my office is going overboard on team-building activities

A reader writes:

I’ve been in my office for about 10 months. When I initially joined, we had a weekly event called Friday Fitness, where each week a different person would lead a quick 15-minute workout. Everyone in our office thoroughly enjoys Friday Fitness because it breaks up the monotony of our office desk jobs and is a great team-building activity.

Unfortunately, the success of this event has prompted my manager to start initiating new team activities. Today at our staff meeting, our department head mentioned that she would like us to think of some team activities that we can do on a weekly or monthly basis. One idea was that each week we would do Show and Tell where one person would bring in an item that was very important to them and would explain its meaning to the office. Another manager suggested that once a month, we each bring in two photos from our childhood and then our office coordinator would put together a slideshow that we would watch while eating popcorn.

When these ideas were being floated around, I almost fell out of my seat! All of my childhood photos are in a different state and even if they were easily accessible, I don’t think I’d want to show them to my coworkers. Only one other coworker and I raised objections. I said this was beginning to feel a bit like summer camp and all of these team activities were becoming burdensome. In response, I got very pointed stares from all of the managers in my department.

I trust your judgment, so could you please tell me if these events are a bit weird? Or is this just something I should get used to since it’s the office culture? I don’t mind fun team-building activities but all of these are so personal. I don’t want to show my childhood photos! The frequency in which I’d have to participate is also annoying. Since I’ve only been here for less than a year, I would hate to start looking for a new job, but I honestly don’t want to participate in these activities. It also sucks being the one of the only people objecting to these activities because then I’m pegged as not being a team player and I don’t want that to affect my manager’s perception of me.

It’s weird and it might be something you have to get used to if it’s part of their culture.

Lots and lots of people would find this stuff off-putting, a little invasive, and a waste of time. You aren’t weird in feeling that way.

And I’d bet that your manager would be hard pressed to explain exactly why she thinks these activities will be helpful, and/or that she’d have vague language about building camaraderie that she wouldn’t be able to back up with anything more specific.

To be clear, there are people who enjoy this kind of thing. The issue is that there are also plenty of people who don’t and who find they do the opposite of building team spirit … and there are just so many more effective ways of team-building that it makes no sense to invest in thinly justified activities that are likely to feel inappropriately invasive to at least some people on any given team.

Good managers build strong teams by having people work together on projects with clear goals, clear roles, and appropriate feedback and recognition; creating opportunities for people to get a deeper understanding of each other’s work; and giving people the chance for meaningful input into the direction of the team.

It is (usually) helpful to create ways for your team members to get to know each other better, but you do this through stuff that’s voluntary and low-key and which (a) doesn’t take huge amounts of time away from what people are actually there to do, (b) doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy, and (c) recognizes that what’s fun for some people is misery for others (public performances, athletic events).

It doesn’t require delving into anyone’s childhood, and it definitely doesn’t involve pointed stares at people who raise questions about doing it at all.

However, if this is the culture there, then this is the culture. Especially as a relative newcomer, there might not be a lot you can do about it, at least not without really jeopardizing your relationship and standing with your manager.

But if you’re sucked into participating in this stuff, you can often covertly change the assignment to be something more palatable to you. For example, if you’re told to bring in childhood photos, just don’t — explain that they’re all with your parents (or wherever) and so you’ve instead brought in this photo of your dog/camping trip/niece/whatever you are willing to share. If you’re asked to bring in an “item that’s important to you,” you can bring in something relatively impersonal — the pistachios you’re addicted to, or your Twilight DVD, or whatever else you’re willing to spend two minutes talking about.

But yes, know that you’re not alone in being annoyed by this.

(Also, I really hope those Friday Fitness activities are voluntary and no one is shamed for not participating. Some of us prefer to start our Slothful Saturdays early.)

{ 308 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anon for this...

    For what it’s worth, our office has Cheez-it Scrabble once a week. We use the Scrabble Cheez Its and whatever is shaken out on your desk is what you use for the week. It’s pretty hilarious, but everyone is asked each week if they want to participate (sometimes we’re busy, cranky, etc.) and no one is mocked for opting out. We use Words with Friends scoring, and have some extra sources that are allowed (beyond the standard dictionary). Winner gets a big candy bar, but that might negate your Friday Fitness.

    Reply
    1. K

      That sounds like fun to me! Although I’m terrible at Scrabble.

      Maybe OP’s managers should actually be managing a summer camp. There is an industry for that.

      Reply
    2. Chronic Snacker

      This I would agree to since I get to eat the game pieces :)

      This post reminded me of the strange decorating contests at an older job so morale could be improved. The decorating theme was decided by management and then each row would be competing to be the best decorated row. People went bonkers and overboard, being loud and going on break so they could decorate. This would leave the calls to roll over to people who weren’t quick enough to put themselves into ‘On Break’ status on their phones.

      It simultaneously improved morale (fun! decorating! hooray!) and killed it because we all hated each other because we created more work for one another.

      Reply
      1. LauraQuinn

        I was at a old dot-com where after laying off half the staff, management decided it would be morale building for the staff left to decorate the empty cubes for fake personalities. And it happened to have the (incidental! super incidental! they insisted) benefit that when clients came to the office it would look like there were people sitting in those empty cubes. Staff was not amused.

        Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      My daughter and I play Bananagrams obsessively. We did a Cheez-Its version once; it was fun!

      We washed the table well so we could eat the pieces after.

      Reply
    4. Cath in Canada

      Heh, I’m imagining how this would go down in my office. I’m not a naturally competitive person, like, at all – except for Scrabble. I’d be playing obscure words, challenging others, and generally taking it way too seriously.

      For the OP: I have precisely one childhood photo in my possession; the rest are thousands of miles away. If I had to provide childhood photos at work, I’d probably show some general photos of my home town in England, which is gorgeous, instead! Or else photoshop a photo of me as I am now into various historical photos.

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        Me with George Washington, crossing the Delaware.

        Me with General Grant and General Lee at Appomatox.

        Me with Charlie Chaplin, with Lindburgh, with Churchill, with Hemingway, with the Beatles.

        Me at Woodstock.

        This has so much potential.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          Oh we are so thinking along the same lines.

          I was thinking of getting a picture of my childhood town c. 1850. “And this is where I grew up….”

          Reply
        2. AnotherFed

          I’m pretty sure even an office that loved show and tell/childhood photos would find this awesome.

          My team does a version of this where the photoshop members of the team into ridiculous commercials or famous photos/scenes. The all time best is where someone got shopped into one of those ‘help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ monitoring service commercials as the person who’d fallen. I think that was for a milestone birthday they were taking a little too seriously – maybe 30?

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            Yeah, that would be a fun exercise–bring a picture of the historic event or person you wish you could be next to, and either Photoshop or cut-and-paste yourself in. Sort of, Zelig, right?

            Reply
  2. Snarkus Aurelius

    OP, your office has devolved into show and tell.  That alone should give you the creeps.

    I’m like you, and my bet is that this entire comment thread will be on you side too.  Don’t worry about that.

    Would it be noticeable if you didn’t participate at all?  That’s what I do not only with stupid requests like this but in my personal life too.  My first response is no response.  A majority of the time, people don’t notice anyway.  That’s also because I have an established record of not volunteering for fluffy activities or admin tasks in the workplace either so people literally don’t think about me.

    If you do have to participate, I’d follow AAM’s advice, but I’d giving minimal information at best.  As for Show and Tell, I wouldn’t even bother bringing anything in.  I’d point to my computer mouse or some trinket out of my purse.  

    Trying saying a lot of things without saying anything of substance.  That’s what these activities amount to anyway.  It’s not about accomplishing anything.

    To anyone else who thinks this is a good idea: work is meant for doing one thing and one thing only and that’s what people sign up for so if you want to do show and tell, ask your family and/or friends to do it.

    Reply
    1. OfficePrincess

      Purse trinkets would be the best!
      Week 1 – Here is the fork I keep forgetting to put in the dishwasher
      Week 2 – Here is the lipstick I thought I lost.
      Week 3 – Here is the $2.73 in change from the bottom of my purse.. oh and a piece of gum?
      Week 4 – Here is the receipt from when I got gas 3 weeks ago

      Reply
          1. misplacedmidwesterner

            The other day I wouldn’t let my toddler grab my fork and eat my meal, (forks are her favorite thing ever) so she crawled over to the end table we leave empty except for her toys, opened it, retrieved one of my nice flatware dinner forks and came back with it. My husband and I were staring at her trying to figure out how and when she stole a fork and hid it for future use.

            Reply
            1. Rana

              That’s hilarious – and scary! :D

              I have to say, I’ve been impressed with my toddler’s ability to remember where random things are stashed, over long periods of time. It’s like living with a squirrel that actually remembers where it buried the nuts.

              Reply
        1. Lady Bug

          I had a fork and steak knife in my laptop bag for weeks, until the day I had an appearance in Federal Court. I went through the xray, the guard said “Ma’am! Please step aside.” I replied, “There’s a knife and fork in there, isn’t there.” Luckily it was no big deal and they held it to the side until I left. One guard said they’ve had people try to bring in much worse!

          Reply
          1. lonepear

            I am way late to this thread, but I have had this happen to me. Well, OK, I was just going to court to watch a colleague argue, and the utensil was a butter knife that had fallen into my purse and I never remembered to remove it when I was actually at. But.

            Reply
      1. Chorizo

        I was thinking along the same lines, but with office supplies.
        “I’d like to introduce you to Mr Grippy Finger, my rubber fingertip. If his life was a book, it would be a real page-turner!”

