Having a strong camaraderie at the office is crucial for bringing a company’s mission to the world. Employees must work together and stand unified for their cause. That is why team building exercises are common practice for most corporations. Putting together a team and having them gun for the gold medal is an ideal way to build trust in each other’s capabilities. In practice, it is an apt metaphor to help achieve the drive desired in the office. Except for one major problem—when there is a winner, there must also be a loser.
Chief Happiness Officer, Alexander Kjerulf, encourages all companies to cultivate a close-knit team. He is an advocate for team building exercises—but he also feels that many companies are going about it in the wrong way by using competition.
Competition is the easiest (and in a sense, the most logical) choice for team building. It mandates a group who has to work together to achieve a common goal. Sounds good on paper, but Alexander has uncovered a few myths that show why using competition for corporate team building is actually counterproductive.
1. Competition does not create an experience of success
Yes, in a competition you will find a winner. They will have achieved the goal and become fired up with passion. This is great, but the same winners have now defeated their own co-workers. Now your team building exercise has successfully created an “Us and Them” scenario.
Many of the losers leave with a feeling that they weren’t good enough. They may feel that they let down their own team, becoming deterred from participating in other team efforts based on the fear that they will only hold them back from any progress.
Don’t break into many teams. Instead, have one large group work toward a bigger goal. If you have too many people, break it up so that every team is working on different components for a common goal. This will inspire cooperation between the groups, rather than competing.
2. Competition brings out the worst in people
The intensity of a competitive setting can create a range of responses from participants. Some of the most temperate employees can become jerks due to the dueling atmosphere—some may even try to cheat in order to get ahead. The point of team building is to make it so that everyone likes each other more at the end. Having people yell and scream in order to win can create a negative work culture for the future.
Avoid overly stressful situations. The physical and psychological pressures of the competitive atmosphere can push people to the breaking point. Corners get cut, and people’s morals may be compromised. Instead, host an event that focuses on having collaboration being the key to moving forward. In the real world, nobody wants to work with a jerk, so why should we allow them to be present in team building exercises?
3. Competition lowers performance
Contrary to what most people may think, competition actually makes us perform worse. The average employee is not the cool-headed bomb technician that you see on TV who nonchalantly cuts the green wire. Stressful situations and a ticking clock will make most us take rash decisions. Combine this with complex tasks and interacting with others under the same stress—the bomb is sure to blow.
Create a safe environment and task that aims at quality work compared to speed. Make the rewards of the exercise based on the work and team effort, rather than awarding the quickest solution by a single player or group.
A well-functioning team that can collaborate is crucial for any company that wishes to make a difference in the world. Using team building exercises are a great way to build the relationships needed for a high functioning office—just make sure that the exercises work toward strengthening employee bonds, rather than severing them for the sake of a prize.
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