Many companies take a hard line when it comes to the consumption of alcohol on work related team building events. Other companies can’t think of anything else to do other than go to the pub, laying down the credit card and drinking themselves into absolute oblivion.

Is it possible to find the happy medium with a team building or bonding activity?

Of course it is! And you might be surprised to learn it’s just what the doctor ordered for your team. About 10 years ago I started working with a new team, for a company I’d worked with for a while in Melbourne. I’m a pretty gregarious person but I decided to keep my head down and work hard at impressing my new workmates. It was hard not to notice Brian, a loud round guy with a beard…this was before beards were cool.

He was known as “The Man” around the office. He would make all the jokes, seemed to know everyone, and was very comfortable in his skin. I could tell he didn’t much like me. I could feel his judging stare drill into my temple lobe as I pretended to stare at the computer screen. I dared not look and catch his eyes.

One afternoon he leant over my desk and said in a soft voice…”You joining us for a drink this afternoon?” I was trying to come up with an excuse as to why I couldn’t when he followed with…”I never really trust someone until I have a drink with them,” to which I responded, “I thought you’d never ask.”

I’d been briefed on the location of that afternoons team drinks and arrived about 10 minutes after everyone else. They all looked up as I arrived in, there was a moment’s silence before Brian jumped in with “Get yourself a glass, three active jugs here!” Within three sips and a couple of jokes I was in! Brian was right, one beer and I had built more trust and rapport than I had in the whole week of working there, and it changed my approach and attitude to work. We were suddenly a great team.

But what if I didn’t drink? What if culturally or physically it wasn’t in my make up? Would have I become part of that “Team”…? Possibly not…

Australia’s corporate sector is a growing multicultural powerhouse. We draw on talents and abilities from people around the globe, not all whom are as adaptable to the Aussie drinking culture. The English and the Irish meet us there but many other nationalities observe with a glass of water and a raised eyebrow.

Team building and bonding activities can be more inclusive. Let’s face it, after 12 pints of cider, Amanda from payroll may not necessarily be painting herself in the best light.

The answer is to organise a fun teambuilding event that engages the entire team. An event that forces individuals to interact with others they would not usually interact with. Through having fun, they could discover a world of personalities they never knew existed in the office. This could open the doors of communication and increase office morale.   By all means a few drinks at the end of an Amazing Race type event or while doing a cooking class will not harm anyone, but just keep it to a few. The non-drinkers in the team may actually let their hair down enough to indulge in one or two. Sharon won’t just race off home to the kids as the team is finally coming together. The team are able to talk about something else, other than work. They will share stories, they will share and they will evolve.

Why not think about being a little more inclusive with your next team building activity? You will be surprised at the team bonding benefits…

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