“Crap Team Building”: The Search Terms

On April 5, 2010, I wrote an article “Team Building Makes Me Feel Dead Inside” where I talked about my thoughts on mandatory team building efforts. I don’t like them at all, mainly because I feel they’re more about giving lazy management a reason to ignore bad morale than they are about genuinely building effective teams.

Since that article, I’ve been very surprised by the entries appearing in my search logs that pointed to that article. I’m listing them here (this is a complete reference of every entry related to team building–I haven’t omitted anything).

  • crap team building
  • how to work for a boss who insists on doing team building stuff
    [that one’s my favourite]
  • i hate team build sessions
  • mandatory lead build team
  • mandatory team building
  • mandatory team building after hours
  • mandatory team lunch
  • muse teambuilding activity
  • team building activities crap
  • team building is crap

Now it’s true my article wasn’t particularly positive where team building is concerned, but when I look through this list, I see mostly negative, or negative-neutral search terms. Even “mandatory team building” carries a negative connotation, because of the forced aspect implied by the keywords. Seeing this prompted me to look up some of these search terms in Google.

When I searched just for “team building“, I found a long list of companies that provided team building services, and news relating to team building. When I searched for “enjoyed team building“, I found testimonials people had written for others. In neither case did I find “diary-style” entries where people talked about how they really felt.

But when I searched for “crap team building” which shows in my logs with the highest frequency, I got the results pictured here.

Crap Team Building Search Results

This is hardly a scientific examination. In fact, it took me longer to write this article than it did to find these search results.

But I wonder…when people have the opportunity to speak their minds about team building, is it consistently negative? Do people, in general, loathe team building activities?

More importantly, if the management who spent money on team building activities and kept this industry in business knew how their staff felt about team building, would it change their minds about how they went about it? Or would management proceed anyway thinking it was for the employees’ own good?

How do you feel?

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I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • lazy management – yup I hear you!

    team building always strikes me as false advertising. plus its so damn cheesy.

    the only time i have seen this work is when i took a group of social workers paintballing (it was to demonstrate them stepping into a personality trait they wanted to develop more of – assertiveness, claiming space, being warriors – all good stuff).

    They all turned into Rambo in about 16 nanoseconds.

    Geoff, i won't lie to you, it was more than a little terryifying.

  • steelray

    Here's what I think: team building is usually (in my experience) a total waste of time. that being said, two years ago (ish) Steelray held its annual staff conference and that's what we worked on. it was amazing. i can't tell you how much we learned about ourselves and how to relate to each other. and i can't stress enough how well that information has served me when I have slowed down enough to remember to use it! it was a great experience.

  • steelray

    for some more info, see “Why that Urge to Scream is Totally Valid.” http://www.steelray.com/blog/?p=21

  • That's actually a really cool story, Sas! Especially seeing their reactions. This doesn't sound like your traditional team building arrangement where management says “I want to improve morale”. In this case, you had a specific objective in mind (“stepping into a personality trait they wanted to develop more of”), and a willing audience. That's a very different thing, and it sounds very exciting!!

  • Hey that sounds interesting, Laura, can you tell us more about the experience? It sounds like it was a special arrangement set up for an annual event offsite rather than “here take this team building and like it!”

  • I completely agree with having a purpose and the way to get a willing audience is to show them how they can benefit from the experience. I like to use coaching methods for this kind of work. Rule #1 of Team Building Club – we NEVER call it team building.

  • steelray

    Well, beforehand we had to take a survey about how we perceive ourselves. It was long but worth it, and the results were pretty mind-blowing because our responses told us things about ourselves we'd never thought about before. The main point is that there are about three/four types of people – influencers, dominants, and what I call “thinkers.” Influencers are well-liked; dominants are, well, dominant – and “thinkers” are the kind of people who are quiet and dependable. Influencers can be perceived by other (not themselves) as fluff; dominants can be perceived as harsh and abrasive; thinkers can be seen as plodders. The interesting thing about thinkers is that they rarely venture an opinion when it's called for. Yet their opinions/thoughts/ideas can be very good. Now. Dominants like information given to them in great detail, while influencers, who love to talk and tell long stories (and be the center of attention) only want information in bullet points. These are some of the insights we learned.

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