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 mostly 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 seen as counterproductive. At some point, you must determine what is the best corporate culture for your personality.
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, whilst others approach “team building exercises” with dread. They find the forced participation, requirement to “share” or general rowdiness just horrible.
In fact, 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 energy from multiple people and large group activities gets us drained easily. Having to yell, cheer, high-five random strangers and build up team spirit? Pointless (para. 6).
Instead, we prefer office activities that has 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 compelling direction, a strong structure, and a supportive context.
Unfortunately, in Hackman’s analysis, he did not consider the hardwiring of 50% of the population when he asserted that personalities, attitudes, and behavioral styles are not important 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 a year 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 own domain.
Here are a few ways you can begin doing this.
Choose either care or consistency as your personal brand. Developing a personal brand requires a clear and succinct understanding of yourself, as well as the projection of this understanding to the world. If you asked the average person if he or she strove to be caring or consistent, they would say “Both.”
Although striving to be caring and consistent is admirable, it is important to choose one as your personal brand. The department store Nordstrom is known for its customer service and thus is in the caring business. Whereas, 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 clearer and simpler in how you see and are seen by others.
Create a system within a system. Every company has a culture defined by its objectives, as well as 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 You Tube, reading professional books, or writing in a blog you’ve created.
By creating a system within a system, you are essentially using your current position to build a foundation for your long-term goals. 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). All too often, introverts go along to get along. Act according to your self-interest. You should be constantly scanning and seizing 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. If you are placed in a position where you have limited direct reports, you may be absolved of having to participate within 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 predilection towards 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-terms aspirations. Money-making projects allow you to use your current position to fund your future aspirations.
With the advent of self-created online courses, digital publishing, and app development, everything can operate automatically without you having to manually keep things running. Remember, the necessity of team building exercises suggest that there is a management problem that currently exists within the organization.
Managers may be reassigned, but your objective is to free yourself of the dependency of a steady 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.
The job of a paralegal requires creative solutions, but it’s 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 save themselves as a means of discovering self-empowerment and self-actualization.
It is important 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://vulcanpost.com/592915/introvert-work-office-problems.
Haas, M., and Mortenson, M. (2016). The secrets of great teamwork. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2016/06/the-secrets-of-great-teamwork.
I hate team building-Icebreaker games for introverts and sceptics (n.d.). Team Bonding. Retrieved from: https://teambonding.com.au/blog/i-hate-team-building-icebreaker-games-for-introverts-and-sceptics.
Ryan, L. (2016, Sept. 22). The ugly truth about team-building. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/09/22/the-ugly-truth-about-team-building.