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Why team building events don’t work in tough economic times

It is often the marketing department that is under pressure to increase sales and this can lead to a knee-jerk reaction to “do something” to  motivate the team.

Typically that might take the form of some big rousing “team building” event with an upbeat tone.

But according when these kinds of activities are put in place under these circumstances, the impact is not entirely positive.

Events like this tend to turn people off even more; they recognise cash is tight, and see some lavish event as hypocritical, particularly if the key issue of fewer people doing a similar amount of work is not tackled and the issue of a difficult marketplace is not addressed.


Team building events can also lead to resentment because they require taking time out and this exacerbates the overwork/stress situation.

So if big team building events are not the answer – what is?

A better tactic might be to start with a more practical approach to achieve improvements in the short term, rather than a large flashy team building exercise. This smaller more practical strategy can lay the foundations for more in-depth team building in the future – when the time is right. Practical activities include;

1)      Acknowledge the situation and the overwork and stress etc and take responsibility for it. If showing empathy comes with difficulty – tackle your Emotional Intelligence first!


2)      Organise focused sessions on specific problems related to work or to opportunities to improve productivity.


3)      Ensure clear actions come out of the session and make team members accountable for following up on the decisions taken.


4)      Set a clear timescale. Prioritise actions that can be done within the timeframe.


5)      Create a powerful vision of what things could be like. Communicate this vision and help the rest of the team see it, and feel it too.


6)      Review how it’s going and adjust. It’s important to get results and then build on these.


This approach may be less flashy than some high-prestige, feel-good event, but taking these practical steps will not only help your people to feel less stressed and more engaged again, they’ll actually get you bottom line results as well. It’s not that team building events should be avoided – just that the timing needs to be right.


About Hilary Briggs

Hilary Briggs is a profitable growth expert with over 20 years of industrial experience, having held senior management positions at Rover Group, Whirlpool Corporation and The Laird Group plc. For the last 10 years, she’s worked with SME’s to improve their profitability. Hilary is Managing Director of profitable growth specialists R2P Ltd.