Team building exercises serve to bring together a working community, improve relations and generally facilitate a happier office environment once everyone is back at work. The types of activities chosen for these corporate bonding events vary greatly, and often seem to reflect a psychological need for battle and challenge between co-workers. Personally, I would have bet my last fiver that creating tensions between workers would stir up any underlying tensions, and maybe end in a non-planned boxing event at one of these team building retreats.
It seems that this is definitely not the case. These days are well organised, and are structured to encourage participation and the formation of bonds based on simple psychological functioning of certain areas of the brain. For those that are holding inter-office grudges, it actually functions well as a way of releasing tensions if the source of your aggravation is on another team, or by negating the stress if you are forced to work together.
The way these psychological systems work are not dissimilar to the instinctive behaviour witnessed during times of social stress, such as conflict. The part of the brain responsible for such emotional responses is called the amygdale and it rests in the temporal lobe of the brain forming part of the limbic system. It's primary role is in the response to fear and aggression. The activity in this area of the brain is greatly increased during times of threat and interestingly during bonding attempts.
Studies of this part of the brain have yielded results that show the amygdala is activated when it comes to a sense of belonging, forming a team and having a goal, such as in the activity of team building events. This can be equated to the same processes involved during bullying. When a group gather in a common cause to inflict negativity on a victim, there is a greater chance that a person will choose to join the side of the majority due to the chemical activity in the brain and the chemical rewards that come from such a response. Some people are obviously not wired in this way, and their response system delivers chemical rewards based on altruistic motives.
These psychological responses can be exercised safely in the controlled and friendly environment of a team building day out, and research shows that these activities could be beneficial for many industries where workers do not have an opportunity to express themselves with each other out of work hours. Many offices and factories often have groups of people that will meet socially, but the interaction from these meetings are limited. It is quite likely that the groups that form will retain their dynamic keep themselves separate from other groups that have formed between workers.
This can be likened to the formation of gangs; and although office workers don't tend to have a tattoo to show their allegiance to a group of workmates, divisions are clear between groups. By enrolling all of the members of staff on a team building corporate day out, there is a forced interaction that brings about positive results, and can add to the dynamics back at the workplace. By encouraging interaction between already established groups, new workers and employees at various levels of management, there is a chance for new networks and friendships to form.
For some this will show as a emerging with a more positive attitude, for others, the ability to demonstrate leadership skills. This is not only a chance for workers to have fun, it is a social event that can influence the opinions within an office environment based on a wider view of what those brain chemicals display as personality!
Dominic Donaldson is an expert in the team building industry.
Find out more about team building and choose from a wide variety of activities to suit a corporate day out at Accolade Corporate Events.