Illustration: Ashley Siebels
When you go on a company retreat or participate in a team-building exercise, there is usually some well-justified nervousness. How will it play out? Could it be terrible to be trapped with colleagues? Could the bonding you do with co-workers be so amazing that you smile while thinking about it years from now? Yes, and yes.
But could you also end up with work stories that you will tell afterwards, for years and years? Definitely. Bloomberg’s story on team-building gone awry hits that concept right on the head.
Worst-case scenarios happen all the time
Christina Comben, a content manager with Day Translations Inc. in Valencia, Spain told Bloomberg about a time her boss took the team paintballing and she nearly killed her boss accidentally.
“…The game was stopped, the ambulance came, and people started talking about potential liver rupture and damage to his kidneys. He was OK—a preexisting condition had flared up. After the event, he told me it wasn’t my fault, but I felt horrible and left the company six weeks later,” Comben told Bloomberg.
That’s not the only source of embarrassment.
Pete Abilla, founder and CEO of Find a Tutor Near Me in Salt Lake City, told the magazine about his healthcare company’s team-building event at a Native American casino in California.
Everything was going well, ”…until one of the facilitators, a white guy with blond hair and blue eyes, came onstage dressed like a Native American. Many servers working the event were Native American and were offended. Casino management stopped the event and kicked us out,” Abilla told Bloomberg.
Off-sites like these, of course, always have the opportunity for conflict — some of it unintentional.
Sharon Fisher, CEO of Play with a Purpose in Orlando, told Bloomberg about her company’s visit to an amusement park. They took 120 people there for a “scavenger hunt,” and each team wore bandannas of a separate color. That’s when the guard stepped in because he reportedly thought one bandanna was a gang symbol.
“He made that team follow him to a side alley, where he could ask them questions about what they were doing. They were allowed to continue but had to take off the bandannas,” Fisher told Bloomberg.
Mud and guns
The stories highlighted above are far from outliers. Team-building has become a complicated pursuit in some places, involving days with your colleagues, scattered activities and sometimes even animals. The average trust-fall session almost seems a nostalgic throwback to the past, like horses-and-buggies.
For instance, some shooting ranges offer corporate team-building with “firearms and archery,” which increases the adrenaline considerably. Boxless Media in Chicago had a “Bullets & BBQ” event which featured food and shooting time afterward, a founder told BizBash.
Surprisingly dangerous: “golf cart polo,” in which team members lean out of golf carts and whack at balls. With tiny little golf balls whizzing everywhere, “it was a risk management nightmare,” said the president of Firefly Team Events.
Tough Mudder, the infamously difficult mud race in which competitors are sometimes lightly electrocuted (on purpose) also has a corporate team option.
Beyond that, there are the wacky choices: some companies hire flash mobs, so you could also be dancing along with co-workers for your next bonding exercise.
TeamBonding offers a massive amount of corporate programs— from Team Mixology to Ice Sculpting, which a team participated in at Google before— but the company is also known for its Flash Teams, where participants surprise the public with their moves.
In a world where using the company gym can also get a little weird, it seems like anything is possible when your co-workers are around.