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The Worst Team-Building Exercise Ever

Why open communication is not always the best idea.

"How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager"

“During a previous job, I worked in a team that was having trouble getting along, so they brought in someone to help us work together as a team. First activity? We had to go around the room and tell each other what we didn’t like about each other.

We might have also had to add what we did like about each other but I honestly only remember the criticisms and the people bursting into tears. We went from simply not being able to work together to actively disliking each other in about 30 minutes. Then we ate a boxed lunch and ended the day by filling out personality tests.”

— From a post on the Intuit QuickBase site by Alison Green, who runs the outstanding Ask A Manager blog.

This particular nightmare — which Green calls “a slam book for grownups” — is just one of 10 “horrifying team-building exercises” she lists. Others include restroom deprivation, bathing with your managers, and a meditative exercise called “Temple of the Dolphin.” To research the article, Green wrote about an exercise in which she was compelled to kiss all of her teammates on the cheek. She then asked her readers to share their own tales of team-building terror. The response? A whopping 316 comments, which you can find right here.

When you lead meetings, the one improvement you know you could make is to:

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On the LinkedIn forum for the Sales Management Association, there’s a conversational thread where members posted a few team-building exercises that actually work.

Interestingly, the leading activities were common games, basic community service, or low-maintenance creative tasks. Playing charades, cleaning a neighborhood park, and building with Legos all got high marks.

The upshot, to quote one member: “Sometimes the small activities yield the greatest results.”

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