Catering to both personality types may help the team to understand each other better. According to the famous psychologist Carl Jung, nobody is completely introverted or extroverted. This means that, subconsciously, people have far more in common than they might think – they just need to realise it!
Let’s face it, some problems just can’t be fixed in a day. If a team is really struggling to work together, it may take a little longer to foster a positive and collaborate environment where everyone is seen as equal. Spending a few days together, away from the daily stresses of the office, will allow colleagues to address their issues in a way that is far less forced than if they were being coached through a strained day of activities.
Whether a team is working well together on not, longer travel can be both a team-building exercise and a reward. It can inspire and motivate employees to be more productive, cement the bonds between co-workers, and give the entire office a valuable refresh.
Team-building horror stories and how to avoid them! We’re almost done. Now, do pick a great setting. Incredible destinations are a sure way to unite the team – who wants to be petty or negative when met with beautiful views and exciting new experiences? According to Stanford psychologist Dr B.J. Fogg, “There’s just one way to radically change your behaviour: radically change your environment.”
Villas are a fantastic choice for team-building travel – they can comfortably sleep large groups, and features such as terraces and private pools encourage the group to spend some real quality time together. Spacious dining rooms can quickly become impromptu boardrooms when it’s time to brainstorm. Red7’s top picks for villa destinations are Greece, Ibiza and Marbella. Albufeira, on The Algarve, offers beautiful beaches, warm climate and sea, and an unbeatable nightlife (well, it’s not ALL work!)
Know your audience! Some people love the rush of adrenaline involved with activities such as paintballing, assault courses and zorbing; others will get the same kind of endorphin rush from a day of spa treatments or yoga.
It’s important that the entire team is included, it’s a group activity after all! So, some reconnaissance time spent getting to know what team members really enjoy doing is incredibly useful. If the office is truly split, put it to a public vote. Whilst it’s hard to find a universally loved activity, it’s easy to avoid booking a universally loathed one with a little communication.
Picking an activity that nobody in the group has tried before is potentially risky but can be a great use of social identity theory: we emphasise the similarities within our group and the differences of outsiders. If the entire group is new to the activity, they immediately have a similarity and a sense of belonging.
So if you’re inspired (or warned) by our Team-building horror stories and how to avoid them, now it’s time to call our Group Travel experts on 01273 872200 and we’ll create the perfect team building holiday for your business.