9 Real Team Building Disadvantages

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August 07, 2020

Hello! You found our list of team building disadvantages.

Team building disadvantages are complicating factors to consider when planning team bonding exercises. Examples of team building disadvantages are time, cost, and effort.

The opposite perspective is team building advantages.

Specifically, this list includes:

  • disadvantages of team building
  • team building activities disadvantages
  • team bonding disadvantages
  • reasons not to do team building

And more too 🙂

So, here is the list!

List of team building disadvantages

Team building offers many advantages, but also comes with several cons to consider. Take the items in this list into account when deciding whether team building is right for your organization.

1. Time restrictions

Effective team building teaches professional skills and bolsters relationships, but it is not instant. Anything worthwhile takes time, team building included. A lack of time is one of the main reasons not to do team building.

As valuable as team bonding may be to your organization, sometimes taking time away from projects is not an option. Perhaps your team is racing to meet a tight deadline and cannot spare a moment. Maybe team building will add extra burden to your overworked and understaffed department. Perhaps the company faces financial troubles, and you need to focus on securing short-term profits.

How to Deal With It:

You should not dismiss team building just because it takes time. I advise you to think about your company’s situation and your team’s needs. You can take stock of how much time your organization can realistically spend on team bonding. You can also consider hiring an outside company to run team building events instead of dedicating internal resources to planning and coordinating.

2. Cost considerations

Time is money, and team building takes time. Even if you choose free activities, you still have payroll considerations for the time. If you do free team building activities off the clock, then you may not be able to require attendance.. If you do not spend any money on teambuilding, then you may send your team the message that you do not value employee improvement.

No matter what you do, team building requires investment. Cost is one team building disadvantage and one reason that organizations shy away from the commitment.

How to Deal With It:

Instead of adopting an “all or nothing,” attitude, you can budget and experiment based on your organization’s needs. You do not immediately need to spend thousands of dollars on a schwanky, all-day, company-wide experience. Instead, you can start small. You can target a few departments or teams to try team building with first.

Here is how:

  • Put aside ten minutes of a regular meeting to do a quick activity.
  • Plan a monthly team chat or game night.
  • Consistency is important to team building, so short increments over time might yield better results than one sudden extravaganza.

The cost-benefit approach allows you to observe your teams’ response and adjust methods accordingly. Remember that though team building takes time initially, it can teach your team skills that increase productivity, which saves money in the long run.

3. Effort & repetition requirements

With benefits like increased productivity, improved interpersonal interaction, and decreased employee turnover, the payoff for team building activities can be great, but achieving these results requires sustained effort. While you can spend five minutes googling the rules to “two truths and a lie,” for your next team call, quick team building implementation will not have the same impact as careful planning and execution.

Plain and simple, team building takes effort. Planning, shopping, coordinating, setting up, emceeing, and cleaning up are just a few of the responsibilities associated with team activities. Not to mention, team building is not a one time miracle cure. Like we forget most of a test after cramming, if you try to load all of your team building into a single day, then chances are the payoff will be short-lived.

One of the disadvantages of team building is that for the benefits to be long lasting, you need to apply consistent action. Like a language or an instrument or a sport, your team needs to practice team building skills to avoid getting rusty. Additionally, since team members may change over time, your team bonding progress will not always be linear. Thus, your team building efforts need to be ongoing.

How to Deal With It:

You can utilize a great wealth of existing team building resources, and can even find pre-made worksheets and games. You should choose an activity that is easy to organize and execute, especially if you are just starting out with team building.

Or, you can choose to leave it to the pros. We offer structured team building activities that take the work out of planning and hosting, and there are other companies that offer similar services. Outsource your team bonding arrangements to someone who does it every day and get back to your mission to achieve inbox zero.

In terms of repetition, you can work team building into regular routines by carving out time during the workday, such as lunches or meetings, to practice team building. Consider scheduling bonding activities around holidays to ensure your efforts are yearlong. If you vary activities, then you can maximize engagement and learning potential.

4. Inconsistent engagement

I remember when the teacher rolled the television into my grade school classroom and all my classmates cheered in anticipation of an “easy movie day.” Unfortunately, some employees bring a similar attitude to team building.

Instead of viewing team building activities as opportunities to strengthen coworker relationships and learn valuable skills, some employees see team building as a detour from work. Such workers may ignore the rules of the games and seize the opportunity to daydream, gossip, browse the internet, or crack jokes, because these employees may not fully understand the benefits of team building.

This approach can ruin the experience for the rest of the team. Negative outlooks spread fast, and a lack of cooperation can frustrate enthusiastic employees. Non-participation can also sour upper management towards the idea of team building. Executives will not want to spend valuable company time and money paying employees if the time isn’t used well.

How to Deal With It:

You should set the tone for your team. You can emphasize that team building is an opportunity and an exercise, not a distraction from work. You can steal a page out of the teachers’ handbook. To make sure we did not tune-out during class movies, my teachers handed out questionnaires we had to answer while we watched the film. In the same spirit, you can hold employees accountable during team building by walking the room during the activity and expecting reflection post-event.

You can clarify to your employees that fun is only one part of the experience. When you put importance on the educational aspects of team building, you sway your team to do the same.

5. Not universally beneficial

Team building is not one size fits all. One disadvantage of team building is the tendency to help some employees more than others. Your teams include people of varying backgrounds, skill levels, personalities, and interests. It is unlikely that every activity will impact everyone on your team equally, or that all of your team members will enjoy every single activity. Some folks might not even be able to participate. For instance, maybe you plan a mountain biking trip, only to discover Michael never learned how to ride. Or perhaps Jamaal is a vegetarian and can only eat grilled cheese off the kids menu during team dinner at the steakhouse.

While team building may suit some of your team members more than others, team building may not suit some of your coworkers at all. If solo work dominates most of your coworkers’ time, then spending too much time on team building may hinder more than help.

Also, some people have trouble socializing. Maybe your teammate has severe social anxiety. Or perhaps a group member needs more time to open up to coworkers organically. Maybe one teammate is a grump.

How to Deal With It:

You can offer variety in your team building activities. Sports favor the physically-abled, venues like bars or wineries exclude non-drinkers, and food-based events may turn off the gluten free folks. While you cannot suit everybody all the time, you can shake up the schedule to provide a wider range of experiences.

You may want to consider marking some team building events as optional. Forcing people to participate could lead to discomfort or resentment. You can incorporate smaller team building practices into your routine like quick ice breakers or games, but you should not push employees into prolonged uncomfortable situations. You may be eager to bond your team, but rushing the process might backfire. Respect is a huge part of team building, so respect your hesitant teammates.

6. Hard to measure

Big bosses like to see results, but team building efforts can be hard to measure. Outcomes can take time to appear. Alternatively, your team might see a temporary boost in productivity and collaboration that fizzles out within a couple of weeks.

To appease you or avoid hurting your feelings, your employees may withhold constructive criticism when asked about the efficacy of the team building exercise.

How to Deal With It:

Before you start, you can set expectations so that your bosses and employees are aware that team building is a long-term process. You can set reasonable goals such as “employees will reach out more often to teammates,” not “employees will never fight again.” If possible, target measurable areas such as time spent in meetings or emails sent. Decide on a period you want to measure, and check periodically. You can note any progress and celebrate small wins.

If you convince your employees that you value and appreciate feedback then you create a safe space to share honest opinions. I advise you to not get defensive or snap when you hear constructive criticism. Instead, you can thank your team for contributing and ask your group to help brainstorm more effective solutions.

7. Tribalism

Sometimes team building works too well. The formation of cliques is one of the potential team bonding disadvantages. While you want your teams to bond, you do not want teammates to gel at the expense of other departments. Your team members should not form relationships based on disliking or feeling better than other coworkers. Friendly competition is a part of team building, emphasis on the friendly. An “us against them,” mentality divides a company and creates bad feelings and unnecessary time waste.

Teammates bonding is wonderful, but growing too close can also be harmful. Your team may come to depend totally on the department and fail to reach out to others in the company. If everyone but a few members bond, then the excluded member could feel alienated. Similarly, employees may become hesitant to disagree with peers for fear of losing favor with the group.

How to Deal With It:

As team leader, you can make an effort to include everyone. If you see cliques forming, then mix up the teams for exercises. If teams are shuffled, then your employees will interact with new coworkers. You can emphasize that everyone in the company plays on the same team and encourage your employees to think of all coworkers as teammates.

8. Pressure to perform

One of the main disadvantages of team building activities is that it can feel forced. Human beings do not like being told what to do, Dad. When someone gives us instructions, we sometimes rebel.

Putting pressure on team bonding can backfire. Forcing fun hinders your team’s ability to enjoy the activities. Even playtime can become a chore with too much pushing.

If you try too hard, your team may conclude that you care more about the appearance of everyone getting along or having fun more than the actual reality. Your employees may come to believe that team building is “fake” or “just for show.” If team building feels forced, your team will pretend to like activities but will not reap any of the benefits.

How to Deal With It:

Team building should be a pleasant and enriching experience, but mandating fun turns team building into another obligation. You can give your team choice by making some activities or events optional so that the event feels like a treat as opposed to another work task. You can also let your team vote on a list of activities and dates in order to give your employees more agency and let your team feel like they have a say.

9. Abundance of options

Options are great, but choices can become overwhelming. Decision fatigue means that every choice tires our brains. Making too many decisions lowers our motivation and willpower. When presented with too many options, we may throw our hands up and choose hastily just to end the dilemma.

There are a lot of great options for team building exercises, perhaps too many. You might find yourself asking, “How do I know which one is right for my team or organization? Where do I even start?!”

How to Deal With It:

There is no one “right choice.” You do not need to weigh or consider every single option. You know your team better than anyone, which means you will know a good fit when you see one. Even if you misfire, picking a just-ok team building activity is not the end of the world. You can always do better next time.

Final thoughts on the disadvantages of team building

While team building has many advantages, not all team building fits perfectly for every situation, organization, or team.

When considering team building, assess the time, energy, and cost to your organization, as well as the bandwidth of your team. You want team building to be a positive experience for everyone involved!

Then, check out this list of team building games you can play at the office.

FAQ: Team building disadvantages

Here are some answers to common questions about team building disadvantages.

What are team building disadvantages?

Team building disadvantages are reasons that your team may not reap all of the benefits of team building.

What are some disadvantages of team building?

Team building disadvantages include the need for repetition, the potential for idle time, and the possibility of exercises feeling forced. Team building also involves investing resources like time and/or money.

Why should organizations avoid team building?

Organizations may avoid team building due to lack of time or money. If you do not feel confident that you can invest the hours and energy needed to facilitate well-thought-out and well-executed team building activities, then you may want to postpone your events until a more opportune date.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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