Occasionally we hear from alpha type managers who take the view that their team should be exposed to an extreme challenge and be made to enjoy it. They are not scared, why should anyone else be? Often these situations involve genuine and ingrained fear and occasionally phobias. It is unnecessary to expose people to fear and, more than that, an organisation would be hard pressed to defend it if it was taken to a tribunal.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that teams who are exposed to great challenge, even life threatening conditions, bond deeply and work very effectively as a team because of their experiences. However there is no evidence to suggest that someone from accounts will process invoices quicker if you force them to confront a fear of heights on a high ropes course. In fact it would be more likely to cause resentment.
Events which should be considered carefully in this context include anything involving heights, water, speed and guns. If you have any concerns in this area at all there is, these days, a huge choice of events that everyone will enjoy without risk.
How do you find out what sort of activities people are worried about? Confidential surveys can work with large groups, and it must be made clear that information provideded will not be shared around the office. With smaller teams a conversation explaining that you are planning an event and would like to know if there's anything that worries colleagues will be team building in itself.
'Challenge by choice' is often used in outdoor activities, and it's a very good maxim that will stop organisers and participating companies getting into trouble.