The Self-Awareness Guy

The Difference Between Team Building and Team Bonding

I facilitate many team building workshops and the participants sometimes get confused when they realize they aren't going to be climbing a tree or catching each other as they fall backward. It's a natural reaction because a lot of what is presented as team building might actually be team bonding. Here's the difference:

Team Building

  • Focuses on behaviors and their effect on workplace functioning.
  • Helps people learn how to work with each other and get along well.
  • Builds skills like communication, planning, problem-solving and conflict resolution.
  • Builds empathy and compassion.
  • Encourages long-term behavior change.
  • Helps people build genuine connections.
  • Is practiced over time.
  • Encourages deeper discussion and processing.

Team Bonding

  • Focus on fun activities.
  • Brings people together by encouraging collaboration and teamwork.
  • Helps people see each other in a different light.
  • Allows people to connect in a different setting.
  • Usually a one-time activity.
  • Helps people get out of the workplace and relax.
  • Encourages people to have fun together.
  • Sometimes asks people to think about the implications of the activities on their workplace.

Both approaches are valid and have their strengths. The major difference is that team building is a long-term process that creates behavioral change while team bonding tends to be a short-term, fun experience. If you're looking for a quick pick-me-up then team bonding is your thing. If you're looking at foundation building and long-term change then team building will help you get there.

As a leader, you get to choose what kind of workplace you create. I've found that highly successful (and happy) organizations commit to a long-term team building approach that helps people think and behave in ways that benefit them and their work environment. Learning effective team building takes time and effort but it creates lasting success and a company culture that encourages positive behaviors. What will you do to practice effective team building in your organization?

Take care


4 thoughts on “The Difference Between Team Building and Team Bonding

  1. Jennifer V. Miller


    What a simple, yet important distinction! You’ve put your finger on a very important differentiator. I think many leaders want the outcomes described above under “team building” but think the way to achieve it is to conduct activities listed under “team bonding”.

    Your terminology is extremely useful for helping leaders sort out the differences between the two.

    1. Guy Farmer Post author

      Thank you Jennifer. It is remarkable how many leaders think team bonding will get them the results deeeper team building does. Take care, Guy.

    1. Self-Awareness Post author

      Hi Adrienne. Thanks for your question. You might find it helpful to think in terms of creating events where people can interact in a friendly environment where there is no competition or work-related stress. I prefer for people to connect on a deeper level first. Take care, Guy.