we have to talk about an “inspiring thing” at weekly meetings

A reader writes:

It’s possible that I’m just being a stick in the mud here, but recently my team got a new manager at work and ever since she’s been kind of on and on about “inspiration” and bringing “inspiring things” to meetings. To me, these meetings should be about what tasks we have and what needs to be tackled with big projects, not what shiny thing inspired us on the internet.

It wouldn’t be so bad, but I’m not sure that any of us care, and it turns into us each talking for several minutes about whatever it is. The first few times we did this I would say it was about 20 minutes altogether. There’s also the time that goes into finding something “inspiring” to report about in the first place.

It would be cool I think if it was more random — like IF you found something inspiring, talk about it, but it being every week seems excessive.

It’s a tiny team so most of us interact, but our jobs are otherwise one specific thing. In my case, I’m a codemonkey, the only codemonkey, and even when I do find something inspiring it’s hard to tell if any of them are interested in what I’m talking about.

This seems to be turning into a weekly thing we’re going to do, and it feels like a waste of time, I don’t understand what could be gained from this beyond “oooo cool!” before it’s forgotten and I feel like my time could be better spent working on my job.

Am I just being unpleasant about this and it DOES serve a worthwhile purpose?

No, it’s pretty silly.

People don’t generally get inspired by listening to coworkers talk about random things in the internet that inspired them. They get inspired by doing meaningful work, seeing progress, and having the chance to stretch themselves and see results. They get inspired by working for leaders who get that and who create an environment where it can occur with regularity. They get inspired by things like openness, integrity, and creative risk taking.

They rarely get inspired by weekly requirements to talk about inspiration.

This kind of thing is the province of managers who can’t explain in concrete terms what the value is but instead resort to vague platitudes about “engagement” and “team building.” It’s the province of managers who aren’t thinking critically about the best use of people’s time, and about how people really tick, and the fact that loads of people hate this kind of thing, which means that they end up being the opposite of inspired.

So no, I doubt it’s especially worthwhile. I’d also bet that in a few months, you won’t be doing it anymore because it’ll have become unavoidably clear to everyone, including your manager, that it’s not a great use of time.

{ 168 comments… read them below }

  1. Koko*

    A better way to accomplish something similar but more meaningful is for the manager to lead by example of just circulating interesting/inspiring things they come across by email and encouraging the rest of the team to do the same. My team “frequently” shares interesting articles related to our work with each other – that adds up to maybe 1-3 articles a week on a team of 15, so a far cry from 1 per person per week.

    I always enjoy getting them – my coworkers usually select good pieces, and it’s also nice to be able to spend some “on the clock” time reading something a bit lighter and more fun in between grinding through on projects. Sometimes they inspire discussion but many do not. All very organic.

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      I wonder if your situation is what was intended.

      My team, a tiny team of 5, doesn’t really talk about work together. We’ll talk about specific situations, and our personal lives (in general terms), but not what is challenging us, or what has inspired us to tackle a problem in a different way. Quite honestly, the mood in my office is “meh.” We like each other, but we’ll never be friends with each other.

      Whereas I’m on a committee of twelve, and we’re constantly sending each other articles we’ve read. In meetings, we talk about situations that have inspired us, and challenges we’re facing. The energy during those 90 minute meetings twice a month gets me through to the next meeting.

    2. misplacedmidwesterner*

      Confession time – I do this. Not weekly. At monthly systemwide meetings. We have people doing the same job in different locations who get together once a month to discuss, have training, and plan. Most of them are the only person doing exactly their thing at their location. Between meetings we mail around articles, new sources for ideas, etc. But at the end of each monthly I ask them to share an inspiration. sometimes they will talk about a new program idea, new website for ideas, etc. Out of a 90 minute meeting, it takes the last 8 minute and I think it helps for people to have peers in the same room with them to get new ideas. The inspiration things are all work related and helpful as possible ideas for other people. (We work in an education institution.)

      1. Babs*

        Do the other people in the room think it helps? Or is this something you came up with and implemented and haven’t sought feedback on?

        If I was in that meeting I’d dread those eight minutes every time.

        1. misplacedmidwesterner*

          It was specifically requested by the people who attend the meeting. We call it “inspirational” but it is closer to 2-3 minutes each of quick peer training. We are all youth librarians. So one person might bring a new picture book that worked really well in storytime, another person shows off a new song, a third person brings in a blog of great ideas for programs. Not just nice quotes or inspirational stories. Better way to put it, is what resource have you discovered lately that makes your job easier/better.

          We also have a standing offer that if anyone has read a book, taken a course, gone to a conference that was really helpful, they can do a 10-20 longer form peer training at the monthly meetings.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            That sounds more work related than “here’s a three legged cat going upstairs!” – although if there was a kids book about that, I’m all there.

          2. Koko*

            Oh, I think that’s way more helpful than what LW is describing. We have a regular cross-cutting meeting like that where all the comms get together and talk about what broad topics and themes are working or resonating with our audience, so the social media team can benefit from what the web team found out, and the person who places media hits can benefit from what the email team learned, and so on. Sharing learnings that are directly related to your work and could have applicability to others is totally legit.

      2. Blueismyfavorite*

        I would find those 8 minutes extremely long and be wishing the whole time I could get back to work to do my real job.

        I felt the same way when my new boss called a “feel free to bring your lunch” meeting DURING MY LUNCH HOUR and made us each answer questions like what’s our favorite book or food. I do not care that Mary loves brownies and Jodi Picoult novels. Please just let me do my job.

        1. Janice in Accounting*

          I hate lunch hour meetings with a fiery passion. My last job held weekly (sometimes more) attendance-required lunches that usually turned into 2-3 hour lectures, and those free lunches were absolutely not worth it. At my current job, they’ll sometimes bring in lunch as a treat but most people make themselves a plate and then repair to their own offices to eat behind closed doors. It’s glorious, like I’ve found my hermit tribe.

