Team building exercises can be a real chore. Boring and endless discussions about communication and exercises that seem to lead nowhere, and staff left thinking they’d rather be doing their actual work than wasting their time on this.

Think you’ve had it bad? Spare a thought for these poor employees stuck in nightmare team building scenarios.

Karaoke with a twist?

A woman who moved to China for work got a bit more from her welcome party than she’d bargained for. As is custom in China, her boss took the team out for a welcome dinner and got everyone drunk. What she wasn’t expecting was when the party moved on to an establishment that offers karaoke and also doubles as a brothel.

Hijacking the proceedings

One Swedish company decided to provide their employees with a particularly memorable team building excursion. While the sales team were en-route to a sales conference, the company had hired two men who would wear masks and hijack the bus. The company believed that this would test their employees’ ability to stay cool under pressure. The exercise was cut short when a member of the public who witnessed the hijacking called the authorities.

Team crushing

For one company, when the team was struggling to get along, a professional was brought in to help the team bond. However, the first exercise required each person to go around the room and tell everyone what they didn’t like about them, causing tears and making the team go from not being able to work together to actively hating their colleagues.

Ivy got an idea

A boss, who was an avid hiker, invited the team out to the local national park for a team building exercise. It was a rainy morning and no one had been warned about what would be involved, so aside from the boss, no one was properly prepared. The team then had to hike seven miles without any appropriate gear. By the conclusion of the trek, two team members ended up with poison ivy, and everyone (except the boss) was completely drenched in the downpour.

A true test of trust

During a day of team building exercises, the employees stopped for a snack that had large amounts of peanuts in it. Immediately following the snack, the team were to complete a trust exercise that involved holding each other’s hands. For one employee, who had a deathly peanut allergy that had landed them in hospital seven times in the last 12 years, the exercise could have had fatal consequences. When the employee refused to participate in the expercise for fear of death, the employee was reprimanded.

How to avoid the horror story

There are many ways to avoid a team building exercise from becoming a nightmare. Here are a few tips:

  • Choose your activities wisely – steer clear of things that violates people’s personal space and privacy. Also realise that not all people find the same activities enjoyable, particularly athletic endeavours and performances.

  • Make sure that the team building exercise relates in some way to the work that people do.

  • If your team has communication or morale issues, team building won’t fix the problem. This is something better addressed by management.