Charles Barkley, the former NBA perennial All Star and current media personality had a famous quote:
"The locker room is racist, homophobic and sexist. And I miss it."
Taken out of context this might leave rigid, stiff-minded thinkers to believe Barkley is all of those things. He's not. Barkley has been vocal in stating he knows he had gay teammates, and it never bothered him.
What the quote references, is that in the locker room, nothing is off limits. Players say anything to anyone all the time. It's giving people sh*% and he misses that.
The closest of teams, the teams that win, don't hold back. They give each other grief, and they are also openly honest. Brutal truth. So truthful they sometimes fight with one another. They also win. In fact, Barkley is popular because he is so honest.
What corporate America has become is someplace where people don't speak the truth. They avoid talking about religion and politics at work. Where are you supposed to talk about it? With friends? Well I guess that's the line. People at work aren't your friends.
That explains the big difference between entrepreneurial companies and established ones. In startups, people are friends and they talk with one another about everything. They give each other grief, they complain, they yell and they make fun. That is what being part of a team is all about. It is what connects people.
When the political climate becomes one when everyone is scared to offend, they become risk adverse in many, many ways, not just socially. Employees begin to stop bringing ideas to the table because they don't want to offend anyone. They don't feel comfortable.
In an environment where everyone knows they are supposed to push and prick and fight back, good things results. In an environment where people think they will get in trouble for saying what's on their mind, it limits team work.
There are exceptions, of course. You don't talk like this with clients and vendors unless it is an unbelievably close relationship. The same way a team doesn't talk the same way to the officials and the other team. Judgement never goes out of style.
However, if you want your company to be creative and grow and be truly close knit, having a team building exercise on an obstacle course won't overcome a lack of honesty and free thinking that comes with the elimination of being politically correct.