We’ve talked a lot about team building this week, from how good it can be for company morale to how awkward it can be to force your employees to do something that they have no interest in. Getting outside of the office gives employees a chance to bond under different circumstances than they’re used to, but that doesn’t mean that this is the only way for employees to get to know each other better. Ultimately, it’s up to your employees to decide when and if they’re going to make friends at work, so, sometimes, it’s just better left to them. If many of the people on your team have only recently been hired, it may just be a matter of time before they bond and, as a consequence, become more efficient. Sometimes, all you need to do as a manager in order to promote camaraderie in your employees is let them get to know each other.
Let’s take a look at this issue from the bottom up. The way that a lot of people think about team building is from the top down, with managers trying to inspire a greater unity among their employees. When we look at this issue from the perspective of a recent hire, it’s easy to see that too much facilitation of this bonding could easily make sure it never happens. Your employees know how important professional relationships are for their career. Plus, they’re regular people with the regular desire to make friends at work. If you’ve been trying to break the ice with trust falls and party games, you might want to try something a little less structured.
For instance, there’s a software company based in Australia that provides their employees with a whole bunch of cake and beer and then says “work on whatever you want for the next 24 hours.” The first time they tried this exercise, their employees were able to find software bugs that had gone undetected for months and pitched dozens of ideas for new software in the future. The company loved the results and the employees enjoyed the freedom to work on whatever they want, with whoever they want. If you want to see your staff pull together, you should try giving them something to do, even if that’s whatever they want, and then just get out of the way and let them do it.