Working in teams, there are always challenges when it comes to aspects like cooperation, mutual trust, or smooth communication. Becoming an effective team is a constant process that takes real work and dedication. That’s why team building can be so beneficial.
Team building activities are a wonderful tool to boost the quality and health of your team. However, despite all the benefits that team building can bring if done right, there are some potential disadvantages.
To be clear, by disadvantages we simply mean that not every team building activity is right for every team. The choices of team building activities today are practically unlimited, and each activity has its positive and negative aspects. Teams need to assess their needs, limitations, and constraints when choosing the right team building program.
We believe that there are solutions to every problem and that in the end it is always worth it to invest in your team, even when you have little leeway in terms of budget or time. Knowing about disadvantages can lead to making positive, proactive decisions about team building that allow you to reap the advantages.
In this blog post we will go over the advantages and disadvantages of team building, as well as possible solutions. Hopefully, this will make you more aware of the considerations going into team building activities, and how to make the most of your team building experience.
Advantages of team building
We have written a lot in other posts about the advantages of team building. Overall, the greatest advantage of team building is that it makes your team more effective. This means that teams are productive while maintaining good communication and developing healthy relationships with each other. It’s a combination of “getting the job done” and trust.
Team building activities accomplish this by challenging teams in these areas, making them aware of the areas that are strong and the areas that need more work. This feedback and knowledge, combined with the fun memories that they share during the activity, allows teams to continue to develop and grow stronger in the future.
This is clearly an overview of the process and the advantages of team building. Here are some more specific advantages to team building (there’s a lot so we will list them for easy convenience).
• Get to know colleagues better
• Build trust and inclusivity among the team
• Motivate team members
• Stimulate creativity and empower new ideas
• Learn new skills and processes
• Become better problem-solvers
• Increase team unity
• Decrease stress and have fun together
Disadvantages of team building: concerns to think about
Along with the advantages listed above, there are a number of disadvantages. But don’t think of them as essential to all team building programs. Rather, these are possible concerns that could turn metastasize into disadvantages when they are not considered. Moreover, by being aware of these disadvantages, you can avoid them and choose programs that are more suited to your team’s needs and personality.
Team building activities can be very expensive
Team building events can be quite costly and if you want to spend money, the sky’s the limit. You might feel the pressure to spend more money on blowout events or high-priced group trips. Of course, only very few companies in the world have the budget to fly their teams to a tropical island retreat for team building.
In reality, there are many more affordable options that will probably be as effective, if not more so. Smaller events with teams might be better than huge events. Likewise, expensive training sessions and coaches may not be what your team really needs. You have to weigh the costs against what the program provides and what your team is looking for.
And if your budget is really tight, we still recommend implementing some sort of team building. This can be organized on your own–small group chats, outdoor picnics, impromptu office parties or lectures, etc. No matter what you can afford, putting in the effort into team building now will greatly benefit your team down the line.
Team building activities are time consuming and need to be held regularly
Team building exercises can be very time consuming both in their planning and execution. Also, it should be kept in mind that one single event will not have the long lasting effects that you may want–team building is a constant effort that needs to be worked on regularly.
The time-consuming nature of team building exercises might be a serious concern for you and your team. You might not think that your team has any time to spend on team building, or that team building will take away time from more “productive” tasks.
In reality, team building is an excellent use of time and will help your team be more productive later on. However, the stereotype that team building is a waste of time comes from the fact that sometimes teams choose activities that are not worth the team’s time.
So the number one solution is to find activities that will be beneficial and help your team. This requires a good assessment of where your team is at and where it wants to go.
In terms of concerns about lack of time, team building can really be done anytime. We talked above about doing shorter events, which will help make team building more regular, and cut down on long, extensive programs.
You can also do team building in the evening, on weekends or on a holiday. Granted, this is not how everyone wants to spend their free time. But again, that’s why finding the right activity (with the right amount of fun) for your team matters. When team members are enjoying themselves during an event, they will forget that what they are doing is related to work. If teams emerge strong and happy after a team building event, the extra time spent is well worth it.
