Introverts hate team-building exercises because it acts contrary to their hardwiring, and forced human interaction is a destabilizing experience for them.
Like leadership models, the idea behind team building is an attempt to get unwilling employees to work together but primarily serves as an opportunity for those who revel in entertainment.
From a corporate perspective, employees generally operate within silos to complete an operational piece of the corporate puzzle. Although there may be exceptions, the corporate structure mimics the capitalist or Free Market Structure.
Team building is geared more towards extroverts who need the social exchange endemic within most companies.
Along with coworker drop-ins, water cooler conversations, and smoke breaks, team building may be counterproductive. You must determine the best corporate culture for your personality at some point.
Team Bonding, a website that promotes team building, stressed the point of the challenges many people face when team building exercises are brought up:
Some people are always up for a bit of fun, while others approach “team building exercises” with dread. They find the forced participation, the requirement to “share,” or general rowdiness horrible.
A recent thread for suggestions for icebreakers included comments like “kill me now,” “just don’t do any,” “there’s a special place in hell for people that think these are a good idea,” and “I just point-blank refuse to do anything like this” (para. 1).
Aziz (n.d.) posited that: We (introverts) don’t feed off the energy from multiple people and extensive group activities get us drained quickly. Having to yell, cheer, high-five random strangers and build up team spirit? Pointless (para. 6).
Instead, we prefer office activities that have us spending time in smaller groups where we won’t get overstimulated (para. 7).
Additionally, it is believed that the need for team building goes way beyond mere exercises. There are deeper problems that need to be addressed.
Ryan (2016) said: No one ever hired a consultant to put on a team-building workshop when there were no problems! We only think about team-building when the team isn’t working together well. That’s a leadership problem.
Richard Hackman is credited for pioneering the benefits of team effectiveness in the 1970s. According to Haas and Mortensen (2016), Hackman believed that “What matters most to collaboration is not the personalities, attitudes, or behavioral styles of team members.
Instead, what teams need to thrive are certain ‘enabling conditions.’”
Haas and Mortensen concurred with Hackman’s “enabling conditions” for team success through a clear direction, a strong structure, and a supportive context.
Unfortunately, Hackman’s analysis did not consider the hardwiring of 50% of the population when he asserted that personalities, attitudes, and behavioral styles are not crucial to collaborations.
Typically, introverts are inwardly focused, prefer solitude, and relish solo activities. To “force” conditions contrary to these preferences onto introverts is not enabling; it’s undermining.
If Ryan’s perspective holds any validity, team-building initiatives are geared to solving problems that are leadership oriented and may have little to do with introverts. Invariably, the whole class gets punished for a few misbehaved students or an ineffective teacher.
Perhaps one-on-one mentoring or individual counseling would help errant employees. And if managers and supervisors aren’t skilled at mentoring and counseling, they should be trained or replaced.
Since companies spend billions of dollars annually on team-building exercises, it is safe to say that team-building initiatives aren’t going anywhere soon.
What are introverts to do in these matters?
The short answer is to begin carving out space for yourself within the corporate structure until you can create your domain.
Here are a few ways you can begin doing this.
Choose either care or consistency as your brand.
Developing a personal brand requires a clear and concise understanding of yourself and the projection of this understanding to the world. If you asked the average person if they strove to be caring or consistent, they would say “Both.”
Although striving to be caring and consistent is admirable, choosing one as your brand. Is important. The department store Nordstrom is known for its customer service and thus is in the caring business. Amazon is known for its logistics and thus is in the consistency business.
By becoming clear about what’s most important to you in your human interactions, life becomes more transparent and more straightforward in how you see and are seen by others.
Create a system within a system.
Every company has a culture defined by its objectives and the personalities that serve it. In the course of a work day, there are tasks that you are expected to complete.
As you complete these tasks, set aside some time to invest in yourself by researching information online, watching a tutorial on YouTube, reading professional books, or writing in a blog you’ve created.
You are essentially using your current position to build a foundation for your long-term goals by creating a system within a system. Although there may be times when you may be asked to participate in team-building initiatives, look at this participation in two ways.
First, this is merely a part of the professional development training that companies mandate all employees to participate in. Any enhanced training benefits your future endeavors.
Secondly, this is the price you have to pay until you are in a position to align your ideal job with the core of your personality. Most people have to build a bridge from where they are to where they want to go.
Volunteer for solo-oriented projects (within or in another department).
Act according to your self-interest. All too often, introverts go along to get along. It would help if you constantly scanned and seized opportunities within your organization.
Volunteer for projects of interest that allow you to work alone. The cliché “Out of sight, out of mind” is often true. Suppose you are placed in a position where you have limited direct reports. In that case, you may be absolved of participating in team-building exercises that are not connected to your job responsibilities. People who are viewed as “out of the loop” are left alone.
Use your preferred reading, writing, and solitude to create online courses, books, and software that solve industry problems.
Aligned with the two previous recommendations, creating intellectual property that allows you to scale a business is an investment in your long-term aspirations. Money-making projects will enable you to use your current position to fund your future ambitions.
With the advent of self-created online courses, digital publishing, and app development, everything can operate automatically without you having to keep things running manually. Remember, the necessity of team-building exercises suggests a current management problem within the organization.
Managers may be reassigned, but your objective is to free yourself of the dependency on a controlled and agreeable work environment that you don’t have any control over.
Look for jobs that align with your introversion.
If all else fails, look for another job. Many people are misaligned in their job selection. It’s not unusual to find artsy or creative people working as paralegals.
A paralegal’s job requires creative solutions but is more intellectual than artistic. However, many introverts assume positions for security reasons that don’t align with their personality. They can do jobs that are misaligned, but it’s not enjoyable.
Fortunately, companies may not host team-building exercises too often. However, companies that attempt to build morale may have food truck events, cookie parties, and pot luck meals, particularly during the holidays.
And these events don’t always feel as if participation is voluntary.
Ultimately, we live in a crowded and noisy society where tranquility and serenity come at a premium.
And it’s getting worse.
Introverts are on their own, and no one is coming to save them. Consequently, they must protect themselves from discovering self-empowerment and self-actualization.
It is essential more than ever not to betray ourselves. In the incomparable words of Williams Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.”
—Raymond J. Melville
Aziz, I. (n.d.). 10 pains of being an introvert at work that no one seems to understand. Vulcan Post. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3RYXqcF.
Haas, M., and Mortenson, M. (2016). The secrets of great teamwork. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3vd5wVD
I hate team building-Icebreaker games for introverts and sceptics (n.d.). Team Bonding. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3zuJ1xH
Ryan, L. (2016, Sept. 22). The ugly truth about team-building. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3b4WfrK