      3. Phoenix Feather*

        It seems more like you are asking for feedback rather than inspiration. Like a verbal comment box with suggestions rather than inspiration.

    3. James*

      My community of practice does something similar. We’re fairly specialized, and if we see an interesting article that has implications for our group, or one that we can be reasonably certain the others will find exciting, we’ll share it. (I know none of us today will get to Mars, but for a group of paleontologist an article on potential stromatolite fossils on the Red Planet is worth sharing!) This also gives us a way to maintain contact with folks outside the firm, as sharing publications we find interesting is a common part of our field. You’ve got to maintain relationships with subcontractors and venders and the like, and “I found this article you may be interested in” is a fantastic way to do it.

      It’s focused, though–our common bond is the field of study. Someone sharing inspirational quotes would be wildly out of place. And I think that’s the key. It’s not random inspirational nonsense, it’s “Here’s something that could be applicable to you and your work”. And it’s not required. We can go months without sharing anything like this, so when we do share something it’s worth sharing. If we were required to share something, it would quickly become just a check in the box on the To Do list.

      So I can see where the requirement is coming from. But it’s Cargo Cult management: Happy teams do X, therefore we must do X to be a happy team. The reality is, X is an outgrowth of a happy team, not a cause of it. We’re happy because we enjoy our work, find deep meaning in it, and generally get allow extremely well.

      1. Charlie*

        I gave much the same answer, once, when a team of comissars (really, that’s basically what they were) from the company that had just acquired my employer came to make sure we all knew who was signing the paychecks now and make sure we were adequately supportive of the Sixth Five Year Plan or whatever. We had to all discuss something inspiring about our work. My answer was something like, “I find it super inspiring that I’m able to pay my mortgage and bills every month as a result of doing something I’m good at and find decently tolerable.”

        Cue the frowny faces from the head of the table and a round of applause by my cynical colleagues. Later in the meeting, we were informed that we would no longer be permitted to maintain the office beer fridge, which inspired me to thoughts of violence.

    1. Gene*

      “I’m inspired by The Register’s BOFH to find new ways to “help” people who don’t let me do my work.”

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, but even if it’s not THE top motivator, I’ll bet it’s A top motivator for a pretty big majority.

      2. designbot*

        eh, it may not be at the top of my mind, but darn skippy if I weren’t getting one this is not how I’d be spending my time.

      3. Daisle*

        A thing I literally said yesterday: “If I didn’t need money, there’s a good a chance I would quit before this week is over.” If money wasn’t a top motivator, I’d be doing very different work.

      4. hbc*

        It’s not a motivator, but it’s a *demotivator.* If you don’t give any money or not enough, people won’t work. Once you get above their theoretical low threshold, they won’t work much harder no matter how much you increase it.

        If you would like to test this theory, try moving all your employees to minimum wage and see how good their output gets.

        1. Robin Sparkles*

          Yes to this – not enough money is a big reason for high turnover but doesn’t really work so much motivator if you are already paying a competitive salary. At that point, you need to start thinking of other benefits that matter – like not working people to death or recognizing that people have lives outside of work and giving them the flexibility to live those lives.

    1. Kyrielle*

      How many “inspiring” articles that are subtly or overtly against this practice could we find, I wonder?

      Not that this is likely to work well, but man is it fun to think about.

      1. nofelix*

        An inspiring article about how to run meetings might work, especially with the right clickbait headline.

    1. Bank Marketing Maven*

      Me, too! Reminds me of having to watch this awful motivational film called, “You pack your own chute,” back in the early 80s.

  2. March*

    I find it inspiring to have a good manager who know how to use their employees’ time well and how to actually motivate people.

  3. Critter*

    A manager of mine had us hold weekly conference calls which EVERYBODY in the department had to be on, from supervisors to call center staff to technicians, and we had to take turns telling a customer service anecdote.

    Didn’t last very long.

    1. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

      In a former life, all of the managers were required to do this. Except DAILY. We had teams working out of different locations so I think the intention was to get everyone to relate to each other and know what others had on their plate. Great intention, but just didn’t work and wasn’t truly needed.

      When I was promoted to a manager I would try to make mine fun and that very well could be what the LW’s boss is trying to accomplish. We fought against these meetings for so long and eventually all of the managers started to rebel by not doing them until they fizzled out.

    2. Lissa*

      Oh man, anywhere I’ve worked this would just turn into endless complaining sessions about customers, and would never end. (never have I seen disparate people bond so fast as when they got on the topic of retail horror stories…)

  4. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Two suggestions:

    1) Pull the most interesting AAM post from the week. Bonus if it deals with pay disparities or discrimination or some other serious topic that might be in your work place but not everyone is aware.

    2) Use a plotline from a well-known TV show. My favorites are Friends, The Office, Parks & Rec, Broad City or Orange Is The New Black.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Like when that awful guy uses the plots of Disney movies as his family history in How I Met Your Mother

    2. Lucky*

      I love your idea #2, especially imagining the looks on my colleagues’ faces when I say “so, Black Cindy, Poussey and Tastee and I were all in the yard, when suddenly the sirens went off and a guard yelled at us to hit the ground. Turns out, they had found the tunnel Big Red used to smuggle heroin and spices for the mess. . . .”

    3. Mike C.*

      There’s a long tradition of calling into televangelist shows like this. The classic example is to use the story from the theme from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

    4. Gene*

      I find #1 brilliant. No matter what the topic that might be going on in your workplace, there’s an AAM post to deal with it.

  5. Tiny_Tiger*

    That sounds mind-numbingly boring. Is there a way you can duck out of it the next time it happens citing important work that needs to get done? It might start planting the seed in your manager’s mind that it’s a waste of time and effort.