        Reply
      1. Amy Farrah Fowler

        Yes… When I read show-and-tell, the last time I can remember doing show-and-tell was in elementary school, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. Beyond that show-and-tell is just weird. Yes, there are things in my life that are meaningful and symbolic to me. That does not mean I want to share those meanings and symbols with ALL of my coworkers.

        Reply
        1. MashaKasha

          Right? Last time I remember show-and-tell, my kid was in 2nd grade too! I am very interested in the thought process that led to one adult coming up an idea for show-and-tell for a group of other adults, and most of that group agreeing with them. And I assume they were all sober too! Unreal.

          Reply
        2. Abby

          Yeah, I thought show-and-tell was something to get kids used to public speaking early on. As adults, we have things like project meetings and data presentations instead.

          Reply
      2. Jennifer

        That is what drives me nuts about “team building,” it’s doing shit I didn’t like in grade school and should be way too old for. Except you NEVER get out of doing the stupid things.

        Reply
          1. Vicki

            When I hear “trust fall” I think of 9th grade Phys Ed classes. We did “gymnastics”. In 9th grade. They actually tried to get girls over the age of 7 onto a pair of uneven parallel bars. Meanwhile, the “spotters” are standing next to the bars, arms folded, talking to each other.

            Yeah, like I trusted them.

            Reply
    2. Corby

      It’s wrong to say it has devolved into show and tell. It might devolve into show and tell.

      As far as I can tell, none of this has happened yet and the OP is just imagining what a hassle it will be even though it hasn’t had a chance yet. Maybe it will seem less childish than imagined. Maybe it will even be surprisingly fun.

      I’d at least give it a chance rather than gripe about it preemptively.

      Reply
      1. Vicki

        Oh, no. It’s already bad with “Friday Fitness”. It’s already bad with the department head asking for more ideas for _weekly_ things to do.

        Now is exactly the time to push back… preemptively.

        Reply
    3. Shannon

      I always used to volunteer to stay behind and answer the phones (we had to provide support during all business hours anyway).

      I’d be tempted to bring in pictures of the girl from The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. Or maybe those creepy British girls from The Shining. I’d also be tempted to bring in something really awkward. (“This is my Diva Cup!”)

      Reply
  3. Koko

    I groaned out loud as I was reading these. Partly because I wouldn’t want to bring my own things in to share, but even more so because I would find it a huge waste of my otherwise productive time to listen to everyone I work with prattle on about their favorite headband. I would be filled with barely-contained resentment at my managers every minute I was forced to sit there listening to the inanity of it all.

    Reply
      1. Cath in Canada

        Yeah, a one-off show and tell at a team retreat or something might be kinda fun, but weekly is ridiculous!

        (Although I’ve never actually done show and tell – it wasn’t A Thing in England – I remember reading about it in Judy Blume and other US books when I was a kid and thinking it sounded fun!)

        Reply
        1. Charlotte Collins

          Show and tell was fun. But it’s definitely meant for the younger kids. The idea is to get kids used to standing up in front of class and doing a presentation before they start having to present on actual academic topics that require actual research. (I remember some HS language classes sometimes did something similar, because they’re just trying to get kids comfortable speaking a foreign language.)

          I don’t know what purpose it would serve in the workplace, besides being an annoying waste of time.

          Reply
          1. T3k

            Ah, so that’s why we did it!… not like it did me much good though. Had to take a speaking class in college where we spoke on various topics throughout the semester and I was still terrified to do it in front of 20 people. Nope nope, I’ll stick to hiding behind the curtains.

            Reply
            1. Shannon

              I just took Public Speaking at college and the first speech we had to do was “What Object Best Represents Me,” complete with bringing said object in. Ick.

              Reply
          2. Elizabeth West

            Someone mentioned Ramona and the dawnzer the other day. Now I’m remembering the time she brought her doll, Chevrolet, to show-and-tell and the kids laughed at the name. And the doll had green hair because she gave its yellow hair a blue rinse.

            If (when, please) I have a daughter, I hope she is just like Ramona.

            Reply
            1. ancolie

              Ramona! <3

              Or when she got her bangs trimmed to a point in the center like the bottom of a heart! Or when she ate one bite each out of lots of apples, because the first bite is the best one!

              Reply
        2. anonanonanon

          Show and tell was awful growing up and honestly, I think that’s where a lot of bullying started at my public school. People were made fun of if they didn’t show something cool or, say, didn’t have enough money to bring something in. Show and tells after birthdays or the winter holidays were the worst for people who came from lower income families and couldn’t talk about the latest new toy that everyone else got.

          I know the idea behind show and tell is meant to get kids used to speaking up in front of people, but I just remember it as letting everyone know who was rich and who wasn’t. That’s not a fun thing to learn when you’re in elementary school.

          Reply
          1. Shannon

            First day of Kindergarten, the teacher invited us up to the front of the room to talk about ourselves. I talked about how my head itched and no one ever listened to me when I complained about it. Turns out, I had lice.

            Yeah. Not really a great idea. Luckily, I don’t recall any of the kids giving me a hard time about it.

            Reply
            1. Jean

              Unintentionally hilarious! (I have family with a lot of experience with preschool-aged children.)
              You may have performed a public service by alerting other itchy/louse-infested families.

              Reply
          2. Windchime

            When I was in Kindergarten, we used to have a thing we did whenever someone got new shoes. The class would stand in a circle and sing a little song about new shoes, while the person who was wearing he shoes would skip around inside the circle. I haven’t thought about that for years.

            Reply
    1. Anonmanom

      Yeah, I tend towards the, hey if you really want to improve morale, how about we let me do my job and then leave at a reasonable time and hang out with the people I want to type.

      Reply
    2. Me me

      It sounds horribly boring to me. Plus they are missing the point. Show and tell is not actually about sharing. It’s about exposing new humans to new things and teaching them how to speak properly, form thoughts, and tell stories. It’s about developing communication skills. There’s a reason this isn’t an activity geared towards adults.

      Reply
      1. AnotherFed

        Huh, I never knew it had a point other than keeping the kindergarteners occupied. Maybe management is trying to say something about the public speaking, logical reasoning, and story telling capabilities of the employees…

        Reply
    1. Career Counselorette

      Show and tell! As the person who got written up last year for “socializing” with my co-workers too much, I can’t even imagine a sanctioned time when we all just get up and tell long-winded stories about a thing we saw this one time.

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        Aw come on, where’s the creative approach? “Today’s my day to do Show and Tell. One thing that is very important to me is my privacy. Let me show you.” (goes into office, closes door)

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        “This is my boss.”
        “This is my boss angry because I did not complete Big Project on time because I was at Show and Tell.”

        Reply
    2. LBK

      Same, at the exact same part. Show and mf’ing tell!? I just…what?

      I’ve been pretty skeeved out by some of the forced sharing we’ve heard about in other letters but it doesn’t usually come with such juvenile trappings. Actually calling it “show and tell” is steering into creepy territory for me – it’s so childish and betrays such a lack of professionalism.

      Reply
    3. CherryScary

      Our department has a Show and Tell monthly meeting, but it’s really just a chance for us to share exciting projects that we’ve completed, along with best practices and advice for people who might do similar projects…

      Reply
  4. Observer

    Try suggesting an activity yourself – something “sharey” but less intrusive.

    For example, each week a different co-worker shares with everyone a piece of music they like, where it can be heard and why they like it. That has a personal vibe, but doesn’t require anyone to share anything more personal thaan they are comfortable with.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Oh, and to keep it from becoming a boring music lecture from your office Mary Bennett, suggest a format for the information that encourages brevity, but people can get on board with. So, you might say Let’s do this like a short series of tweets..

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      That’s a nice way to tweak show-and-tell to be more interesting, less personal.

      Your favorite cute animal video.

      You could even try for work topics: “What’s your favorite shortcut in Excel?”

      And always be a force for ‘it’s OK to just appreciate, and to not participate.’

      Reply
    3. Amelia

      I dunno, music isn’t something I care about in the least so I’d find it way more stressful to try to come up with something for this than to share a random object.

      Reply
      1. Charlotte Collins

        Share favorite drink you have after a long day of ridiculous enforced team-building?

        But make sure you bring enough for everyone.

        Reply
    4. LawBee

      But I don’t actually care about what Tom in IT’s favorite song is. I’d rather just hunker down and do my thing. It’s more palatable, but still an epic waste of time.

      We have a partner who, at firm dinners, likes to run from table to table doing a little game where we give him a piece of info about us, and the other tables have to guess who said it. It was fun for the first five minutes the first time he did it, and then the rest of us lost interest, and now we all dread it.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        See, these things are fun when they’re novel. So the guy needs to come up with some different gimmick. Or drop it for a while.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        I get it, and no matter what happens everything really needs to be totally optional. But, if your going to be stuck dealing with this stuff, it makes sense to try to come up with something that’s less problematic. And,e specially since the OP has already put herself in danger being seen as “not a team player” or a Debbie Downer, coming up with an improvement makes it more likely that she will get heard, while not doing any further damage to how people look at her.

        Reply
    5. Sara

      One of my previous jobs used to allow staff members to (voluntarily) select music to be played during morning set-up/evening close-up, when there were no visitors/customers in the building. (In an office setting, this could perhaps be adapted to the first and/or last 10-15 minutes of the day.) No sharing about the music required, but of course it did occasionally prompt more authentic “getting to know you” when someone chose your favorite song or artist.

      Reply
  5. carafein

    I would opt out of the activities as quietly as possible. Following along the lines of advice of the previous poster – if I had to participate I’d make it as ridiculous as possible – no childhood pictures? No problem. That is what google is for. Pick out the most obviously not you photo around and describe the situation with a straight face – I’m thinking smoking sumo baby or something – maybe after a few of these you won’t be asked to participate again.
    Both of my kids were asked to do family trees in elementary school. I’m sure the kids thought I was crazy, but my response was “don’t fill any of that crap out – it’s none of their business.” I guess I’m not breeding the next generation of team building activity participants either.

    Reply
    1. NJ Anon

      When my niece was in high school, they were supposed to wear a shirt that reflected their ethnicity. She wore a shirt with an American flag on it and got in trouble. Um, because she was born in the USA?

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        I live in a very ethnically diverse neighborhood, w/ immigrants from everywhere. Literally. So when my church does a potluck and says, “bring your ethnic food,” I bring green-bean casserole, and label it “from Iowa.”

        That’s my ethnicity–I’m from Iowa.

        Reply
        1. Cris

          In college I had to take a food and culture course (I was on the hospitality track), and we all had to do a presentation of a food important to our cultures and bring in samples if at all possible.

          I’m from Wisconsin. I did a presentation on cheese.

          Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              I could bring sweets–I bought a metric ton of them today. But I don’t want to share those!

              Nah, I’ll probably do the fruit tray. If I make Welsh cakes or scones, our organizer can’t eat them because she can’t eat even a tiny bit of gluten. Now I have to figure out a dip that’s GF.

              Reply
    2. Beancounter in Texas

      Not to mention, some people don’t have fond, happy memories of their childhood and would rather not revisit the past, much less share it with coworkers.

      Reply
      1. Stranger than fiction

        Exactly my thought what if your parents died tragically when you were a kid and/or you grew up in the foster system moving from family to family?

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          You know, this sort of response always annoys me.

          So bring something from some less loaded part of your life–use some imagination.

          Bring a pic of your favorite TV show, and say, “I don’t really have any pics of me, but when I was a kid, I wanted to be Dennis the Menace.”

          You are in TOTAL control of what you share.

          Reply
          1. kt (lowercase)

            You shouldn’t be put in that position at work in the first place. For people who had difficult childhoods, this cultural assumption that childhood memories are always happily nostalgic and innocent is a painful one. And there is simply no need to bring that into the workplace. It has nothing to do with anything. Of course you don’t literally have to share photos of your painful memories, but the point is that there is just no need to make this part of work.

            Reply
          2. Shannon

            Yeah, then you have Nosy Nancy who wants to know why you don’t have any pictures of yourself. Or you open yourself up to water cooler speculation.

            Reply
          3. Sammie

            I would agree. I had a pretty wretched childhood—and I could come up with something. I wanted to be “Harriet the Spy”…so I might do something about that.

            I can’t help but think this board is de-evolving into “what I didn’t have so I need to make it a THING” and constant accusations of “privilege”.

            Everybody doesn’t get everything—don’t let it color your life.

            Reply
            1. Sue Wilson

              Everybody doesn’t get everything—don’t let it color your life.

              I mean, this might be a good thought if some colors weren’t embedded into the frabic of society.

              Reply
              1. TootsNYC

                You know what? They -are- imbedded into the fabric of society. And this is not some novel thing that only pops up when managers do “team building” exercises at work.

                Welcome to the real world. Figure out how to cope with it.
                Sure, you get one tough wrinkle (an unhappy childhood, and coworkers who think everybody’s childhood had enough “happy” in it); some other people will get other things.

                Reply
        2. Us, Too

          Bring the photos of that summer from foster care with 3 different families over 2 months and watch this team building activity never happen again?

          Reply
    3. Bekx

      We did a family tree thing too…although ours was more focused on asking about history of our oldest relatives (or whoever you wanted to ask, be it even a neighbor). Things like “What was the biggest news event going on when you were around my age” or “what technology was new then?”. It was pretty cool because my grandpa was a flight instructor for women pilots in WWII so I got to learn a lot of what he went through. It’s a nice memory now that he’s gone and I’ll never be able to ask him those questions. I don’t think I would have cared at that age on my own.

      Reply
    4. Winter is Coming

      Oh, the family tree project…my dad’s family is pretty cut and dried. Mom’s, not so much. It was super awkward having to try and navigate that at the age of 12 with my classmates!

      Reply
      1. OfficePrincess

        My family tree was severed in half a while back. I have plenty of family members who don’t know any details, just that they’ve never heard me talk about that side. I’m definitely not getting into it with coworkers.

        Reply
      2. Meg Murry

        Our school had gone to “family mobiles” instead of a traditional tree, so there was more room for families that didn’t meet the “mom, dad and 2.2 kids” that was on all the traditional tree forms. Luckily, they did away with in when my son was in first grade before they had to do the project, possibly because 2 of the teachers were out on maternity leave during the time of year they usually do it, but even more likely because there were 3 first graders that year with the same daddy (3 different mommies) and they were doing their best to avoid stirring up the drama that that caused.

        Reply
        1. Meg Murry

          Point of clarification – they did away with the traditional forms years ago in favor of the mobile. Then they did away with the project altogether in my son’s year.

          Reply
      3. Shannon

        My best friend in high school’s family was so convoluted she had do draw me a color coded family tree to sort out all the relationships, and I’m not an idiot.

        Reply
  6. W

    I’d feel uncomfortable like OP as well – but all these random ideas may never happen, or they may get forgotten (let’s hope.)
    I just wanted to say that I think OP’s use of the term ‘summer camp’ wasn’t a great way to go and is potentially what raised eyebrows. It sounds like your managers were just spitballing – and unfortunately you look like the one who’s not being a team player or is shutting down others ‘creativity’ – however ridiculous the ideas may sound to you – you come across as petulant while they probably think they’re being fun. And you were kind of talking down to your managers in front of everyone. That seemed a little off to me – although I see these games as OP sees them. Unfortunately these are the sorts of thing you have to grin and bare or just laugh at how goofy/ridiculous your office is being. They do sound childish – but I’d be careful to use that sort of terminology – I feel that type of wording could get you singled out as being ‘difficult.’
    Love the idea of Slothful Saturdays.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      I think you may be right, and it might have been better received if OP had said something like, “Those could be awfully personal – would we potentially be putting someone on the spot? How about…” But that requires time to think, and it doesn’t sound like OP had much time to think about it in that moment.

      Reply
      1. 86ed

        I think the childhood photograph case is a situation where suggesting an addition might have worked out better instead of nixing the idea. So instead of bringing in just childhood photographs, why not add to that photographs of pets/hobbies/neighborhood/etc.

        While these activities are definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, finding ways to depersonalize them is a way to be both a team player and avoid having to over-bond. Some recent holiday catered lunch at work involved a few ‘games’, one of which was everyone saying what cartoon character they wanted to be. One colleague ended up going down an awfully personal path of talking about being Peter Pan because he didn’t want to grow up. The next person then said some Disney princess because she had awesome hair.

        Given that there definitely are people who enjoy these activities among their coworkers – the more you can give yourself “Ariel has awesome hair” options, the better. Because if the culture encourages this stuff, participating and being boring are the best survival skills without being perceived as a party pooper or not fitting with the team.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate lover

          I would genuinely need to be given the cartoon character question in advance, to be able to come up with something, anything, to prepare so I had time to stifle my natural reaction lol

          Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          It doesn’t have to be that personal to say, “Bring it a picture of something that tells us what you were like as a kid, and tell us why you chose it.”

          So you bring in a pic of Dark Shadows (the TV show), and say, “I was too chicken to watch this–I didn’t like scary TV or movies.” Or a pic of corn on the cob and say, “I loved this when I was a kid!”

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            Agreed, but I read it as “photos of us in our childhood” – if it’s just photos of things *from* our childhood, I’d be content to bring in a photo of one of our pets, say. :)

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              Or just ignore the literal words, and tweak the instructions to your own interpretation; aim for the spirit of things, seem moderately enthusiastic, and I would wager that everyone will think it’s mildly charming.

              Reveal small, **self-edited** parts of yourself. That’s the goal. Meet that, and most people won’t quibble about the mechanics, and the literalness of your offering.

              Reply
          2. 86ed

            That’s another way to interpret “pictures from childhood” – but I think the general idea is to find ways to dilute how personal an exercise can be. Because in offices where I’ve worked that have these activities, not participating and being confrontational about the activity doesn’t go over well. But being a bit boring gets the result of flying under the radar. As the cartoon activity in our office showed – a lot of people got very personal even if the activity didn’t truly demand it.

            Reply
    2. Techfool

      They can’t have it both ways.
      “Tell us private stuff but don’t share what you really think of our ideas”

      Reply
      1. W

        None of these ideas have happened yet though. This is just idea generation stage and it would definitely make sense to say this makes me feel uncomfortable and I’m more a private person – but to essentially try and shut down a different way of thinking/enthusiasm – especially when the majority is for it – isn’t going to come across well – especially when nothing’s come to fruition yet, I mean the ability to try something and then say it’s not for you I think is looked favourably in the workplace (and life) – otherwise you look like a difficult stick-in-the-mud. I hate being put in the spot like that – presenting something – but I’d try before I shut it down altogether ( unless this is something seriously icky/dangerous.)
        I understand what OP feels – but could see them putting themselves in the position of the office negative person… (Or at least being seen like that by management.) Give it a try, smile and say something unpersonal. I can’t see how long a show and tell moment can go on for anyway – won’t that get old fast (if it even happens) and I’m sure there’s the odd clanger that a co-worker will make say that leads to the end to it.

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        They can’t have it both ways.
        “Tell us private stuff but don’t share what you really think of our ideas”

        Actually, in both scenarios, you should be tactful and professional.

        Private stuff isn’t tactful or professional. Labeling your colleague’s ideas as “summer camp” isn’t tactful either.

        And I call shenanigans on the idea that anybody really wants you to share truly “private” stuff.

        I heard of an exercise in which people were told, “tell us something about you that nobody knows.” Heck, I was IN one of those. (I was in the bathroom when it hit, so the guy next to me said, “She sang in Korean w/ her church choir–even though she doesn’t speak it.” So I guess it wasn’t something -nobody- knew, but most people didn’t.)
        They don’t want your sensitive secrets. They want that you actually like to do laundry; that you won a talent show in middle school; that you shook Vincent Price’s hand.

        Reply
        1. Windchime

          One time at an after-work happy hour, we went around the table and told a fact about ourselves that we thought others might not know. It was kind of fascinating. One woman had been on the Dating Game TV show. Another guy (that I’ve known for a decade) revealed that he has voice training in classical Opera. Another revealed that he is an identical twin. It was fun and interesting (and it helped that we all had a drink or two inside us). Nobody revealed anything too personal or embarrassing. I wouldn’t want to be forced to do it every week, though!

          Reply
  7. Nea

    ” (b) doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy”

    That right there is a professional way of pushing back. “I enjoy the mini workouts – they are refreshing and help me be more productive at my job. However, I am deeply uncomfortable sharing my personal information. How about… [fill in some other non-invasive activity, like stretch breaks, short nonfiction book recommendation, mini How-to tutorial]”

    Frankly, the only personal items that should be fair game in the office is anything one puts voluntarily on one’s desk, like photos or souvenirs. *That* could be asked about.

    But if pointing this out doesn’t work, I’d wait until I was asked to produce anything related to my childhood, gulp, and say something along the lines of “I… I don’t have anything like that. That’s why I didn’t want to do this. Please don’t make me talk about the fire, I can’t even think about it with… withou… without cr-cr-cr-cryyyyyiiiiiing” [bury face in hands, shoulders shaking.]

    Reply
  8. Lillian McGee

    I like this kind of stuff. I like sharing and learning things about my coworkers that might not come up in conversation. I’ve even instigated little activities. The key is that such activities are LITTLE and, above all, OPTIONAL. Loudly, obviously optional!

    Reply
    1. MK

      The problem is that, if they are optional and you have some people who like them and some who don’t, you might end up with a split office, or have the team who is the minority feel isolated. Which is the opposite result than the one these activities want to promote.

      Reply
      1. Lillian McGee

        It’s not been like that in my observation. The people who choose not to participate are not any less social or close with their coworkers, they just don’t share personal info with the entire office. They are not shunned by us over-sharers!

        Reply
      2. some1

        And IME the type of people who think all their coworkers would be enthusiastically up for these things would also get hurt feelings if people don’t want to participate. (And, yes, that is on them, but to a certain degree you also don’t want to upset your coworkers).

        Reply
      3. TootsNYC

        They can feel “un-isolated” by learning about other people. This doesn’t have to be the overwrought, emotional disaster it gets painted as. It’s annoying, and it probably isn’t all that powerful (and any power it DOES have will be stronger if the whole concept is not overdone and diluted).

        But it doesn’t have to be Deep Emotional Truths! In fact, it shouldn’t be.

        Reply
      4. TootsNYC

        You will always have a split office. Some people with gather and talk about Lost, and others don’t even watch it.

        Grownups ought to be able to handle this.

        Reply
    2. F.

      Speaking of “Loudly”, I hope these activities are done in another section of the building (breakroom?), away from the people who are actually trying to get work done. I can only imagine being on the phone with a client and having raucous laughter in the background.

      Reply
  9. Green

    The phrasing–that it’s starting to feel like summer camp–may not have helped OP’s cause or may have reflected poorly on OP. Something a little more polite (“Personally I really enjoy Friday Fitness, but I hope we can make these all optional since each person has their own preferences about what’s enjoyable.”) may have achieved the goal without the wayward looks.

    Reply
    1. KT

      I agree with this, and I’m one of the biggest detractors of these kinds of activities. The “summer camp” probably came off as a bit hostile to those in favor of the idea (I get it OP, seriously), and could have been worded differently. This is a matter of knowing your office culture and playing the games–clearly these activities are important to your bosses, so you have to come up with a way to get through it.

      Reply
    2. Snarkus Aurelius

      I see your point, but I totally disagree.  There’s something icky about a supposed professional workplace engaging in activities that, quite frankly, are designed for primary school children.  Not even teenagers would be thrilled to do this.

      It’s not enough anymore to show up and do a good job; employees have to have certain feelings about work now.  It’s bad enough that mobile devices have blurred the lines between work and personal time.  It’s worse that employees sign up to do a job and then are expected to engage in Mandatory Fun Day AND be happy about it.  It’s even more terrible that employees’ families and SOs are expected to be gung ho about mission statements for a company they don’t even work for.  (Yesterday’s letter and the one from last week come to mind.)

      Now a manager thinks requiring Show and Tell and baby picture slideshow are going to make workers feel better about their jobs?

      The summer camp comparison was fair because it’s true.  No professional workplace should be doing stuff like this.  Ever.  You want good morale?  Pay people a fair wage, make sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs, and let them take paid time off when they need it.

      Geez…and I thought the cookie decorating contest was awful.

      Reply
      1. 86ed

        While it might be true, I think the point Green was making was at it’s not helpful. It risks positioning the OP negatively in the eyes of management – fair or not.

        Reply
      2. F.

        “It’s not enough anymore to show up and do a good job; employees have to have certain feelings about work now.”
        Yes, and we are penalized for NOT having warm, fuzzy feelings. Is it asking too much to just be allowed to come to work and do my job (which is currently the work of 2-1/2 positions, but that’s another rant!) in peace and quiet?! Any workplace that has time for most of the staff to be participating in children’s games either has too much staff or not enough work to do.

        Reply
        1. Jerry Vandesic

          I don’t know about penalized, but employees that actively engage with their job are probably more likely to advance (all other things being equal). Some corporate cultures have a warm and fuzzy component, and for some people those places might not be the best fit for their personality. Happens all the time, and for any number of factors.

          Reply
          1. Vicki

            There is a big difference between actively engaging with your _job_ and treating your workplace like a college dormitory on Saturday afternoon.

            Actively engaging with my _job_ means doing my job well so that other employees can do their jobs well. Team building means doing my job well so that other members of the “team” can do their jobs well.

            None of this means acting like my co-workers are my best buddies and sharing stories of my childhood.

            Reply
        2. eplawyer

          Yep. I need to know Fergus can complete his part of the project by the deadline, I do not need to know his dog’s name when he was 5. I need to know Lavinia can crunch the data I need more my report, not that her favorite object is a special glass vase she got in Japan (on vacation when I had to do her job plus mine). I have friends to share things with. I chose my friends. I did not choose my co-workers. Do not try to force co-workers into the friend zone.

          I would have said it was kindegarten stuff too. And if the boss didn’t like it, the boss shouldn’t have asked my opinion. And I can bet a lot of others were feeling the same way but just didn’t let it show.

          Stuff like this makes me so glad I am self-employed with no staff.

          Reply
          1. Green

            Yeah, if you’d tell your boss that their ideas were “kindergarten stuff” and tell them to stuff it if they didn’t like it, it’s probably a very good thing you are self-employed. :)

            Reply
      3. Green

        Saying things that are true without regard to how and when you say them isn’t usually the most productive way of achieving a goal, particularly in a group setting and particularly when some of the people are your bosses. It IS starting to sound like summer camp, and I’d hate it. But you don’t SAY that if you want to achieve goal without the dagger eyes from your bosses.

        Reply
      4. Observer

        Do you want to be right or effective.

        Besides, there are many different ways to say the same thing. Some are more respectful, polite and even professional than others. In these types of situations, it’s always a good idea to try to go for the more respectful, polite and professional way of putting something, rather than the less professional.

        Reply
  10. Jerzy

    OP, is Michael Scott your manager? Is there a party planning committee run by a small, shrill woman? Do you work in Scranton? Perhaps in the paper industry..?

    Because, honestly, this is some Office-level ridiculousness.

    Reply
    1. INFJ

      I always used to think that the situations in The Office were way over the top until I started reading this blog regularly…

      Reply
      1. Judy

        I had an uncle who was career military who used to say about the show MASH: “Yes, you can find all of those characters in a military unit. I’ve pretty much seen all of them, but over a 30 year career, not all in one unit at one time.”

        Reply
      2. ancolie

        I tried to watch The Office but was only able to take ~4 episodes. My then manager was awful awful awful and in every.episode.I.watched, Michael Scott did/said something MY BOSS HAD ACTUALLY DONE.

        Reply
  11. Chocolate lover

    I’m finding it hard to believe “everyone” enjoys the Friday Fitness as it is, much less show and tell. My old office used to do little activities like this, but all the activities were purely voluntary and they often mixed it up, so if you didn’t like one activity, you might like the next. But again, always voluntary.

    I agree about the “no response” thing. Try that first, and see what, if anything, happens. Very few people are likely to really force the issue when the time comes. And if they do, that’s a clue that it may not be the best long-term fit, unfortunately.

    Reply
  12. Laufey

    I don’t think I’ve done show and tell since…the third grade? It was pretty silly then, too. I couldn’t imagine having to sit through it every. single. week.

    Reply
    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      Sixth grade was my last time.

      We had a cabinet where our stuff resided for the week, and then on Friday we had to explain it :p

      Reply
      1. Charlotte Collins

        But… that means you didn’t have your stuff for a week. I would not have liked that as a kid. Or now. (OK – I’m a little territorial.)

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          I’m guessing that meant kids could bring stuff in throughout the week and then it just went into the drawer until Friday, not only on Monday and then it’s held prisoner for a week.

          Reply
  13. Mack S

    For what its worth – I previously ran a summer camp, and the staff did things like this for one day during training. Just one day, nothing ongoing, and if you didn’t want to participate it was not a big deal.

    This sounds like someones reminiscing about childhood, so they decided to make everyone else join in. Like AAM said, participate as minimally as possible with the least revealing aspects of your personal life.

    Reply
    1. cv

      At least with summer camp staff there could conceivably be a point to talking about your own experience of camp and other related times in your life – what you took away from those experiences and what experience you want to create for the kids in the summer ahead.

      Reply
  14. The Cosmic Avenger

    Some of us prefer to start our Slothful Saturdays early.

    Slothful Saturdays! I love it!

    And yes, some of us like to start them….oh, six days early! :D

    Reply
  15. Ad Astra

    I don’t find these activities intrusive (though I can see how others would) so much as I find them to be a big ol’ waste of time. The information you learn about these people isn’t going to strengthen your working relationship, or help you better understand how something works, or improve anything at all about anyone’s work.

    And worse, it might take valuable time that you really do need in order to finish your work. Part of why Fitness Fridays works is because there’s a clear cap on the time you spend doing it, and you’re not likely to get wrapped into a conversation and waste half an hour.

    Reply
  16. KT

    So this is one of those things where it either seems like the best thing ever….or the perfect idea of hell. For me it’s the latter. Cheesey bonding activities, skits, show and tell, etc are my worst nightmares and they make me cringe at the thought.

    However, I have learned that in certain workplaces, there’s just no helping it.

    On the upside, you can usually (key word is usually) put in the bare minimum if it’s not your thing. There’s typically a few people who love this stuff who are happy to coordinate and who go overboard contributing themselves, so you can get away with doing not much at all.

    For example, for the kid photo thing, I submitted one picture (others submitted 10!) of me when i was like 15, wearing a plain black shirt. It was the most completely generic thing ever,s o it went by quickly without comments and it is forever my go-to for those things. My coworker who hates these things even more than me bought a stock photo off Getty images of a dark-haired child and submitted it as her own joke to herself.

    Reply
  17. cv

    Suggesting a slide show of childhood pictures as a one-time activity is bad enough. But doing that same activity once a month? Complete insanity. How many non-mortifying pictures of their childhoods do these people have? Are they all fresh out of college so digital cameras existed for at least part of their childhoods? Plus, wouldn’t it get boring?

    If your coworkers want to sit around and eat popcorn, pick a monthly movie related to your industry for you all to watch together or something like that. Still a waste of time, but it might have more entertainment value to make up for it.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      And one point you could make, quite professionally, is that the team-building stuff will have more power if it’s not diluted by being done often.

      Sort of like masking tape-the more times you stick it down, the less it sticks.

      So you could argue that overdoing it creates a few problems. First, you’ll run out of new and interesting things; second, the whole concept of team-building will be less powerful because it’s being done so often.

      Reply
  18. Xarcady

    Heck, I’d have a problem with Fitness Friday. Due to a very bad knee injury a few years back, I’m grateful to be still walking. I’m very limited as to what I can do with that knee. But I also wouldn’t like to have to “share” with the whole office why I’m not participating.

    I think it is the weekly or monthly nature of the “sharing” events in the OP that is the real issue. That is going to get old real fast. And I for one do not “share” personal stuff at work; that is a recipe for disaster in my book.

    Come back with a counter-suggestion of one monthly team-building activity.

    Instead of childhood photos every single month, one month a contest to see if you can guess who is who from their baby pictures. Then a contest for the best/weirdest vacation/travel photo. Then a contest for weirdest thing you have in your home. Then a bake off for best cookie/brownie/muffin. Or a cook off for best salsa, or pasta dish or chicken nugget sauce. That sort of thing. Participation totally voluntary. Much less personal and could be fun, too.

    Reply
    1. ImprovForCats

      +100. I have an “invisible” disability that includes a pretty broad variation in what I can do at anytime (and what I literally can do but definitely shouldn’t if I don’t want to trigger a cascade of pain/mobility issues.) And I definitely don’t want to discuss it, and invite a whole new set of tips/miracle cures/comparisons to other conditions/claims my condition is fake and/or “all in my head.” And as a heavier person, I’d personally feel super-awkward just sitting out, too.

      Reply
    2. Anonathon

      So much seconded. I’m pretty athletic, but I was dealing with a medical issue for the better part of a year and Fitness Friday would not have worked for me at certain times, unless it was really low-impact. But I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to explain why.

      (In a nutshell, don’t assume it’s fine for everyone just because it appears to be.)

      Reply
  19. RO

    My department of 30+ has a show & tell every week where you recap what you did over the weekend. This is despite the fact that there are individuals putting in 10 – 15 hours of work at home over the weekend.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      Good gravy. And I would totally want to respond, if I were one of those who worked the weekend, “Got the inventory, production, and shipping reports working right again, except for the lingering issue with the dark chocolate teapots import file. I’m working on that today.”

      Reply
    2. Stephanie

      “Saturday, I worked on the TPS report. Sunday, I sent out resum…worked some more on the TPS report.”

      Reply
      1. RO

        Lol @ sent out resume. The dept is always in hiring/interviewing mode because turnover is high, people are always stressed and everything is a fire drill.

        I pushed back and told my boss that when I am busy I will not attend the show & tell and he was ok with it. So every Tuesday at 9:00 am in anticipation of the show & tell, I take my stuff and go work off-site. Unfortunately, to my co-workers I am described as not a team player.

        Reply
    3. Myrin

      Ugh, we did that in primary school (I specifically remember fourth grade, but maybe before that, too?). I was already the world’s most boring person back then so I mostly just invented some stuff or hugely exaggerated. Not fun, though, even for a ten-year-old. :|

      Reply
      1. Ad Astra

        I would have hated that as a kid. My answer would always have been “I watched TV at home.” We didn’t go to the zoo or play sports or build tree houses when I was growing up.

        Reply
        1. Anna

          I got turned off Show and Tell when I brought a piece of petrified wood from the Petrified Forest and someone stole it out of my desk after I showed it. That was in 2nd grade and it still makes me think of that kid as a jerk.

          Reply
    4. Chocolate lover

      I’d tell them what I once told a high school Spanish teacher – my weekend is none of your business. I even had one of my bilingual friends teach me the correct way to say it beforehand. But I couldn’t stand her, no one in the class could, and I was 16. Not one of my finest moments to actually say it out loud, even if 20+ years later, I still have the same reaction to some people. (I don’t object to the question in principal, just when particular people ask, who are perpetually intrusive.)

      Reply
  20. Hlyssande

    I would hate the Friday Fitness thing personally, and not just out of laziness. It sounds like it would really exclude anyone who has any sort of physical issue even if it doesn’t rise to the level of disability. Joe with the old knee injury, he can’t do jumping jacks. Flo with the compressed vertebra, she can’t do those yoga poses.

    Also, getting sweaty in work clothes = nope

    Reply
    1. Eugenie

      ^THIS

      Also, some of those hidden disabilities could indeed rise to the level of ADA protection (interfering with major life elements like breathing, movement, communicating, etc) and you wouldn’t even know it. Why should somebody who isn’t physically capable of participating be excluded and forced to self-identify like that? Better to design activities that don’t exclude certain groups of people, or better yet, don’t have these activities at all!

      Also, gym class ended in 12th grade — why would any sane adult want to relive those awful experiences?????

      Reply
    2. gnarlington

      The sweat thing is what would get me too! Unless it were nice stretching, I would dread Fridays if I worked with OP.

      Reply
      1. cv

        There’s a group in my office that does some gentle stretching at a certain time every day. It actually works really well – people sometimes skip particular stretches that would hurt their shoulder/knee/whatever, and no one pays much attention or gives anyone a hard time. It’s a low-key few minutes of social time and can re-energize the day after lunch.

        Reply
        1. MegEB

          I really like this idea. I mean, I’m the kind of person that would have liked Friday Fitness as well, but gentle stretching/slow yoga in the middle of the work day sounds very relaxing.

          Reply
          1. cv

            Google “office stretches” for some routines – there are a lot of them out there that are pretty accessible to a wide range of ability levels. All standing, or maybe standing and seated in a chair, is good, because there’s something about getting down on the floor that crosses the line into “not with coworkers” for me.

            Reply
    3. ThursdaysGeek

      Many of my co-workers go out for walks in the morning and/or afternoon. Since we’ve had 2 months now with temperatures in the mid-90s to 110+, sweating in work clothes is what we do. Of course, this is completely optional, and Flo and Joe might join us slower walkers or skip it altogether.

      Reply
    4. Anna

      I used to do yoga every Tuesday during lunch at work, so it sounds good to me. As long as it’s voluntary and I get time to change in and out of work clothes.

      Reply
    5. Tau

      Yeah, I’ve been dealing with a rather TMI health issue that’s destroyed my fitness, and I’m avoiding major physical exertion until I can be absolutely sure it won’t make me black out. Things I don’t want to get into with coworkers…

      (Thankfully, although my office has a bunch of activities going on they are strictly on a voluntary, basis – no one’s asked me why I’m not coming to the football.)

      Reply
  21. gnarlington

    Oh, goodness. I would absolutely hate this. Weekly show and tell? Not only would I not want to share that much, but after two weeks I don’t think I would anything else left to show or tell. That’s absolutely ridiculous. And Fitness Friday would aggravate me to no end. (Though I would enjoy an icebreaker activity.) Then again I’m even annoyed that our monthly team meeting is also a potluck, so I’m not the best gauge of this.

    Reply
    1. Chocolate lover

      I would also be annoyed about a monthly potluck. Once in a while can be fun, but monthly? People have their own families to feed.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        I loved the regular potlucks at my old office, but I loved them in part because they were *optional*. And they weren’t monthly. We did them 3-4 times a year, and there was a signup sheet for what type of food you were bringing. Don’t want to take part? Then don’t sign up, bring no food, and eat no food until after everyone who brought food has had their fill. (Unofficial rules, nothing formal, but no one who brought food really wanted to take any home, so having non-participants eat the leftovers was welcome.)

        Reply
        1. Chocolate lover

          It really is the optional part that makes or breaks an activity. I love to bake and enjoy bringing food in for my coworkers occasionally. It’s when it’s expected/required that I object (especially if it were every month.)

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            Or, tif he activity isn’t optional, what *is* optional is which role you are going to play. Are you going to be only the audience?

            So maybe exercise isn’t an audience thing, so it’s optional. But “tell us something good that happened at work in the last week” is a mandatory gathering, but you can be the audience if you want.

            Reply
            1. PolarBear

              Why do we need any of this at work? I’m there to do my hours, get paid and go home. I’m polite and friendly to my colleagues but they are not my friends and to be honest I don’t really care about their childhood stories etc

              Reply
        2. OfficePrincess

          At old job our team used to have pot lucks every couple months, but it was all about the food. We were in a call center, so there were never more than a couple of us on break at once, but it at least broke up the sad lunches we’d normally have since we were in a corporate park with no options for going anywhere during our half hour and couldn’t count on a microwave being available.

          Reply
        3. ThursdaysGeek

          I worked at a place where a dozen or so of us had a lunch club. I think we met monthly, and we took turns bringing a lunch to share with the entire group. I think 2 people would bring the lunch and dessert (and recipes), and the rest of us would eat together. The next time, it was someone else’s turn. It was fun and optional.

          Reply
      2. gnarlington

        When it was suggested, only the few part time employees (me included) pushed back and we got death glares. Not in a hostile way; we’re all really friendly in the office. But definitely the full time employees loved in. Such is life with a friendly company culture. But we part timers only bring inexpensive stuff anyway, well at least so far.

        Reply
  22. Mockingjay

    I am so sorry for you, OP. Work should be enjoyable, but it shouldn’t be a circus or a game show.

    What is it with Team Building lately? Is it becoming a business fad? Two weeks ago my corporate office scheduled another Team Building exercise, since the last one was such a rousing success. http://www.askamanager.org/2015/02/open-thread-february-27-2015.html#comment-677860

    I took the day off. This is what I missed:
    – An open discussion of: If you were on a desert island, what office item would you need to survive?
    And the clincher:
    -Tying coworkers together in pairs: the string tied to your wrists is looped through the string on your coworker’s wrists. You are supposed to work together to figure out how to untangle. (There is no one here that I want to be tied to, in any form.) They took pictures of the tangled group and did an article for the company newsletter.

    I get that this is my company’s culture, but they are losing business. I’ve tried steering discussions toward business opportunities, or providing suggestions to improve contract deliverables, and they just keep coming back to…relationships. (Yes, I am looking for another job.)

    Reply
    1. anonanonanon

      I would be SO uncomfortable tied to a coworker for a team building experience. That would be such an invasion of my personal space. Ugh, what an awful thing to have to endure.

      Reply
    2. Amber Rose

      I did the tied together thing in a high school class called Career and Life Management, or CALM.

      Not. Fun.

      I feel like all these ideas come from teachers I’ve had over the years, actually. Like the one where you have to get from one end of the field to the other, but you could only cross if you were being carried. That didn’t make me feel sick about my weight or anything. :/

      Reply
  23. Letter Writer

    Hi All. Thanks for your feedback, especially about the summer camp comment. For what it’s worth, in the past I’ve usually gone along with the activities with a smile on my face and this was the first time I raised any objections, so hopefully my managers weren’t too offended by the comment. It’s really just nice to know that I’m just not a party pooper.

    Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      I’m sure it’s fine LW. I can’t blame you for the comment either. Its great to be politic in hindsight but on the spot, I likely would have said something similar.

      Reply
    2. Meg Murry

      Could you suggest that people do these kinds of activities (and make it optional) at lunchtime? For instance, one of my former coworkers went on an African safari vacation and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. When she came back, a lot of people wanted to see her pictures, so she setup her laptop in the conference room at lunchtime, hooked up to the projector and anyone that wanted to could come see her pictures.

      Another company I worked for did “lunch and learn” seminars where someone could give a presentation on a topic at lunchtime, and management would provide lunch. The presentee usually then got to take a Friday afternoon off as compensation for their time, and employees just had to RSVP the day before so management knew how much lunch to order (usually something like salad and sandwiches, nothing fancy).

      The key to all of these is to make it optional, not mandatory, and very occasional, not once a week during working time.

      Reply
    3. Colorado

      Ya know, sometimes when you’ve had enough, things just come out. And if I were in your shoes, this would have been the straw. I wouldn’t worry about that too much.

      Reply
    4. Not So NewReader

      I kind of actually liked the summer camp remark. You got your point across very quickly. I have done stuff like this on occasion. It generally happens when I am feeling backed into a corner. It’s combined with the “no way in hell am I doing this” thought inside my head.

      Well, you cannot unring that bell. Just going forward, I would make sure my comments are tamer. Think of it as you did make your point and everyone heard it. Take a step back and let nature run its course.

      See, all it takes is one person saying “no-no” and others start to relax and express their concerns also. You will never know who privately went to their boss and said “I. Can’t. Do. This.”

      One time at work, I said “No, I will not be doing x.” Well, all of the sudden, I am threatened with my job and vaguely threatened with my life. Everyone else did not want to do x, either. But I spoke up. Before the conversation was over, no one in the company would have to do X, either. It can be done. Stand firm. But remember the less you say the better it will be for you. If anyone (management) tries to talk to you about this, briefly summarize some of the best talking points you have read here. Hit it succinctly but make it bull’s eye.

      Reply
  24. Clever Name

    Ugh. Honestly, there are ways to do team building that don’t involve employee’s personal lives. At my company we do monthly training events that covers content like going over the newly-updated health and safety plan, technical writing workshops, a primer on having a conversation (we’re scientists and engineers), etc. The company buys lunch and we normally have a great time. Plus, for those of us who prefer to keep our personal lives personal, the focus is on work and the company.

    Reply
  25. Maxwell Edison

    Back when my former employer was just SomewhatDysfunctionalJob (it later “evolved” into ToxicJob), we would have things like this at the department meetings, but only one person had to do the presentation. I jumped at the chance even though I usually hate faux team-building because it gave me the chance to plug my novel. Got a couple sales out of it, so I was happy.

    Reply
  26. TootsNYC

    Think of some work-related ones, and get those out there.

    Like:

    At each session, everyone goes around and tells one good thing someone else did at work, or how someone helped them w/ their job, made a smart decision. Or a lesson they learned. Call it “The Take-away,” and create categories: Learn From My Fail, Helpful Hannah.

    Or ask each department to give out awards: Most Effective Phone Call to Office Services, Best Vacation Stories, Save of the Week, Most Valuable Player, Most Dramatic Coffee Spill… They don’t have to be the same awards each time, just stuff they make up. Some serious, some funny.

    Or Leopard Print Day, when everyone is encouraged to wear leopard print anything; if they don’t have it, they should wear black or gold to coordinate. And blue-stripes day. Tweed blazer day.

    And if it’s an activity you don’t want to participate in (baby picture, e.g.), just say, “sorry, i don’t have any of my baby pics, everyone else’s is really cute, isn’t it?”

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Or have people bring whatever they’re reading (book, newspaper, magazine) or is on their desk, and read the 8th sentence from page 12 (or whatever’s closest).

      Reply
    2. anonanonanon

      I’d steer clear of anything clothing related, to be honest. That can cause just as many problems, especially if someone feels obligated to go out and buy a piece of clothing just for that day.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        Then it’s optional, or you say, “here’s what you might wear if you want to participate but need to do it with what you’ve got.”

        Or you provide name-badge stickers and have people draw their blue stripes on that. You make “borderline participation” be funny, and part of the game.

        Honestly, can’t grownups say, “Oh, I can’t wear leopard print because I don’t have any”? I’ve worked at places where they’ve said, “tomorrow is pink day–we’re taking a picture. Wear pink if you can.” And lots of people do; others don’t, and they smile at the goofy people posing in their pink shirts, and they say, “oh I forgot,” or “I couldn’t–I actually don’t own any pink,” or they say nothing; and the Big Cheese sends the picture around and says, “Thanks to everyone who wore pink for the photo–don’t they look cute?” And then everyone forgets it.
        Until the day someone notices that 6 people are wearing leopard-print something, and they say, “we should have another Clothing Day!”

        Not being able to participate doesn’t have to be Some Big Thing.

        Reply
    3. ToxicNudibranch

      I don’t really know that the solution to The Powers That Be trying to add a whole mess of “summer camp” type icebreakers to the normal work week is to suggest even more of them that are ever so slightly work-themed. An awful lot of people have said they don’t particularly enjoy this sort of thing, even though many of them put on a cheerful face and play along for the sake of company harmony.

      Reply
  27. TootsNYC

    Oh, another category for The Take-Away: What I Wish Everyone Would Do Differently, or Boy Do I Wish I Could Earn Money for This.

    Reply
  28. ggrrll

    There have been two different occasions over the years where my workplace (Fortune 10 companies!) did the childhood pictures thing. I didn’t mind participating (I have cute pics! woohoo lucky me), but it was awkward for the few people who didn’t participate because they didn’t want to or were refugees with much different life experiences than the rest of us. People don’t really think things like this through but they mean well.

    I thought the show-and-tell idea was hokey, but in my current office we’ve also floated around the idea of giving presentations on topics that you know a lot about for both the morale aspect and the presentation practice. I think in the end, most people consider this to be a waste of time when they think about sitting through that many presentations.

    One thing I also have mixed feelings about is our “Family Picture Wall” where people put up pictures of their kids and pets. Makes those of us without 4.2 kids and a picket fence feel weird.

    And yeah, I’d have a problem with Fitness Friday itself, and I know I’m not alone on that one. We even have a healthy living insurance incentive that causes much bemoaning around the office.

    I get that people like being friendly but I vote to not force it and just let people mingle naturally.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Actually, the “short presentation” is sort of fun. Sure, it won’t be for everyone, but there’s a work rationale (the practice), and you can say, “here’s how to tell when a pancake is ready to flip” or “I have this great shortcut in InDesign that lots of people don’t know.” Or “I’ve been trying to avoid using the word ‘should’ and it’s been effective!”
      Have a 10-minute limit; call them Tiny Ted Talks.

      Reply
    2. cv

      You know where Family Picture Walls work great? My kids’ daycare. They have a picture of each of the families on the wall, and when one of my twins is out sick the teachers tell me the other sometimes goes over to the picture to say hi to their absent sibling. Which is super cute.

      General guideline: When your idea for office decor recalls a classroom designed for those under 2, your sense of a professional work environment may need to be recalibrated.

      Reply
      1. LawBee

        If we had a family picture wall, I’d stick up a picture of me and my cat, and another one of me and my friends.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          See? Or you could paste a pic of yourself onto a pic of Master Chief, and stick that up, bcs you play a lot of Halo.

          You’re as left-out as you make yourself be.

          Reply
  29. Andrea

    Ugh, at a job years ago, we were all supposed to bring in baby/toddler pictures for the office Xmas party, so we could play that stupid game where you have to guess who everyone was. I brought in a picture of myself from when I was about two and everyone kept guessing that it was various male coworkers, insisting things like “that kid is wearing pants and they’re navy, so it must be a boy,” and “that has to be a boy, look how short the hair is.” Then when they found out that it was really me, some of them thought it was hilarious to call me a man. That went on for weeks, and they even used male pronouns to refer to me and tried calling me by the male version of my name (of course I didn’t answer and just acted confused about that). They apparently thought it was funny because 1) they were stupid, and 2) I am clearly not masculine-looking. But it got old very fast, and it didn’t make me feel closer to any of them—it made me wish that they would all disappear or at least lose the ability to speak. (Then again, I’ve wished for that kind of thing before, so…) I have no idea what the desired outcome of such a game in the workplace is supposed to be.

    Reply
    1. Hlyssande

      We once did the picture guessing game as an opt in activity at a company picnic, and that was actually fun. But it was opt in. About half the department didn’t feel like playing, and that was totally fine and nobody got crap for it.

      But holy crap on a cracker, your coworkers’ response was absolutely horrific. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. Completely unacceptable, forever. End of story.

      Reply
    2. OfficePrincess

      Wait. These were people who were claiming to be grown-ups? Not middle schoolers? That is so beyond acceptable behavior. I could maybe tolerate one person who thinks they’re hysterical saying something ONCE after finding out it was you, and then everyone moves on with their day. That sounds like your team needed rebuilding with new people. I’m sorry you had to deal with that crap.

      Reply
      1. Myrin

        Not to mention, it’s usually pretty hard to tell the gender of a toddler anyway because they all look to similar at that age! Gender-stereotyping is such a weird and horrible thing anyway, but with regards to a two-year-old (and especially things like trousers and haircuts, my god)?

        Reply
      2. Andrea

        They were adults, they just didn’t act like it. This was a federal agency, btw. So much dysfunction there. This incident didn’t bother me near as much as the other BS that went on there regularly!

        Reply
    3. Stranger than fiction

      Another example why this is a bad idea. Maybe the Op can collect a few of these comments and slide it under the planning persons door anonymously

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Actually, I would NOT include this, unless the OP works in a thoroughly dysfunctional work place. This is just SOOO bizarre, that I expect any supervisor would just be offended by the suggestion that their staff would act this way.

        Reply
    4. Tinker

      Aaaaaaand then there’s the awkward matter of that all of Bob the Bodybuilder’s childhood photos depict him with long hair and wearing dresses…

      Reply
    5. Observer

      I could think of a LOT of desired outcomes, but this is NOT one of them.

      What I really want to know is what kind of workplace fosters a culture where this could go on. And what kind of idiot manager doesn’t put an immediate stop to it?

      Reply
  30. Nethwen

    In books and movies, coworkers create strong bonds by doing the work they were hired to do. Detectives solved murders, soldiers save their country, Frodo brings the ring to the mountain… I don’t see them doing team building activities on Person of Interest, for example. I know TV isn’t real life, but if hokey exercises actually caused people to feel loyalty, camaraderie, and common purpose, wouldn’t some of that truth filter into fiction?

    Reply
    1. Cath in Canada

      There was an X-Files episode that mocked team building activities. Mulder and Scully got out of it by stopping at a crime scene they passed on the drive to the retreat, and solved it via… team work.

      [Hi, my name’s Cath and I know way too much about the X-Files]

      Reply
      1. Anna

        My favorite team-building scene is from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman where a company paintball team-building activity turned in to shooting at each other with actual bullets after a demon decided on some chaos.

        Reply
  31. Purple Jello

    Photo: “I sadly don’t have any photos of my childhood, but here’s a picture of a castle I used to dream about where my sister had to wait on my because I was the princess and she was the servant. (or visa versa) Blah blah etc. etc.”

    Show & Tell: “Here’s something very important to me: my car keys. Back before I had a car, I used to have to bum rides, walk, take the bus, or borrow my parent’s car. Blah blah etc. etc.”

    Reply
  32. Amber Rose

    Nooooo. What a special kind of hell that would be. D:

    I like afternoon drinks in the lunch room. This week I bought and managed to transport 20 randomly flavored slushies (it’s been stupid hot lately) and we drank them while chatting for a few minutes. Team building! No humiliation! We also do charity events. Last year the company built a new playground nearby. I missed it but I have all the pictures. It looks like it was fun.

    Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      Oh, I forgot the mini-pumpkin decorating contest at old old job. We were handed out mini pumpkins and markers and given a couple days. That was fun, cheap and harmless.

      Reply
    2. Kai

      Right! I feel like in general, if you treat your workers well and try to create a nice working environment, “team-building” is going to happen naturally.

      Reply
  33. NickelandDime

    Remember the letter about the company that went overboard with these types of activities, to the point they were building shoebox floats and having parties almost weekly, and in the end, there were layoffs? And all the people laid off where the poor party planners/main participants in this crap?

    My point in bringing that up is, while fun at work is welcome, when it goes overboard you have to question where priorities are. Is it “having fun” or building and sustaining a successful business?

    I’d be a little concerned about this place.

    Reply
  34. HR Ninja

    This speaks to my cynical, Office Space heart. The HR department I work in is super-new. At two years with the company I am the most tenured one here. The newest member is a blonde version Ariana, the Spartan cheerleader from SNL. She has never worked in HR before on top of being a very bubbly person.

    “Ariana” very much wants to implement fun and happy elements to what we do so we’re no longer spreading gloom-n-doom, like news of terminations. (I might add we also spread things like paychecks, which ultimately makes people happier than newsletters about people’s babies and camping trips). I tried to point out that ultimately the role of HR is to ensure the company is running as smoothly as possible as a business and supporting our team as capable and engaged employees.

    Our boss is a little bit more grounded than Ariana, but she still puts an effort into being seen as fun and quick-witted. She supports the idea of Ariana’s over-the-top-morale-boosting ideas, but she hasn’t pushed too hard in having them be at the top of our To Do list.

    Reply
    1. anonanonanon

      My current company’s HR department has raffles for things like sports tickets, event tickets, free movie passes, gift cards, etc. A lot of the gifts are donated, so there’s no grumbling about the company spending money to purchase the gifts instead of, say, giving us raises. That’s always improved morale way more than any over-the-top team building events.

      Reply
      1. HR Ninja

        Oh nice!

        I’m not opposed to such things, especially raffles where winners can be announced via e-mail without disrupting workflow. I should also point out that we have a Fun Committee who puts together “fun” team building events.

        Reply
        1. Cath in Canada

          The top prize in my former employer’s annual raffle used to be an extra WEEK of paid vacation, but they stopped doing it because they decided it looked bad that the big ticket prize, that people got super duper excited about, was to not have to work for that company for a week.

          Reply
  35. Bee

    Oh God! I was cringing as I read the post. I can’t imagine leading a 15-min exercise no matter how much the others enjoy it. It’s not my thing. And show and tell? Is it pre-school or what?

    Reply
  36. Vicki

    As Alison says “I really hope those Friday Fitness activities are voluntary”. (I hate to break this to you, OP, but I bet that it’s not actually the case that everyone in your office thoroughly enjoys Friday Fitness. My guess is that there are several people who really wish it would stop but haven’t said anything because it’s only 15 minutes and it’s on Friday. A _lot_ of people just grit their teeth and live with this kind of thing because they don;t want to be “that person”.

    But I bet if you asked around, quietly, you’d learn that there are many people who would love for this “event” to go away so they can just get their work done and go home.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Do you really think the OP means that literally every single person in her office enjoys them? I would bet you that she used the word “everyone” to mean “pretty much everyone who ever really talks about them.”

      I absolutely assumed there were a few people who didn’t pay any attention to the Fitness Friday thing, and don’t participate. But that those people just don’t talk about them much. And that a large percentage of people DO go, and most of those people say stuff about liking it.

      I didn’t assume that she literally means “everyone.” Just “most people.”

      Reply
      1. Vicki

        I took her at her word, when she said “Everyone in our office thoroughly enjoys Friday Fitness”, that she thinks everyone enjoys them.

        I assume that what is actually occurring is that about half of the people “thoroughly enjoy” these and the rest get up and do it because in 15 minutes it will end and it’s not worth complaining… yet.

        Reply
  37. LoremIpsum

    This is ridiculous. There clearly isn’t enough work to do, or being allocated properly.

    We have had a couple of games like this for a work party – including the kids pictures one – but nothing like this on a regular basis. It is tough enough to get people to some to a summer BBQ or holiday party because everyone is so busy during the day and their summer Fridays or whatever are their precious time off.

    Reply
  38. Nanc

    I could get on board with an industry info show and tell. Everyone takes a minute to share an article they read, or a study, a webinar, infographic, blog, etc. Bonus points if it’s around your duties–marketing folks talk about the results of the A/B subject line split they did last campaign, HR folks update everyone on the fantastic new online application system that’s resulting in the Best Applicants Ever!, production line asks for feedback on samples from mint chocolate suppliers for the upcoming holiday line of Chocolate Peppermint Teapots. And by takes a minute, I mean a minute!

    Reply
  39. Anon Longtime Reader

    My previous boss would literally “make” us play this game where we had to say three things about ourselves but only two were true and you had to guess which two. Mind you, he was the owner in his early 30’s and we were all 40+. I immediately realized it was his chance to brag about alllllll the amazing stuff he’s done in his silver spoon life. Imagine snowboarding in the Alps, landing a recording contract, being the youngest senior manager at X top company type things. And me, I’d say ride horses, played drums for Aerosmith, love cats. Barf, eye role. What happened to actually just WORKING? If I want to have fun, let me go home early and play with my kiddo (and cats)!

    Note “previous” and this wasn’t the worst of it. Whew, the stuff we subject ourselves to for the sake of employment.

    Reply
  40. JBeane

    Ugh, the childhood pictures would be a nightmare for me, and I imagine anyone else who had a rough childhood would feel the same way. OP, if you can’t change this culture, perhaps you could try to guide the types of activities and shares to less personal things? Or things that allow people the degree of personal stuff to share, like show and tell. I would love an excuse to show pictures of my dog for 20 minutes!

    Reply
    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer

      So much this. I’ve found that people who had happy childhoods think that everyone wants to reminisce about childhood all the time. That is very much not fun for the rest of us.

      Reply
      1. Techfool

        Yep, it took me to my 40s to not feel jumpy about my childhood.
        And guess the baby may not be much fun if you’re the only black, white, differently put together person in the office.

        Reply
    2. knitcrazybooknut

      +1,000,000

      I find that people who had great childhoods make a huge assumption that everyone else did, too. It bleeds into every conversation.

      One of my coworkers was talking about how they are now renting a house to college students, and required a reference or cosign from their parents. Their reasoning was basically that if their parents trusted them, then the coworker could trust them. It was all I could do not to point out his many presumptions contained therein.

      Reply
  41. Turtle Candle

    Yeah, this would really baffle and annoy me too!

    I would be sorely tempted to make it as ludicrous as possible, like, bring in a scrub brush and say, “This brush is important to me because of my hobby of competitive elephant scrubbing. Go Team Pristine Pachyderm!” Or bring in a plastic cup and announce that it represents my enthusiasm for March 26, Cup Hat Day.

    Obviously this is not a serious suggestion because it could backfire in all kinds of ways, but I’d be tempted.

    Reply
  42. D. C.

    A team I was on over 10 years ago did a variation on this. We all brought in baby photos, and a powerpoint was put together with just the pictures – no names. Over a free lunch, we played a game to guess who was who. The best guessers won a prize. We thought it was fun! Our team was large, so it wasn’t noticable that the people who didn’t want to participate were missing. Someone on the team was in a situation similar to the OP. He grew up overseas and his childhood home was destroyed years ago due to terrorism, and he didn’t have any childhood photos. He ended up using his son’s baby photos! I’m thinking if I was the OP, I’d just look for baby pictures in an image search that look like they could be me, and use them instead. :)

    Reply
  43. steve g

    OMG I would LOVE the childhood photos one, if for nothing else than to see what my coworker who pretended to be older to pretend they had more experience would handle it! Would they put the pics in black and white? Pretend they couldn’t find any? Bring in pics of someone else?

    Reply
  44. Lizzie

    I might be the only social worker alive who hates team-building “activities” with every fiber of her being. Even Friday Fitness would annoy the bejesus out of me (I work out on my own time, away from the office, because that’s my “me” time and my way to shove off all the truly heinous shit I hear in my work day. I don’t need my co-workers to do it!). My work/life balance is such that it is (by which I mean totally segregated) because it needs to be. Leave me alooooone.

    Thankfully I’m in a field where expressing the need to keep my work and personal lives completely closed off wherever possible is not seen as a slight against my co-workers, since social workers burn out so often. Maybe there’s a chance for the OP to sit down with their manager and let them know it’s a matter of not being comfortable with a lot of self-disclosure as a way of preserving a healthy divide between work and home?

    Reply
  45. Not So NewReader

    “Hi, my name is NSNR. And today, for show and tell, I brought in a copy of one of my favorite online advice blogs. The name of the blog is Ask a Manager. And, today, the crew is discussing team building exercises at work. I printed out a copy for everyone, so you do not have to go to the trouble of Googling. Let’s look at the first page together.”

    Reply
  46. Cassie

    I’m at the point where I wish people would just speak up and say what they are thinking (chances are, other people may be too) – even if the “summer camp” comment is not so tactful, it got the point across.

    One of the managers at our workplace wants to have monthly birthday celebrations for ~100 faculty & staff (participation would be “optional”). When one of the unit heads told the manager that she talked with her group and none of them wanted to participate, the manager said “oh, come on! All the other groups are doing it. Why can’t your group participate?!” The unit head had to then explain that age can be a sensitive issue, many people do not like being reminded of how old they are, her group wanted to focus on their work, etc.

    Reply
  47. Nelly

    1. This is my mug. It is important to me because it puts coffee in me.

    2. I don’t have any photographs of me as a child, but here are some random photographs I downloaded off the internet. Enjoy.

    Reply
  48. Chocolate Teapot

    Lunch and Learn can be helpful as it is a chance to find out what some of the people in the office actually do for the rest of the day.

    As somebody who has been accused of not being a team player, all I can say is “I really couldn’t care less about what you do in your free time, and are you really interested in hearing about my opera habit?”

    Reply
  49. Elizabeth West

    Good managers build strong teams by having people work together on projects with clear goals, clear roles, and appropriate feedback and recognition; creating opportunities for people to get a deeper understanding of each other’s work; and giving people the chance for meaningful input into the direction of the team.

    This, oh my God this. Activities such as the OP describes are NOT the way to build teams. You can’t force that kind of thing.

    Reply
  50. Me

    Thing that’s important to me:
    –This is a piece of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is important to me. Observe as I eat it. [omnomnom]
    :next week:
    –This is a piece of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is important to me. Observe as I eat it. [omnomnom]
    :if the events keep occurring, I might begin to wax philosophic about chocolate, its origins, use by the Aztecs, the optimal cacao percentage, etc etc until they vote to allow me to skip ‘show and tell’ just to make. it. stop. :

    Baby/childhood pix (of me, a while female):
    –Here’s me in my childhood home [pic of Prince George]
    –Here’s me in first grade [pic of Denzel Washington]
    –Here’s me and mom [painting of the Madonna and child]

    Etc. Who says any of it has to be the truth? (Altho dark chocolate is very important to me)

    Reply
  51. Bunny

    Urgh, some of the activities OP’s managers are considering have the potential to be really uncomfortable for people. I can think of several people I know who would not want/be able to to share photos of their childhood for a variety of reasons:

    Escaped abusive home, does not have any photos of themselves prior to leaving
    In foster care, different adults in photos over different ages, doesn’t want to have to explain this to anyone
    Grew up deprived/poor, doesn’t want to have to explain things in the photos
    Had gender reassignment surgery at some point, not out as trans at work
    Grew up in a less well-off country, doesn’t want to bring attention to immigrant status and stereotypes thereof
    Grew up in a religious community they have since left

    Teambuilding and bonding is all well and good. But not everyone wants to be *that* intimate and close with their coworkers. The people I work with don’t need to know that I’m queer, non-binary, mentally ill, a member of a minority religion or what my political beliefs are. And I restrict how much of my life I share with them because, as I’ve learned, things that are normal for me are not for others, which can lead to questions I don’t want to answer.

    Reply

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