Team building is often thought of as that dreadful time of the year where the drones of corporate america are forced to attend lavish retreats and actually get to know each other. Here, employees of huge mega corporations (and some misguided small businesses) participate in what looks like a middle-school field day, only every one is better dressed and even more sweaty. Its crazy to think that people who have shared a cubicle wall for the past few years but have barely said more than “Hello” or “Good Morning” to each other are now required to work together and communicate in an environment that is foreign to them. But is this a bad thing, you ask? Well actually, yes- in a way.
When employees are forced to work together outside of the office in an attempt to build a new dynamic within the office, they sometimes resent the idea. It seems that taking away your employees’ evening or weekend to do pseudo work related activities doesn’t really encourage much enthusiasm. Yeah, they’re combing strengths and over come weaknesses when faced with the Herculean task of transferring an egg from spoon to spoon without dropping it, but what exactly is this teaching them? Is it making them closer personally? Probably. Does it make them work as a team on larger work-related tasks? Debatable. Does it make them resent Jeff from Acquisitions for not knowing how to balance an egg on a spoon? Definitely.
Come on, Jeff.
So how do you get around this lack of enthusiasm and promote actual team building and a group of cohesive employees in your restaurant?
Well, for starters, restaurant employees are inherently more dependent on each other than those in a large corporate office. Its just the name of the game. Servers rely on the cook-staff to prepare meals quickly and correctly. The cook-staff relies on the management to help them wade through the chaos of the dinner rush. And everyone relies on the bartender to make a night out with my family more tolerable. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t promote a better work environment to further develop those relationships.
The secret is to make the workplace a fun and light-hearted environment where your employees feel free to open up to each other and become close. Promote competitions between the servers and cooks. Nothing builds relationships faster than banding together to beat someone at some inane competition so badly that they can’t bet out of bed in the morning they’re so ashamed. Actually, that may be conter-productive. But in all seriousness, a little inter-restaurant competition would do well in bringing groups together and may even foster the camaraderie that develops from rivalry.
If you absolutely must make your employees participate something that takes place outside of the restaurant, during their personal time- for the love of all that is good and decent in this world, please make it a cool activity. Make it seem more like a social event than a team-building exercise if your heart is set on cultivating the restaurant’s group dynamic. Rock-climbing, pottery-painting, ANYTHING- is better than teaching teamwork by having everyone do something like stand in a circle and keep an under-inflated balloon from hitting the ground.
But before you go and get your rock-climbing gear or Bob Ross afro, ask your employees what they want to do. If any of them are interested in sports, sponsor a team of employees and compete against other restaurants or in a local league. If no one on your staff is the next Pele or creepy Sammy Sosa look alike, try putting together a team to compete in an alternative sport like kick-ball or dodgeball.
If they can dodge their managers, they can dodge a ball.
Whatever method you choose to build the rapport between your employees and develop better teamwork, make sure that you commit to it fully and try to be creative. Listen to the wants and wishes of your employees. They’re the ones that need to become more accustomed to one another, and they’re the ones that will ultimately have to participate in whichever activity you decide on.