  6. Anon for this one*


    For our team meetings, my boss asks each of us:
    What is your top priority this week?
    What are you most proud of right now?
    What is a key challenge you’re facing right now?

    THAT’S how you get people to talk in a meeting.

    1. Kyrielle*

      The second question would feel pretty patronizing to me. And the last one isn’t much better – if I’m in a period of easy sailing, what on earth would I say?

      1. sometimeswhy*

        “That I feel like I have everything under control right now.”

        Plus or minus “…for the first time since I started/the promotion/big project began.”

    2. Kai*

      That reminds me of OldJob, where our director would have us go around the table and give an update on what we were working on. It could be sometimes helpful, but for those of us who pretty much did the same thing all the time, it was such a drag. “Just, ya know, customer service and data entry! Per usual!”

    3. Argh!*

      My boss doesn’t want us to talk in meetings. We speak only when spoken to. One of my newer coworkers brought up something at the end of a meeting when my boss asks for comments but doesn’t really mean it. She got reprimanded afterward.

      1. Koko*

        Weirdly enough the thing that bothers me most about this situation is that you’re clearly having meetings where email would suffice? In theory I could deal with an environment where I was expected to always just be on the receiving end of one-way communications. It wouldn’t be ideal and would probably hamper product quality, but I could adapt and do my job.

        But dragging me into a meeting to deliver the one-way news to my face when they could have just put it in an email I could have read at my own convenience? That kind of time-wasting would infuriate me.

        1. Argh!*

          Yes, it’s basically one-way communication & we are almost never participating in a meaningful way. There’s no sense of team in general. We are all isolated from each other and all communication to others in the organization must go through bosses & their bosses. I have had my boss go behind my back countermanding something I set up with another manager, and another coworker has been reprimanded for talking to me instead of his supervisor about something directly relevant only to me, and which I welcomed input on!

  7. TotesMaGoats*

    As described this would suck. However, in the right industry with the right frequency I think there would be a way this wouldn’t be dumb. For example, I’d be able to share with the group the emails I’ve gotten from recently admitted students like.

    “Being admitted was the second best day of my life after the birth of my child.”
    “Being admitted was an answer to a prayer.”

    That’s inspiring stuff. That’s the stuff that keeps me motivated with my crazy AF coworkers and administration, 1 hour commute each way, and next to nothing budget make me want to run away screaming.

  8. Formica Dinette*

    Does it have to be work-related? Because I find kitty pictures very inspiring, and the internet has an endless supply of those.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I was going to say… I’d probably find a specific blog (like AAM), twitter handle, or something I like and share a different line from them every week.

      For example, @DisneyWords has some pretty inspiring things to say (spoiler alert: they post quotes from Disney movies).

    2. Damn It Hardison!*

      I’m sure I could come up with an inspiring story about my deaf 20 year old cat every week. For example, last night she hunted 2 stuffed mice. At her age! So spry! Who’s going to top that?

    3. Rana*

      I was imagining grabbing random objects to do Inspiring Show-and-Tell with:

      Flowers! Man, flowers are just so amazing, you know? They have all these petals, and bees like them, and they turn into fruit… and they come in so many colors… I mean, dudes, I could just look at them forever…

      Bonus points if you can manage that sort of New-Agey/stoner slow talk as you do it. (“Have you ever looked at your hand? I mean, really looked at it?”)

  9. LSP*

    My husband is a code monkey, and he’ll get really, really excited and inspired by things that I, as a government contracted project manager, just don’t understand, and vice versa. As his spouse, I try to stay engaged with him on something that excites him, but if he were a colleague, I’m not sure how deeply I’d care.

    1. TootsNYC*

      If he were a colleague, you’d probably understand the things he gets excited about, and so you would probably care more.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes. My husband often tells me my job is not nearly as exciting as I think it is. I have a coworker I call to delight in particularly good solutions because they will appreciate it.

  10. SS*

    Maybe this varies by industry and role, but I’ve seen something similar work well before. However it was a creative team, participation was not mandatory, and it was more of a Friday happy hour vibe. It was fun to see what cool projects other people had run across, and we’d have a discussion about what we liked and didn’t like, and if it could inform any of our projects. But it was also great to have a break from the daily grind and remind ourselves why we chose to do this work. I could see from the vantage of a code monkey, or administrative position, or any position which didn’t reply heavily on artistic creativity, that it could be pretty boring and seem like a waste of time.

    1. NGL*

      I’m in marketing and have had this done at meetings before, to talk about cool marketing campaigns we’ve seen – not even necessarily in our industry. Just to jump-start discussion about how we may be able to adapt something from that campaign into our work.

      But it also wasn’t mandatory – at my current job the boss implemented it really as a way to make sure some of the quieter people were participating in the weekly meetings. Talk about a current project you’re excited about, one that’s giving you trouble, and/or a cool marketing campaign. Choose from any of the above.

      1. Cat steals keyboard*

        Now, this actually sounds worthwhile.

        Whereas I’m wondering if OP’s boss maybe worked at the place with the ‘river of life’ Powerpoint presentations (last item in You may also like).

      2. Koko*

        Yes, I think the key thread in all of these success stories is that it’s not mandatory and there is no minimum you’re held to. Those things just mess with the signal to noise ratio and drown the good stuff in junk that people felt like they had to submit.

        I once saw a flier that had such compelling marketing that I took it into work and showed everyone at lunch. It’s the only flier I’ve ever seen that I got that excited about, and for good reason – it was exceptionally well executed. If I was expected to bring in an inspiring piece of marketing every week I’d have to lower my standard for sharing.

      3. Lisa*

        Yes. Reading between the lines, this sounds like possibly the OP is a website developer or similar role, sitting in a marketing or creative team.

