Ok fine, programmers aren't very social. There are a couple people on my team that rarely say a word to anyone else. They won't go to lunch with the rest of the team when we go out, regardless of who pays or where we go. My boss has offered to buy everyone drinks, and one of them went to that, but the other one wasn't interested. What's the best way to make everyone comfortable with team building? Maybe these people just aren't interested in getting to know the rest of the team. If that's the case, what's the best way to not make them feel singled out when they decline invitations to do stuff?

+6  A: 

There may not be a problem here. Some people are like that.

Brian Knoblauch
+11  A: 

I can advise one thing not to do: don't make it mandatory. Forcing people to do something social breeds resentment, not team-building.

+4  A: 

Focus on the objective, not the method. Since some developers are not social and do not want to go to events, maybe find ways inside the context of work to bring teammates into closer contact, times they have to work together and talk for the success of the project. Too many teams work isolated, coming together for meetings but little else.

You can have peer code reviews, or brainstorming sessions, or lunch-and-learns; just find some way to increase the interaction as part of the normal work day.

Some developers still will be totally introverted about it, but at least there will be some increase in interaction.

Carlton Jenke
Reviewing a book together could also be an effective method of bringing team members closer together. It's a tenuous balance, however, because you don't want to force people into it.
+9  A: 

Let them be, why try to change them. Everyone is different and I suggest you focus more on creating a comfortable work environment than try and pressurise them into uncomfortable situations.


Find out what each one is doing as his or her "personal project", and ask them to give a presentation about it. We geeks don't always do "social" very well, but we're often interested in learning new stuff.

Paul Tomblin
+3  A: 

3 Words: Street Fighter Tournament

Additional: I just want to add that you should try to get actual cabinets for the sake of atmosphere. Which is what team building is really all about, creating an atmosphere that facilitates all of your team members becoming friends.

2 Words: Fight Club
Bill the Lizard
You are ignoring the first rule of Fight Club: Do not talk about Fight Club

Team lunches work well and are easy to organize. After a major release take an afternoon off and go celebrate somewhere. Going to conferences as a group could also work. Above all though, the company should pay for any of the above since otherwise there's an easy excuse to not go.

+1  A: 

Many times, folks don't want to go to off-site lunches because it means more time to make up later. Try having lunch brought in instead.

+1  A: 

As corny as it may sound, I've found that monthly team potluck lunches are a great way to build team coherency. Don't make attendance mandatory, of course, but post a sign up sheet in advance.

+6  A: 

Does the job get done? With decent quality? Mostly on time? With enough communication to keep things from getting screwed up?

If so, then don't worry about it. The best team building exercise is success solving real problems.

If not, then give focused guidance on the specific communication that is needed to improve your success rate, but don't worry about drinks or lunch. Your job is to solve problems, not to create a big happy bubbly family of group huggy goodness.

I think that as a manager, one must look a little farther than whether or not the job gets done. Focusing on employee retention is a much more worthwhile pursuit than most realize, and hiring new developers has an extremely high cost.
Read Peopleware. Best route to employee retention is success as a team solving real problems at work.
+2  A: 

How about trying an activity they want to participate in? Admittedly that might just invert the problem but it might make everyone else realise that different people like different things.

Colonel Sponsz
+2  A: 

First my question would be why do you want to do a team building?

What specific goal for your team are you trying to accomplish? If you can't answer that question you are sunk already.

I imagine you can so the next question is:

How does that goal (the goal of the exercise) align with an individual's personal goal? In other words what is the value to them? If you can't answer that one you are sunk.

If you can get that far the next question is:

Can you convince team member X of the fact that this exercise will in fact help with his goal X.

For example you want to have a team building day to increase communication. John Programmer personally wants to make more money next year, you convince him that increasing his communication skills will help him to achieve that goal and that this specific team building exercise will help him to improve his communication.

Collin Estes
+2  A: 

Team building sounds very cat-bert. I have images of dudes in suits and ties, being made to do goofy things, and about 3 people enjoy it, and the other 14 hate it, and resent the fact that another hour of their day is being wasted, and they'll have the Project Management team breathing down their neck for deliverables any second now...

Team building is best handled from a bottom up approach, rather then a top down. If management mandates a bowling day, it'll be fun, but not outstanding. If your office mate brings a deck of cards, and a box of chips for some Texas Holdem, that's a little different.

Things like poker games, FPSs, rockband, table tennis and Mario Kart DS tournaments or even exercise "boot camps" all can help. The important thing to realize is that not everyone will want to participate in every activity, but if you can get in enough activities, then you get enough interaction between team members. (i.e. Joe and Fred love to play rockband, Fred and Bob love to exercise at boot camp, and Bob and Jane both take the weekly office yoga sessions)

Just seed your office with ways for teams to be built (like ping-pong tables, permission to take short sanity breaks, etc.) and let the teams build themselves.

