Corporate Team Building
Most companies emphasize the importance of building a team spirit or team identity at all levels of the organization. The idea is that if individual employees feel like a meaningful part of a larger whole, they are more likely to take the initiative to do whatever is necessary to achieve the goals of the team. Corporate team building helps assure the success of the team, and successful teams mean a successful company. The challenge of creating dynamic and effective teams that work well together has become greater in recent years, however, as the employees composing teams have become more culturally diverse. Many companies now even have “virtual” teams—individuals who work together at a distance and rarely have direct physical contact with each other.
All managers soon learn that you can set a group of employees up to work as a team, but that doesn’t mean they will feel like a team. With the broad range of cultural backgrounds, personalities and working styles represented on the team, conflicts and differences of opinion are bound to occur. This can trigger cycles of negativity and complaining, which generally serve to weaken morale and team spirit and reduce productivity. Managers need to be prepared for this problem and act proactively to create a management style and work environment conducive to strengthening team spirit.
Any professional race car driver will tell you that the race can be won or lost in the pits. Each member of the pit crew must coordinate their work with the efforts of others, and take the initiative to do whatever it takes to deal with unanticipated problems. Similarly, you need the full participation of everyone on your team for your company to come out ahead. This is especially the case in companies that have shifted in recent years to a more horizontal management structure.
Humour is a powerful tool in building more cohesive groups. And this is important, because cohesive groups work together better in pursuing common goals—especially in situations where there are expectations for high performance. Managers in a variety of work settings who initiate humour have been shown to be more likely to become an integral part of a socially cohesive group. Status differences with other team members are also minimized by humour. So joking or other forms of humour clearly provide an effective way of breaking down barriers if a manager wants to do so.
A successful team must be flexible, and must know how to reduce the tension that results from conflicting ideas about how to deal with a problem. One plan will eventually be seen as being the best solution, and some may be upset that their approach was not adopted. Humour effectively eases this tension and upset and strengthens employee bonds that are threatened by failure of one’s own pet solution.
Corporate Team Building means never having to take all the blame yourself.
Employees in many types of business often have to pull together and work as much overtime as necessary to get the job done—sometimes for weeks. Humour can be used to re-motivate people and lift their spirits, helping produce a frame of mind in which people are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
If you are a manager, sharing jokes or other humour with members of the team is a great way to break down barriers, but you must be sure that this joking relationship does not cause you to fail to use your authority in situations where you should. There is evidence that this erodes the respect members of the team have for you.3
It is crucial to take steps to assure that only “positive” forms of humour occur within teams. Negative forms of humour can have just the opposite of the team-strengthening effects discussed here. The best general rule is to always avoid any form of putdown humour in work settings. Even though you know you’re only joking, it’s just a matter of time before someone is offended. And this immediately begins to disrupt smooth team performance.
6 ways Laughter can improve your team’s well being
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Removal of Barriers that Separate Management from Other Employees
There are certain barriers that naturally exist between managers and non-management members of the team—the most important of which is power and authority. When managers show that they can laugh with everyone else in the group, and—especially—can poke fun at themselves, the barriers come down, and the manager is viewed as a “regular person,” like everyone else on the team. This is essential to open communication between bosses and their subordinates (see below).
Research has shown that when the manager initiates jokes and is also occasionally the target of jokes, s/he tends to be viewed as a friend, rather than a boss. This friendship, in turn, opens up comfortable and honest communication. The individuals conducting this research argue that the increased group cohesiveness that results from shared humour does result in increased team productivity, but only when performance norms are high. Since performance norms have continued to rise over the past decade, virtually all employees are now confronted with such high performance norms.
As noted above, shared laughter and the spirit of fun generates a bonding process in which people feel closer together—especially when laughing in the midst of adversity. This emotional glue enables team members to stick together on the tough days, when members of the team need each other to complete a project and assure quality customer service. This bonding goes a long way to enhance your team well-being and team wellness.
A common complaint in many organizations is a lack of good communication with management. A lighter atmosphere, and a manager who shares humour with the team, is a powerful tool in opening up the channels of communication. It frees team members up to communicate openly, without fear of reprisal. This is especially important when an employee knows that his/her opinion differs from that of management.
One of the by-products shared laughter and good open communication is a growing sense of trust. This is also, of course, partly a result of the emotional bonding that occurs through shared positive humour. When comfortable and open communication is lacking, it breeds a sense of distrust, and there is no way that a team can function effectively when this occurs. Without trust, communications can quickly become defensive or distorted, setting up future misunderstandings.
When teams have fun on the job and share laughter, they enjoy their work more; and people who like their jobs work more effectively together. This is an especially important benefit of humour on the job, since employee morale has been dropping in many companies in recent years.
Reduced Job Stress
Other articles at this website document humour’s power in helping employees manage job stress. By reducing daily stress levels, humour and a lighter attitude help sustain the focused mental state required to do one’s work effectively when under pressure; it allows you to get a lot done and get it done quickly. It gives employees the emotional flexibility required to bend without breaking.
Also, as anyone who’s ever worked on a team knows, even when it’s only a few team members who are experiencing stress, their emotional state can quickly spread to other team members, interfering with the entire team’s performance. The greater the percentage of team members who receive the stress-reducing effect of humour, the greater the team’s chances of success on a project.
Another article at this website shows that humour is a natural stimulus for creativity. It opens up new ways of viewing things and stimulates innovative ideas for solutions to difficult problems. This effect is especially important in team settings, where the ideas of one person can serve to trigger novel ideas for resolving problems in someone else.
As noted above, a lighter atmosphere reduces fear of rejection of one’s ideas, making team members more willing to take risks in proposing unusual ideas. Also when your own ideas are not adopted, a sense of humour helps “let go” of the upset we all occasionally feel when someone else’s ideas are judged more valuable that our own. This frees you up to work more effectively with the ideas the team puts up on the table.
So you have every reason to Lighten Up! Teams that Laugh, work!