        I’ve been on marketing teams where sharing inspirational things was not just useful but hugely valuable. One department-wide all-day face-to-face (about 40 people from four states) devoted over an hour to letting each person share two examples of the most inspirational work they could find – tv spots, websites, viral campaigns… It was really amazing and helpful, it got ideas flowing, we were talking about it for days. But that’s because we were almost all marketing professionals. And IIRC, the handful of analysts, admins, etc. found it a bit of a stretch. But for most of us it was a valuable work-related activity.

        I’ve also been on marketing teams that had about 10% developers, and while I supported the team structure overall, it could make staff meetings really weird. It was often a complete waste of the developers time, and as introverts who wanted nothing but to sit at their desks all day – they were stereotypical developers – they were unfocused and bored. Fortunately I was their manager and I was able to arrange with the VP (my boss who was running the meeting) to make the meetings optional for them depending on the agenda.

        My advice to the OP would be to point out to the manager that since her “inspirations” are github forks and new language standards, maybe the exercise could be made optional so she doesn’t bore her coworkers.

    2. girlonfire*

      Yes, I agree. My team is a creative team, and often our regular meetings will have time for “inspiration” from other brands or ideas to steal. It can be hard to keep your output feeling fresh when you’re in the grind every day and having to meet deadlines, so having a reason to step back from the day-to-day and find something interesting or out-of-the-box can be a good thing.

      If that’s not the team’s function, though, I can see how it would be less helpful. Or if it’s mandatory and every single week.

    3. Argh!*

      In that context it’s more like brainstorming, which can be fun, and doesn’t require non-imaginative people to compete with true idea people. I think it’s great when it works that way.

  11. Altobot*

    we have a Monday morning meeting where we all go around and talk about our weekend >.> and then get into what we’ve been working on (past challenges and future plans mostly). About a third dislike it, two people REALLY like it and will talk for like 10 minutes, and the rest are blase

    1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      My manager at my first job out of college was very inexperienced — it was her first management job. We’d spend the first HOUR of our Monday morning meeting discussing our weekends in excruciating detail. Even as a newbie to the workforce, I knew that was a horrible idea.

  12. Camellia*

    I am inspired by a lovely walk through the woods. The fact that I am dragging a body is entirely irrelevant.

  13. NW Mossy*

    The thought of having “inspiration” as a standing item outside of a faith-based org that is seeking to spread inspiration of the divine sort is a recipe for meeting dread.

  14. ArtK*

    “I am inspired by the fact that I made it through the whole week without telling any of my colleagues what I thought of them.”


    “I am inspired by trees. The Giant Redwood. The Larch. The Fir! The mighty Scots Pine! The lofty flowering Cherry! The plucky little Apsen! The limping Roo tree of Nigeria. The towering Wattle of Aldershot! The Maidenhead Weeping Water Plant! The naughty Leicestershire Flashing Oak! The flatulent Elm of West Ruislip! The Quercus Maximus Bamber Gascoigni! The Epigillus! The Barter Hughius Greenus!

    Oh, I’m a ….”

    1. Sarianna*

      I’m not sure they would beleaf you. Seems like going out on a limb for a meeting practice that’ll eventually fall by the wayside. If only OP’s manager would get to the root of her concerns and address them directly, knot by scheduling tedious meetings about ‘inspiring things’!

      1. Kyrielle*

        Nonsense, ArtK is right. It’s time to branch out. Although you may need some new topics once they twig to your approach, especially if your manager barks at you about it. :D

  15. pussycats and toast*

    Ugghhhhhhh this sounds a lot like my workplace. We have daily team huddles that are usually very work-focused, but sometimes my manager likes to “switch things up” by asking all of us to share something fun we’re doing on the weekend or a healthy habit we want to adopt this week.

    I mean, I don’t mind talking to my coworkers about my weekend plans; I don’t even mind doing it on company time! But there’s something about enforced sharing that makes me sooooo uncomfortable. Especially because I tend to use my weekends to catch up on chores and binge-watch TV, which is a boring thing to share after someone talks about the cool concert or festival they’re going to.

    Memo to managers: these types of activities really need to be optional for people to get anything out of it. As soon as it becomes mandatory, it sucks any and all enjoyment one might get out of it.

  16. AthenaC*

    One of my clients did something similar, but in a quantity that I thought made sense. First of all, they were a religious-based health care system, so something like this was definitely part of the organizational culture they chose to have. Second, each meeting it was someone’s “turn” to share a “reflection” that shouldn’t be more than 1-3 minutes. You knew it was your turn ahead of time, and the reflection could be anything your heart desires – a poem, a prayer, a picture, something random you found on the internet – whatever.

    So the way they did it limited the pressure on people and it also limited the time it took up. If your manager is set on making inspiration a part of meetings, a system like that could be the way to go.

    1. Anonophone*

      Yeah, I agree with this approach: it helps build camaraderie and share ideas/challenges/resources/knowledge but doesn’t take up time or ask people to overshare personal things.

  17. Beth*

    At Old Company, this woman became the acting manager of my group because she was bffs with our boss. At ever weekly meeting, she’d go around the table and have each one of us say what part of our job we don’t like and describe what we don’t like about it. Thank goodness it didn’t last very long since 1) she was only acting manager and 2) wouldn’t we all run out of things to hate(??). A colleague from another group commented on how her “acting” is pretty bad lol.

    1. JMegan*

      This is a problem that solves itself, if you ask me. “I hate forced participation in meetings.” You could use it every week because it’s true, and you would never run out of things to hate!

  18. Tau*

    I am a fellow codemonkey, and this may be terribly passive-aggressive of me but in this situation I 100% would use the this-is-probably-totally-boring-to-everyone-else bits as my contribution. For one, boring the manager to death may help drive home “this is not a good use of our time”, but more to the point I find something very galling in the idea that you’re supposed to find not just an inspiring thing (every week!) but a particular manager-approved kind of inspiring thing that’s not really something that lines up with how your job works. Like, if you’re going to demand to know what gets my mood up at work, the answer is often going to be “this git command is totally magic because it lets you do [cut for technical detail], isn’t that cool??” – if you don’t want to hear that sort of thing you shouldn’t have asked!

    1. Argh!*

      I would actually enjoy that. Sometimes I have no idea what other people do or how they do it. I’d rather know too much than too little about someone else’s job. (Not their life – TMI is a problem for some people)

  19. Champagne Supernova*

    My team — small-ish but growing — meets bi-weekly to talk about current projects we’re working on as well as larger organizational happenings/developments that affect our area. One thing I do add to the agenda for each meeting is a request that each team member be prepared to talk briefly about a work-related “win” that they had since we last met. It can be anything from a successfully-completed project to learning a new process or skill or solving a complicated issue. My team members always seem to enjoy this part of the meeting – both sharing their own successes but also celebrating their colleagues’. I think this is generally a positive thing, but the focus has to be fairly narrow for it to work well — in other words, it can’t just be tossing out some kind of “inspiring thing” on command!

    1. Sami*

      Each person at each meeting??? Really? Why?
      That would get old (and boring. and tedious) really fast. Why not randomly choose a few?

    2. Monkey Do*

      I’d be willing to bet that at least half those people are faking that enjoyment. (I would, in that scenario.)

      1. Blueismyfavorite*

        Yeah, me too. And I don’t even see how its sustainable long-term. People don’t have unlimited success to talk about. Plus, real successes that should be celebrated are going to get buried in a lot of forced sharing of piddling little things no one cares about.

  20. Anon1*

    Ugh. This is mandatory show-and-tell for adults. It’s thoroughly uninspiring that some people put in charge of other people think this is a great idea.

  21. J3*

    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the commenter base here often kiiiiinda overreacts to anything that has the slight scent of a bonding activity. I get that part of that comes from a lot of genuinely inappropriate and WTF situations being written about on the site, but this example isn’t remotely borderline and it’s hard to understand why it would inspire so much disdain from folks… to me this example falls squarely into the category of “not everyone is going to find everything fully useful all the time buuuuut hey, they pay you to be there”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Part of it is that this site places a premium on practical, effective management, and stuff like this is often implemented in a way that ends up being a huge time waster at best and invasive at worst.

      The other part of it is that I’ve somehow attracted a commenter base that has more introverts than you typically see in one place (which is kind of nice, as a counter to how typically you see the reverse represented). And I’ve been pretty vocal about thinking this kind of thing is BS, which makes it a welcoming environment for others who feel the same, and who may normally not bother voicing that opinion in other contexts.

      1. JMegan*

        Another part is that we’re specifically being asked to react to something, and that something is only one data point of everything that happens in someone’s workplace.

        For me, the kind of activity the OP describes falls squarely in the “meh, they pay me to be there” space. I don’t love it, but it’s a smallish part of my day, and probably not one that I would even talk about under most circumstances. But since we have been directly asked, and because there is no particular consequence to me for being honest, I may as well be honest about it.

      2. Bad Candidate*

        I agree. Forced bonding activities are the sort of thing that make introverts want to pull our eyelids off.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I’m being silly, but I actually mean to make a real point: I’m an introvert, and forced bonding doesn’t bother me. Not all introverts (… or any category of people) feel/believe/act/whatever the same.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          I’m an extrovert and I hate forced bonding activities. They just don’t feel authentic or have much long-term effectiveness.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I think it’s self-reinforcing (like all other environments). Everyone who hates this kind of stuff knows that they’ll get a lot of supportive comments; everyone who likes it doesn’t comment because they’ll be the weird outsider; everyone who doesn’t care shrugs and goes about their day.

        I don’t have a strong opinion about this kind of thing — except to say that, as a person who works in adult education and leadership development, there is often very good reason for activities that may not look or feel useful at first glance — but I do tend to sigh to myself when team-building comes up on here because I know to expect a lot of (IMO, overwrought) outraged comments.

        1. Kyrielle*

          What bugs me most about team-building and “what inspired you” things like here is being put on the spot and having to scrabble for an answer. (Hopefully I get to do the latter in advance, with warning.)

          And if I need to actually make it work-related…oh man, that’s a thousand times worse. I like my job. I think I’m good at it. I’m definitely glad to be doing it and content. But the topics and adjacent topics don’t *inspire* me.

          A good sunrise, a lovely ornamental garden, a stretch of pristine river….

          …or things related to my kids, a topic you normally try *not* to bring up in work meetings if you’re a woman, especially in a male-dominated industry….

          …but not so much work-related.

          A large number of things done in the name of “team bonding” make me feel like an outsider, or a failure, which are actually not ways I normally feel at work. Whether or not there’s a “good reason” for them I’m not sussing, that’s still how they make me feel. I’m…pretty sure that’s not the goal. I hope. But yes, it means I react negatively to the idea of something that, if implemented at my workplace, would make me uneasy at best.

      4. Greg*

        There is one more thing. I am an introvert, my job is sales and customer service. I would actually be really put out by this practice at having to waste some of my spoons telling a story in front of a group for something that A. doesn’t put stock out on the shelf or anything B. doesn’t help a customer get their product or service.

        I’ve only got so much to give, stop wasting my spoons on timewasty BS.

        1. Janice in Accounting*

          I need to get my family to read this site–I said something the other day about having used all my spoons for the day and they looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

    2. James*

      It’s not that–if you read through the comments, a lot of people enjoy talking about things not related to work with their coworkers. It’s just that there’s a substantive difference between me deciding that I like/trust someone enough to talk about things with them vs. a manager telling me I need to.

      To be brutally honest, I don’t like some of my coworkers. I only interact with them because I’m obliged to. They’re not necessarily bad people, they’re just the kind that rub me the wrong way and who I avoid in my personal life. I’m not going to share much of myself with them–I keep my relationship with them professional, and I like it that way. Not having that choice is annoying.

      Then there’s the backlash factor. Let’s say you’re a Muslim in the Bible Belt. You find the Koran inspiring. Do you REALLY want to say that, though? Sure, you can find other things that inspire you, or make something up–but that means that not only are you spending time on this when you could be doing other work, and not only do you have to have some inspirational nonsense ready for the meeting, you also have to expend energy scanning what you’re going to say to make sure it doesn’t damage your career. It’s not just Muslims, either, I just used it as an example. I’m an Enya fan and grew up in a football school; after being assaulted for my music tastes a few times, I’m no longer all that willing to share things I find inspiring with random people. And I’m hardly the only one that’s happened to.

      I’m actually self-censoring right now. I had a few options for examples I could pick from–but I’m uncomfortable even telling strangers on the internet who have no idea who I am about certain things. I’m hardly going to be MORE willing to share this with a bunch of coworkers.

      And what’s the upside? Nothing–forced “community building” exercises are, as I said up-thread, Cargo Cult management. They’re what happen when someone forces you to go through the motions of happy, effective teams without building the foundation of a happy, effective team. So for stuff like this is at best a waste of time, and at worst actually harmful to our careers, and adds unnecessary stress to the system.

      I hope this doesn’t come off as “Here’s why you’re wrong”. I’m just trying to give you an insight into what’s going through at least my head, since I fit the profile of someone who has nothing but disdain for this sort of thing. I’m just trying to give you an inside perspective. :)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Cargo Cult management. They’re what happen when someone forces you to go through the motions of happy, effective teams without building the foundation of a happy, effective team.

        You know, I feel like I can draw a line between that and the smile letter from earlier. Asking people to perform happiness without actually doing anything that might cause happiness.

      2. pussycats and toast*

        I think you’re bang on, and I’ll readily admit that as much as I moan about it on the internet, IRL I just suck it up and do it. It’s not a big enough facet of my job that it makes me miserable on an everyday basis, nor is it worth making a negative impression on my managers to make a stink about it.

        I wonder if there are people out there who actively enjoy these activities? I’m not asking rhetorically, I genuinely want to know. In my experience, most folks either loathe or tolerate team-building, making the results feel net-neutral. I feel like I might have a better attitude about sucking it up if I knew other people really got something out of it.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          In my experience yes, there are people who enjoy team building, group talks etc. Of course, they have to be carefully planned to appeal to and provide enjoyment to most, if not all, of the participants; and the delivery is paramount. With that caveat (which is way more challenging for the facilitators than it might seem), such things can – and do – provide results both at individual and at team level. At least this is my experience.

          The OP’s situation is a good example of how NOT to implement such things. I’ve been subjected to pointless, “beatings will continue until morale improves” – type programs, and I can certainly understand why someone might be wary. But when all stars align, yes, it works (even for introverts).

          1. zora.dee*

            I am an introvert, and I enjoy team building activities sometimes, when it is not forced, and when it is a reasonable amount of my work time. A reasonable amount is like once or twice a year, not Every. Single. Week. If it’s in an every week meeting, I am just sitting there the entire time thinking about how much work I could be getting done right now if this meeting was over already.

            Have some space carved out for talking about outside inspiration and get creative juices flowing, that’s a great idea. 20+ minutes every single week is too much. You pay me to do my job, let me do it.

    3. The RO-Cat*

      J3, I’m with you here. One (of the very few) things I dislike on AAM – specifically in this kind of post – is the speed with which form gets conflated with substance. All we read here are instances of bad implementation of certain things that, in the real world, work more times than not: bonding activities, team building, personality assessements, MBTI… you name it. If in some instances the implementation is wrong it happenes quickly for parts of the commentariat to jump directly to “that thing sucks, period”, which rubs me the wrong way. And I say that both as a facilitator of such activities *and* a participant in some. Yes, a bad facilitator can make a mess of even the most engaging idea; but that’s the facilitator, not the idea, to be discounted.

      1. NW Mossy*

        There’s truth in that, for sure. For example, I really like team-building activities that easily slot into the normal schedule (such as bringing in lunch for the team) or that support our community (like volunteering as a group), but dislike ones that encroach on my limited personal time (like tickets to a sporting event on a Saturday night). I enjoy personality assessments because they can sometimes yield a good entry point into discussing something with one of my staff, but it really irritates me when they’re couched in judgmental language that makes people feel bad reading their self-description.

        This particular one, though, is a tough sell because it’s not fair to expect that people be inspired on command. Some people have a high threshold for what qualifies as inspiring and may only have a handful of such experiences in a lifetime; others can easily find it in the everyday. And without a clear business purpose for why inspiration matters, it’s going to fall flat.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      For me, it’s because this sort of time-wasting bullshit takes away from actual productive time, and, since I’m exempt, I don’t get paid for the outside-of-business hours I then have to put in to do my actual job, not to mention reducing my time with my family. I find that I have bonded perfectly well woth my coworkers over the years collaborating to solve actual, work-related problems, cross-training, and interacting with them on projects and tasks. I don’t care what “inspires” them. It doesn’t help us do our job better. The people who want to pursue extra-work relationships are welcome to do so, just don’t force me to participate in it.

      I’m not saying all meetings are time-waters, but a good number of them trend that way. I have a firm appreciation of those who can run one effectively and efficiently.

    5. hbc*

      People are more likely to comment on things that they strongly object to. That’s one facet.

      And then, yeah, you’re not going to have a lot of support on this site for “Let’s force everyone to do this kinda personal thing at work on the regular” because we all know it doesn’t work. A few people in this scenario get awesome doses of inspiration, a few people are actively dreading the meetings because they don’t get inspired by this kind of thing, and a whole lot of people go, “Crap, one more thing on my to-do list, find something that I can pass off as inspiration.”

  22. Allison*

    Am I the only one who finds those viral ~inspirational~ videos and pictures super annoying? Maybe I’m cynical because I know a lot of it is either exaggerated or completely made up.

    1. Bad Candidate*

      I’m with you. I’m usually the one debunking one. “Oh, Lincoln failed a lot of times before becoming president, did he? Well he actually succeeded a lot more than he failed, so your inspirational meme is moot.”

  23. Elizabeth West*

    I’m inspired by my lucky Cap t-shirt and the fact that I opened my email today to find that the agent who requested a partial manuscript “would love to see the rest,” which revives my faint hope that someday I may get out of boring team meetings FOREVER.


  24. Mae*

    Ha… This is me in a past life. When I suggested that we either lessen the frequency of or try to relate these events to specific projects, I was told to stop being a millennial. Needless to say, I left that industry, but also for other reasons. I’m inspired by not drinking kool-aid.

    1. James*

      That’s no small part of my dislike for this stuff: it always seems to come from people who remind me more of Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter than anything else. The know-it-all busy-bodies of the group, whatever group it is, and usually the most judgmental as well. So, the human mind equating correlation with causation, when I see someone ordering me to share some source of inspiration I immediately worry that that’s what I’m dealing with. It’s not always the case, but it is often enough to justify assuming a causal connection.

    2. literateliz*

      Wait, so are we millennials touchy-feely, lazy, participation-trophy-receiving infants, or ruthlessly efficient worker bees who want meetings to stay on topic? I can’t keep up with the stereotypes…

      1. They mostly come at night... mostly*

        What exactly do they mean by “inspiring”?

        When I see that word I imagine touchy feely crap. Which I hate.

        1. Duffel of Doom*

          Gawd yes. My department (5 people) meets once a week and we all have to share something we’re grateful for. I hate it. The stuff shared is mostly shallow (the weather, time away, etc), but one woman likes to use it as a feelings dump. Can’t stand it. That’s not why I come to work.

    1. Trix*

      Bonus points!

      Choose one article for each of the eight things, and just recycle them week after week. Sure it might take two and a half weeks for anyone to notice, but it’ll at least give them a giggle till everyone else catches on.

  25. Argh!*

    “They get inspired by doing meaningful work, seeing progress, and having the chance to stretch themselves and see results. They get inspired by working for leaders who get that and who create an environment where it can occur with regularity. They get inspired by things like openness, integrity, and creative risk taking.”

    …which would explain why I’m demoralized in my job.

  26. Argh!*

    Being forced to do anything is demotivating. The more we feel that “they” are trying to manipulate and control us, the less autonomy we have.

    I get that the manager may want to motivate a staff, but doing the same thing all the time ruins it. I had a manager once who asked us all to talk about the biggest challenge in our lives as children as an icebreaker. One coworker talked about having been raped by a family member. A few others talked about things I didn’t really want to know. A much better question would be “Is there one event or person who inspired you to choose this profession?” (even non-professionals have made a choice to work in this area, so I use the word broadly) A question like that would bond us with a sense of common purpose. What she did was too invasive.

  27. TinyPJM*

    Granted, I am a pretty apathetic person, but the things I am inspired by are:

    1. People doing their job fairly well
    2. Projects getting done with minimal issue
    3. Being able to go home and potato until I go back to work.

  28. Marcy Marketer*

    As an alternative, I sometimes send inspiring articles or fun ideas to my coworkers on our internal chat system. I like to revisit articles, especially if it’s inspiration for a project I don’t have time to tackle right now but want to do in the future, and so I keep a sticky post on our internal PMS for inspiration where I post stuff I want to revisit later.

    Sometimes it’s useful to figure out what problem your manager is trying to solve. Does she feel like you guys aren’t pushing yourselves to produce best in class work? Does she think you’re not keeping up with industry norms? Does she think you need to cross collaborate more as a team on projects? Then you could provide an alternative to the “weekly inspiration” sharing that would help solve the problem.

  29. selyse*

    I can certainly see how you would find this unpleasant, and from your description the execution leaves something to be desired (which may improve with time).


    1) “Forcing” you to go out and find inspirations is a great way to build a habit of staying current – seeking out articles, news, blogs, events, people. This will only help your career. It doesn’t have to take long – find one or two blogs/newsletters/whatevers and skim them regularly. I mean, you could watch a TED talk once a week and never run out of inspirations!

    2). Presenting to a group is also a vital communication skill that most of could practice more often. Take the opportunity to really work on your presentation skills. There are so many resources out there focused on storytelling and presentations! Again, this can only help you professionally.

    3). Finally, it’s a chance to shine … one you might not get otherwise if you only get to talk about your work.

    Take advantage of the opportunity underneath it all.

    1. Jules the First*

      Yes, but your goal could be just as easily achieved using the question ‘what did you learn this week?’, which is much more immediately relevant and concrete than ‘what inspired you?’

    2. Greg*

      your number 1 reminded me of something, it’s like when in school we had to write daily journals for like grade 3. I was like 9 how interesting do you think my life is to make me write about it everyday?

    3. KM*

      Yeah — my take on this is that the exercise might be designed to solve a problem where the team is TOO task-focussed — either people aren’t speaking up in meetings except to report what they’ve done, or they aren’t presenting original ideas, or they aren’t making an effort to do anything but exactly what they were assigned to do, and this is supposed to push them to expand their horizons and think more creatively about their jobs.

