As the owner of a corporate team building company in New York City, I’ve got my work cut out for me to ensure that our events meet and exceed the high expectations of the most important firms and brands in the world. When striving to create the ideal activity, it’s important to imagine not only what the perfect event would look like, but also it’s opposite – the horribly planned & executed event, so that we know what to avoid.

Below is a glimpse of what the very worst imaginable employee team building event ever would look like – hopefully, you’ll never see it beyond this blog post:

  • Attendees have had no input as to the event’s activity, nor do they know the goals
  • Attendance is mandatory, under threat of disciplinary action
  • Event is held at a location with no cell/Internet service 3 hours away on a holiday weekend, during the height of the busy season, amidst a major client crisis
  • The environment is sparse, uninviting and uncomfortable; there aren’t enough seats, no bathroom, the place smells like BO and there’s a bowling alley downstairs with 14 kiddie parties going on – and a thumping dance studio upstairs
  • The tone is serious and authoritarian from the start, with no fun or social elements at all – just a cold, hard look at what has to change, or else
  • Talk centers strictly on what’s wrong with the team, company or industry –  or even worse, focuses on the flaws of teams & individuals who are present
  • A poorly planned, 1-size-fits all activity with zero customization – in fact, it’s the exact OPPOSITE of what would be appropriate for the group’s age, demographic, interests and dynamic
  • The hired team building “experts” have no clue what they’re doing, the activity is boring, offensive & poorly run, and attendees are tuned out from the get go
  • Exercises are held outside in inclement weather, requiring lots of exertion – think a 100-degree day with 100% humidity, a freezing cold snowy day or a torrential rainstorm (I’ve actually hosted team building scavenger hunts during all of the above conditions- not fun)
  • Activities are extremely physically demanding, requiring the group’s older, infirm or disabled members to sit the event out
  • Individuals are isolated alone to work on individual projects for extended periods of time, actually preventing collaboration, communication and teamwork
  • No food, drink or breaks for the duration of the event
  • Senior managers aren’t present – in fact, they are off having their own “team building” dinner at a fancy restaurant somewhere (expensed, of course)
  • Employees actually leave feeling more disconnected, demoralized and insecure about their abilities to work together as a team than when they arrived

Extreme examples? Of course. But by conjuring up the worst team building event imaginable, it becomes clear what you want to avoid when planning/running employee activities, to make sure that yours produce the exact opposite – the best team building experience possible for your staff.

Can you think of any other nightmare scenarios for a corporate team building activity? How about perfect, best-case scenarios? Please provide your thoughts in the space below!