Photo: VCG

If you see a group of people kneel in a circle on a beautiful beach bowing before little mounds of sand, don’t panic: They are not into some cult ritual but rather undergoing a team building activity, which has become popular in China in the last few years.

Team building aims to enhance social relations between members of a team, group or company, address interpersonal problems, and improve performance in teamwork-based scenarios and thus maximize output. As a majority of leaders prefer their teams to work in harmony, team building becomes a preferred choice to achieve that goal. 

However, things sometimes go wrong. Like the case mentioned in the beginning, the “ceremony” implied participants were saying farewell to the past and were ready to embrace the future. The original intention was not bad, but the way it was done was quite absurd. 

Many other ridiculous cases have also made headlines. In January 2016, a company in East China’s Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province, asked its employees go into the streets crying slogans, hug women they didn’t know, and even kiss dustbins alongside the roads. 

In December 2017, a beauty company in Nanchang, East China’s Jiangxi Province, held its 14th anniversary celebration, during which employees slapped each other in the face after kneeling down. The company said it aimed to cultivate the so-called wolf spirit – a term popular among Chinese small and medium-sized companies – which seek to make workers determined achievers.

But wait a minute, team building is meant to make members feel like being part of a family, isn’t it? Can these farcical activities make people feel so or at least enjoy the process? Many such activities have also turned into a way of flattering the leadership. Moreover, almost all such team building is scheduled at weekends, and sometimes participants have to go Dutch.

So why doesn’t anyone refuse to take it? Because, if one doesn’t participate, he or she may be viewed as “not being proud of the team,” and his or her year-end review and bonus may also be affected.

This has completely gone off course. A team can be coherent if it works in a harmonious atmosphere with members willingly working together toward a goal, especially when the team leader sets an example to care for everyone in the team rather than being fussy. A relaxed gathering will be more effective than exhausting team building programs designed to make staff better know each other and get closer. 

What is learnt during team building is more important than what form it takes, and a company had better attach more importance to coordinating office atmosphere daily. It is unrealistic to make employees go deep into understanding the importance of teamwork or begin to love their company within just dozens of minutes of team building programs. After all, managing a team well is tougher than hurting employees’ feelings. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.