Tantric Team-Building


Question: How do introverts deal with forced team-building exercises?

By being glad it’s not any worse than it already is.

A team that’s truly dedicated to the work itself, where everyone is acting in competence and good faith, is going to naturally develop some sort of camaraderie or rapport. A lot of team-building seems to serve as a cover-up for a lack of overall integrity, and thus rapport must be manufactured using artificial means. It’s easier to send everyone out for Paintball in company T-shirts than it is to admit that a senior VP is just not up to the task.

I’m not talking about biweekly team lunches, BTW. That’s not artificial, and doesn’t require extensive branding. It seems like the perfect way to reconnect and let off some steam. Paintball, not so much. Mini-golf… well, I have done mini-golf outings and they were OK, although I did have to force myself to be jolly. And I already liked my team, a lot.

What I’m really talking about are these structured, all-day, offsite workshops run by outside consultants. Some of these events have real value: new learnings, and exercises that can force people at different organizational levels to cooperate as peers, perhaps for the first time ever. Secretaries love this, senior VPs not so much.

Also, the one that I actually attended was a belated attempt to address the ongoing effects of poor leadership, and long-standing covert competition amongst the consulting organizations. I got a lot out of it personally, but didn’t feel that it helped the department in the long run.

A lot of team-building is about lowering boundaries and letting go of defensive habits. And, there are some very effective New Agey (i.e., culturally appropriated) methods for doing this, and doing it fast. There can be a physical challenge or fear to overcome. Fire walking or sweat lodges can push people outside of their comfort zone into a place of vulnerability and openness.

There is an element of risk in these things. People can die or burn their feet. Sweat lodges in particular should be run by experienced guides who can tell, in the pitch blackness, when someone’s at their limit.

It can get annoying when things go all touchy-feely. Candor is essential for building trust, but I really don’t want to gaze deeply into my teammate’s eyes for too long. If you ever try Neo-Tantra, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. This would be fine if I were exploring it on my own. Not so fine if declining a group hug gets you branded as “not a team player”.

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