Jonathan Arkell

"The beatings will continue until morale improves.". 'Nuff said.


re the lunches and drinks - not everyone drinks, and not everyone eats lunch in restaurants either (e.g. some religious people will not eat anything in a typical restaurant). A vegetarian is not going to find much to eat in some places either (just because there is veggie stuff on the menu at a steak-house doesn't mean it's any good).

Airsource Ltd
+7  A: 

Do it during work hours. Most people (even us developers) have lives and don't want to have to extend our work day to hang out with the boss.

There are lots of things you can do. Take everyone to the new cool movie one afternoon and don't hassle them about spending an hour the next day talking about it.

Managers say they want to do team building, but often don't understand what it is they are actually trying to accomplish. The point is to give your team some common experiences (besides writing code) so that they can relate to each other as people. Then, when things get rough at work, they have that common bond to fall back on and will treat each other with the respect necessary to get things done. It's great and all, but don't force them to "work late" to do this team building, or else their common bond will be resenting you for preventing them from getting home on time to play with their kid before he goes to bed.

"don't want to have to extend our work day to hang out with the boss" - just note that this is something that varies SO much between cultures/countries...
+1  A: 

If the team is gelled and performing, let everyone be and let the team decide how comfortable it is with team-building activities. Worrying about someone else who consistently avoids team-building exercises says more about the worrier's approach to teams and interpersonal relationships than it does about the team itself. If most of the team participates and finds it valuable, then life is good.

Of course, if the team isn't gelled or isn't performing, then it's time to consult the members of the team to get it back on track. That's team-building of a different sort than one sees over minigolf or cupcakes though.

Every team has different roles and personalities. Some people need to feel all teamy and personally connected to each and every coworker. Some people feel that it's a job, and hey, if the boss decides to pay for lunch or a movie as part of the job, well, hey, free food and free entertainment. Some people -- perish the thought! -- live to write software and don't want to be distracted from that, even for free food. It's a big planet with big software projects, so there's room for all these people on the same team.

+2  A: 

Ask them.

Assuming there's a reason to build a team, you have to find what works for them.

Some of the things I have seen work:

  • One team sat around and talked about flamethrowers and trebuchets.
  • One team would go off and take serious (3000-foot elevation-gain) bike rides.
  • I like the idea of bringing the chow to the team. Nothing works like pizza and donuts for geeks. Sushi is also good (at least in California).
  • A comfortable lounge spot is often but not always good. We have a break area at my current place where folks meet for lunch. Put out Friday beers there and see what happens. As a counterexample, though, I created a break room at a different place (at the team's insistence), and they used it only for code reviews. Grr.

What doesn't work is explicit team building. They see right through that.


Turns out my team is going out for a team supper, hosted by the VP of our department. Everyone is going to that. Maybe team building can be encouraged from higher up?

+1  A: 

Social gaming, a good FPS game of Unreal Tournament, Quake or Halo. Or an RTS it depends on what sort of games everyone likes. It also preferable that your boss isn't very good, you can't beat head shotting him or easily destroying his base.

+1  A: 

One thing a local engineering firm does is Friday Lunch; the company hosts food & everyone can come eat & socialize.

I think also a good manager will be able to integrate his team well.

Paul Nathan

Team building can be great or horrible - it all depends how it is done. I have been involved in some good ones and I actually learned couple things about myself.

Regular lunch together is better than nothing. But I would encourage people to open up their mouth. Especially new recruits might have problems getting into already established circles.

If budget is not an issue, I would invite everyone with their partners for a company weekend to a ski resort or similar. The benefit of this approach is that there is more time to get to know each other and people can't sneak home. Some well planned activity for couple hours could be enough, rest of it then up to people.

Petteri Hietavirta

maybe some kind of video game tournament? World of warcraft?

+1  A: 

Team members, one way or another, will find the way to work with each other anyway. They need peers support and fail without it. So they them selfs quickly decide what to ask and what to share with others. Once manager starts teambuilding he should realize that team already exists in some way. Probably it is far from productive way but convenient for each team member as they developed this ways for their own ‘survival’ needs.

So ensure that manager teambuilding activity does not look like threat it should not break existing communication links in favor to manager imposed once.

First ensure you people do not afraid you and do not think that you challenge their survival. You supposed to be the one who shows them potential threats and helping to avoid them.

Second, give team something to think about. There should be some challenge which team should answer with better communication and effective work practices. Once team byes into the task, solve it together.