Why Team Building Is Over-Rated

Gene Marks

Teamwork! Synergy! Fellowship! Meh.  That’s all right for some.  But not for everyone, including me.

I have a few employees and a dozen more contractors and many of them have never met face-to-face.  We don’t have an office because I shut that down about 10 years ago.  Instead, everyone works from home. We meet as a group once a year, around the holidays, at an awkward company lunch.  We do not have company events. We do not go out together socially.  We do not have group goals and competitions.  We do not have contests, wear company clothing or get involved in the community.  We are not a “team.”  There is no “fellowship.” And not a lot of “synergy” either.

I run the world’s most dysfunctional small business. And guess what?  We’re doing OK.

We’re not completely divorced from each other. Everyone has a company email address, business address and phone extension.  We all have access to collaborative work from home technology like Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, our CRM system and DropBox.  We often times meet in smaller groups, usually at a Starbucks or public location, just to go over projects and client issues.  We bump into each other at client meetings.  We have each other’s contact information and frequently talk, text and email with each other.  I am always available and respond immediately when there’s a question or problem.  But, other than this, there are no further “team” type activities.

I don’t micromanage employees.  I let them be independent.  They run their own schedules and work whenever and wherever they want.  They do not feel like they are part of a team.  And that’s mainly because they don’t want to be part of a team.  They prefer to be on their own.  They are individuals and professionals who are given responsibilities and understand that they are expected to honor them.  Do they sometimes feel alone?  Do some wish there were more corporate activities where they and their families could hang out with others?  Maybe, but I don’t hear that very often.  These are people that could care less about the comradeship of colleagues.  They’re not that interested in being chummy.  They have no desire to form a team.


Because this is what they signed up for.

At my company, the culture isn’t team-oriented.  The culture is independence, flexibility, professionalism and freedom.  You don’t commute to the office, sit in a cube, get up and get a coffee to pass the time, eat slices of pizza brought in by management on a Friday or gather with others to celebrate a workmate’s birthday.  You don’t get the chance to socialize and hangout.  You don’t have a public environment to go to.  You are mostly working on your own, connected only by your smartphone.  Mine is not a team culture.  Of course, this culture is not for everyone.  But it’s working for me.

It’s working because my company, which has now completed its 20th year is doing fine. We’ve been profitable and growing.  It’s working because we have very low turnover and significant retention.  Some companies have a team culture.  Other companies I know try to have a team culture.  And then there are companies like mine – we don’t have a team culture.  But we’re kind of proud about that.  If you don’t have the personality for a “team” and if your company doesn’t have a “team” culture, that’s fine. There’s hope for you, too.

Next Steps:  Imagine a world where your employees show up on time, work smart and deliver results for your small business day in and day out. Not there yet? Sign up for the weekly Small Biz Ahead Newsletter and we’ll send you the best science-backed strategies on managing productive, happy employees—including tips on how to get them to show up on time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *