A controversial survey conducted by You Gov and Vodaphone in early 2012 is still showing up on the first page of Google for a search of the term 'team building' some 18 months later.
The survey of around 1,000 corporate employees cited the top worst team building days as including massages from colleagues, 'bush tucker' style trials and bikini clad bed baths.
Around 66% of respondents had taken part in a team building event and over half of them felt that the event hadn’t helped them to work better with colleagues.
I have worked in the team building industry for 25 years and I have never heard of people being asked to give colleagues massages. I don't even know what a bikini clad bed bath is. If either of these things did happen then I can only imagine they were badly judged unofficial activities and not professionally organised. All it takes in this situation is for one person to give such an example and it becomes the main takeaway message of the story because it's so outrageous. One might expect more from a serious newspaper but the result is that team building is shown in a bad light.
These stories come along occasionally and they are often accompanied by examples of activities that no-one in the industry has ever heard of. Industry press may respond at the time, but the team building industry does not have a co-ordinated voice replacing these untruthful accounts with something more credible. As a result a story unfairly lampooning team building can hang around for 18 months.
Basic fun social team bonding activities are effective and well received by the participants. If companies want a more specific business objective met, for example increased engagement or to communicate a business plan, then events can achieve this more effectively than any other medium.
This is the reality, not the bizarre Dilbert / sitcom based parody that so often turns up in the press.