      I get that people relate to their jobs in different ways — I’ve had jobs I hated where I would feel insulted and put-off by any suggestion that I should care about more than putting in my hours, because I felt so miserable the whole time I was there, but I’ve also had jobs I loved and felt engaged with where I was frustrated that other people on my team didn’t seem to give a shit about anything but putting in their hours. If you’re in an engaged place, this kind of exercise is easy and rewarding — if you’re in a space where your job is just a monster you have to feed so you don’t get evicted, literally anything except the bare minimum’s going to piss you off. At least, that’s been my experience.

  30. Marisol*

    I actually find the concept of “inspiration” to be discouraging. I mean what the OP describes is offensive and awful, but for me, even in a context where seeking inspiration is appropriate, such as…I don’t know, people posting quotes on Facebook, or the personal growth podcasts that I listen to, the very notion of inspiration is just a downer. It’s like I feel a sense of failure if I’m not able to manufacture some sense of childlike wonder and awe about stuff. And anything worth aspiring to is worth working for, even if it’s relationships, or art–something people often think is more the result of “inspiration” rather than, to borrow from Edison, “perspiration.” At best, inspiration is just a pleasant moment, which is great, but not something you can build on, and not something worth striving for. The whole idea of inspiration is just fraudulent.

    1. Rana*

      I would find it frustrating, too, for similar reasons. (It’s one of many reasons why I’m not infrequently disappointed when I’m in spiritual or religious settings.) Inspiration is such a personal, singular sort of thing, and by its nature both profound and unpredictable, that the idea of reducing it to a weekly show-and-tell sort of thing is disturbing to me. It feels like it encourages shallow ideas of what inspiration looks like, and trivializes the whole idea (which is why I mocked it in the way I did, above).

  31. Chaordic One*

    I volunteer as a “Friend of the Library” in my community by helping out at the used bookstore to help raise money for library programs and to restore the old original wing of the library building. The “Inspiration” section of the bookstore is always overflowing. If the books have sat around for a year or so, they get put out on the “Free Cart,” boxed and mailed away to “Better World Books,” or thrown in the “Recycling Box” where they will be sent away and ground up to make recycled paper. I recently just tossed a bunch of ratty old inspirational books by dead old holy women, Norma Zimmer, Dale Evans and Phyllis Schlafly. They had wonderfully inspiring lives, but nobody wanted to read about them and I needed to make room for a whole bunch of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. I suppose I could sent them away with the “Better World Books.”

  32. Environmental Educator*

    Ugh, we have a similar thing at work that irks me. I work at a non-profit that focuses on food justice. We take turns making lunch for the group on Mondays and eat together. That’s great and super fun! But we have to go around and share something we are thankful for. This isn’t bad in and or itself. But it is expected to be in-depth and personal. If I say “I’m thankful for my sister who is always there for me” the group asks what in my opinion are invasive questions about my personal life. My boss and many of the others frequently share very personal details about illnesses, deaths, etc and cry just about every other week during these. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m an introvert and a very private person. I don’t feel like sharing my personal life with my co-workers, most of whom I’m not very close to. And I feel awkward sitting at the table while they tell me these things. Ugh.

    1. LCL*

      I would choose something I am thankful for and interested in and talk about it in detail every week. For me, that would be my dog. For others, it could be your car, your guitar, a motorcycle, your house or garden, some possession that you can talk at length about. Eventually they will stop.

  33. Justin*

    I was on a contract assignment at my old job and they made us do these types of things every morning. Wore me out since I had to think of something every day and I don’t think like that.

    At my current job, we have to share a “personal best” and a “professional best” at our weekly meetings and while those are easier to do, they’re still sometimes hard to think of. Sometimes I have boring weeks, I didn’t do a 5K or buy a bunch of new furniture or crush some deadline or master a new skill or whatever.

  34. David Smith*

    Because I self-identify with the OP, I think that Allison’s quickness to judge whether this is good or bad management overlooks the inherent inefficiency of working with humans — some of them have different opinions about what’s important.

    The OP wants to talk about the work and only the work!
    The manager wants to talk about, let me look up the word… feelings! Ugh!
    Let me go back….the *NEW* manager. Double Ugh!

    Oh no……she’s one of those PEOPLE PERSONS!

    “Just let me go back to my cave and code” isn’t going to make this go away.

    1. Rana*

      Eh, I’m an oversharer and a people person, and I’d still find things like this annoying. I don’t like being asked to emote in artificial settings; I’d rather my relationships emerge organically through shared experiences and working together on mutual goals. It’s not so simple as cave people versus happy happy joy joy folks.

  35. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    Agree with others: have everyone tell an extremely obscure anecdote that’s only useful or relevant to their role. The others should stare blankly at each story. The manager will soon realize s/he is wasting time. This will only work well if everyone is on board, otherwise you will look pedantic and clueless.

  36. Catabodua*

    Something that I found very useful in an old job was a weekly meeting where the staff discussed problems they had encountered that week or policy changes they’d come across. No one was required to speak – and I think that was the most important part of why it worked so well.

    The meeting helped bring up issues that some of us were being impacted by or hadn’t heard about yet and it was a great way to use the collective experience of the group to hash things out.

    The manager running them would write down topics and ask for updates / resolutions a few weeks later – which were also usually really good information for the rest of us.

    To simply have to come up with something inspirational just so you had something to say is pointless.

  37. Doc C*

    I’ve suffered through similar circumstances at two different jobs. I’m a physical therapist and at both places we ran fairly high with patient volume. So taking up 15-20 minutes of staff meetings time for a religious devotional reading (job A, which was at an ultra conservative facility) or “Staff Praise reports with raffles for small gifts” (job B) always made me resentful. Most of the time we could not even cover what was on the staff meeting agenda because so much time was lost to the non-work nonsense. I get that Job B Boss was trying to keep it positive and fun, but it was at the expense of us being more pressed the rest of the day. Job A, well that was just a whole other level of out there…

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