Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When Team-Building Experiences Go Wrong

There is this interesting NPR article about corporate team-building exercises. I worked for the government, so team-building exercises for us usually consist of potluck baby showers and "Happy Birthday" signs. But these corporate groups apparently enjoy torturing each other with paintball guns...
Several years ago, things didn't go well for Peter Brooks when his former employer bused his division to a suburban Washington, D.C., field. They were divided into teams for a round of paintball.

"We were issued safety goggles and paintball guns, one of which immediately misfired. It hit a district manager in the crotch," Brooks says.
He remembers that the game quickly devolved into screaming, pleading and retaliatory rage — the paintballs left large welts.
"A lot of people pointed their guns right at their supervisors, me included," Brooks says. "I shot mine right in the middle of the back, and then when he spun around with revenge in his eyes, I surrendered."
The bus ride home, he says, was dead silent.
"I think we were all really unprepared at the impact, literally — emotionally and physically — the impact of shooting paintballs at each other," Brooks says. "People were very mad at each other. There were apologies. There were heartfelt apologies."
... as well as killer piñatas:
Several years ago Ben Johnson worked at a health foods store in Iowa. He remembers store management stringing up a donkey piñata to pump up the workers.
"Pinned to its chest was a name tag for a rival store," Johnson says. "They explained to everyone that this was, in fact, an effigy and that we were going to work together to figuratively, literally destroy the competition."
In lieu of candy, the piñata was filled with dollar coins. An overzealous middle manager with a baseball bat was first up, and he obliterated it.
"So when this thing explodes, dozens of the dollar gold Sacagawea coins fly through the air everywhere," Johnson says. "Someone in the front row takes one in the face and goes down. They ricochet off the walls. And when the coins finally stop, I emerge from underneath the table, there's just a stunned silence."
The coins are like blood money, and no one picks them up. Johnson thinks of the whole fiasco as an omen since the store eventually fell to the competition.
How about you? Do you have any interesting team-building experiences?

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