Team building activities can backfire and cause the opposite effect
While team building activities are intended to improve communication between team members and strengthen relationships, it also has the potential to do the opposite–like when, for example, the activities are too competitive. These types of activities can also amplify feelings of superiority among team members or between departments. Furthermore, when there are serious animosities between team members, forcing them into a team building activity together can make things worse.
Because of this, you should be careful about how to frame the team building exercise. If they feel like implicit criticisms or punishment for a seeming lack of teamwork, such activities will most likely have the opposite effect. Rather, team building should be framed as a celebration of success, or a way of making teams feel more united
Healthy competition may be fine in some cases but should be kept in check. Finding activities that promote teamwork between teams at the end are also suggested. For example, at Invite Japan many of our activities contain “Final Mission” components, where teams have to unite together to solve the last challenge.
Finally, if the relationships between individual team members are really strained, a half hearted team building activity is not the solution. In such cases it might be better to consult with a specialist in conflict resolution. Team building should also not be used as a substitute for the daily work it takes to create a happy, healthy, psychologically safe working environment, even if it can teach you how to get there.
Not everybody enjoys team building activities
The motivation to participate in a team building exercise may vary drastically from person to person. Some will be excited to improve their workflows and connections with their colleagues, while others might feel uncomfortable because they have to let urgent tasks wait. Some team members may even be inclined to do some work on the side during the exercise. At the same time there may be others who will believe that the team building exercise is pointless, and will refuse to participate or bring down the team with their negativity.
To avoid this you should make clear to the participants that for the duration of the team building exercise you do not expect them to get work done. You should also encourage them to close their email programs and work-related browser tabs on their computer.
If you feel that some team members are not interested in participating, encourage them to let go of their stress for a little while and to join their colleagues. In our experience, sometimes they are just insecure because they did not fully understand the rules of the activity and may need a little extra explanation in order to enjoy the activity together with their teammates.
Negativity can also be a learning opportunity. One of team building’s strengths lies in showing teams things about themselves. Thus, if you see certain members being negative, that can be the basis for future discussions on how to deal with unknown situations or how to deal with crises.
Other team members might view the team building activity as a break, and while we definitely recommend that team building activities be held in a relaxed framework, it is still vital that the participants actually participate. That is why it is important to communicate the goals and expectations of the activity to your team members before starting. That way, everyone can be on the same page from the start.
Not everyone can participate in team building activities
Things like an action-packed outdoor event will probably sound appealing to many. However, this will not be the case for everyone. People with physical disabilities might feel excluded, and non-sporty and non-outdoorsy people might feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. There are so many other factors to consider. Not everybody can swim for example, some people are afraid of heights and so on.
If you plan to eat together as a team there are also many pitfalls regarding different dietary restrictions, be it due to allergies, religion, or lifestyle choice. Moreover, if it is a drinking party some members may not like drinking alcohol.
On the other hand, an online team building event might not be right for everyone either. There might be people who have to share a small living space or need to keep an eye on their young children. Or maybe their internet connection is not great.
Issues like these can be avoided by carefully picking the activity and knowing (or finding out) enough about your team members to be able to take their individual needs into consideration. This should be part of the larger process of assessing your team before choosing a team building event.
Of course, there is no one team building that will appeal to everyone’s tastes. That’s why switching up the types of team building activities you do is important. That way, team members aren’t stuck doing an activity they don’t like over and over again. This also allows team members to discover new skills or preferences, thus enriching the team.
Team building activities are a wonderful tool to increase the productivity and happiness of your team members, reduce stress levels and much more. There are so many advantages to think about. However, it is necessary to be aware of the potential disadvantages when an event is not executed properly or does not meet your team’s needs and goals. Invite Japan will be happy to discuss the individual needs and concerns of your company and your individual team members to provide a team building event that fits your team and brings your team members closer together.