the magic mushrooms, the underwear scavenger hunt, and other awful workplace ice-breakers

Recently I asked about terrible ice-breakers you’ve been subjected to at work. Here are 10 of the most horrifying you shared.

1. The underwear

Many years ago, at a large law firm, the ice-breaker at our company retreat was to find all the other people wearing the same color underwear as you (no, I’m not making this up). The managing partner was wandering around the room saying, “Plaid? Anyone plaid?” while the rest of us just huddled in a large group and claimed white (at least nobody threatened to check us).

2. The mushrooms

Every week at our staff meeting a different person leads the agenda and asks the ice-breaker. A couple weeks ago it was a very high level person who said, “I was just reading an amazing article about hallucinogens. Have any of you ever done magic mushrooms?”

3. The skipping competition

The mid-year meeting we had last week started with a skipping competition. Yes, we had to skip across the room and were judged on how well we skipped. The person who won did some weird TikTok skip I knew nothing about.

4. The feet

We had to take off our shoes, hold hands while face to face with a colleague, and try to touch each others’ feet with our feet. It was horrific.

5. The dancing

As a facilitator, I’ve used ice-breakers every time I’ve opened a session, some (obviously) to better reception than others. For one session, my (high-energy) co-facilitator said they wanted to open the session with a new ice-breaker they’d found. I knew they’d facilitated often and knew roughly the right things to do…until apparently they lost their mind?

They played music and insisted that each attendee do a short dance! And that the NEXT person do that dance and a bit of their own until the last person did everyone’s dance?! Aw HELL no!

Cue the embarrassed facilitator (me) interrupting and going, “Of COURSE they’re joking! Let’s do *insert innocuous intros ice-breaker here* instead.” And dealing with a highly insulted co-facilitator at the break. Eye-roll.

6. The IQ tests

I’m not sure it was intended as an ice-breaker, but it was definitely ice-breaker-adjacent. We had a team meeting to meet our new boss, an external hire. Grandboss basically said “here’s Bob” and left the room.

Bob told us that the reason they had to hire outside the company was OBVIOUSLY because he’s smarter than the rest of us. There was an audible scoff when Bob mentioned he was in Mensa, which made him so mad that he decided we’d all take the same online IQ test, right here right now, so he could prove it.

So all 8 of us took out our laptops and went to the site he used and we all took the same IQ test. He turned around his laptop to show us his IQ score and said we’d go around the table and tell him our name, what we did, a fun fact, and then turn our laptop around to show our IQ score.

I got to go first. My fun fact was “IQ tests are racist,” and my score was 28 points higher than Bob’s. The next person’s fun fact was “I’m in Mensa” and his score was higher than mine. The rest of the team kept to IQ-related or Mensa-related fun facts – the word eugenics got mentioned several times.

Bob had the lowest score in the room.

He spent the next two years making us pay for his not knowing he was hired to manage a team commonly referred to as “the geniuses.” We did not have a going-away party when he left.

7. The pictures

This isn’t as bad as any of the examples, but in one Zoom meeting, we were instructed to set our Zoom to Gallery mode and then draw the person we saw to the left of our own picture. Then people would guess who you drew. But they didn’t think about the fact that Zoom makes the first person to join the picture in the upper left, and then your own picture next to that, then other people’s pictures, so we all drew the same person.

8. The pen

We were once told to imagine a pen was sticking out of our belly buttons and then “write” our name in the air in front of us. I never liked ice-breakers before this, but I hated them after.

9. The animal

Not a terrible ice-breaker, but this guy’s answer led to several calls to HR, made as soon as the event ended. People were going around the table saying what animal they’d be if they could be any animal, and why. This man, who wasn’t even supposed to be at this event as it was not his team’s, and who had crashed it because it was in the breakroom and there was food, goes “I would be a pig, because a pig’s orgasm is 30 minutes long.”

Instant office legend, but not in a good way.

10. The first kiss

I hate icebreakers. The worst one was when we had to go around and say about our first kiss? In a work context? It was so odd.

11. The bad judgment

I attended a very senior team meeting at a nonprofit I worked at (which I have dozens of terrrible stories about…). My CEO was in charge of the ice-breaker, and she bought a quiz she had purchased from Pop Bitch called “Enid Blyton or Erotica.” It was the most embarassing thing I have ever sat through – trying to choose if titles like The Naughtiest Girl In School, The Adventures Of Mr Tootsie Pole, and Granny’s Lovely Necklace were 1950’s childrens books or porn.

12. The violation

Years ago, I was in my first professional role with a new team, and the entire team was new to each other (the team had just been created and we were all outside hires). The leader invited an outside person to facilitate ice-breakers with us. One of the first few involved standing back-to-back with another person, bending over (so that your butts were touching) and shaking hands between your legs while upside down. Want to talk about awkward amounts and kinds of physical touching with someone you only know on a professional level?? Needless to say this set the tone for far too much oversharing of information in the next few years with this team that was “like a family.”

{ 564 comments… read them below }

    1. New Senior Mgr*

      I used the word horrified below and thought to myself, is that too harsh a word here? Absolutely not! Just horrifying.

    2. Rex Libris*

      Definitely. There are at least seven that would get a hard no from me, and a couple I’d consider resigning over.

      1. Dog momma*

        I mean..I can’t even! No way I’d participate in any of that, and I’d go to HR on all of the above examples!
        agree with Rex L. No, no no! and bye!

      1. Sophie*

        Me too. I had an immediate mental picture of Mr. Bean dancing to Mr. Lover Lover . . .

      2. Just Another Cog*

        This one made me laugh hard, too! How many of us made the motions of writing our names with our middles while reading this one?

          1. #NotAllMensans*

            Actual Mensan here.

            There are two kinds of people who brag about being in MENSA:

            1. Insecure losers who are members.
            2. Insecure losers who aren’t members.

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          Me, too! Bob reallly got his comeuppance. And he obviously had a low EQ (emotional intelligence quotient.) IQ tests are racist, and classist, and sexist, and so on, and prove little about a person’s potential for success in almost any area of life.
          Joining Mensa proves you aren’t that smart, in my opinion.

          Are there any good ice-breakers? Why do we even do them?

          1. Burger Bob*

            I have occasionally heard a few good ones, though most are quite boring. The last one I did that was halfway decent, the host asked us what was something we had recently done where we could have used a beginner’s guide. It got us talking about new things we are trying out and whatnot but it didn’t feel awkward or invasive, and it certainly didn’t involve weird movements or interpersonal touching.

          2. Anonny*

            My favourite fun fact about Mensa was that the guys who founded it were like “we’re gonna create a society of the greatest minds!” and got very annoyed that what they’d actually created was a society of puzzle-solving nerds, because that’s what IQ tests measure.

          3. #NotAllMensans*

            Most people who join MENSA do so in the hopes of finding friends, not to prove that they are smart. There’s an overrepresentation of people who love playing board games and video games in the membership.

            Most social groups that people can join are usually organized around sports or other physical activities and it can be hard to find friends to play games with when the people in the physical activity groups spend all their free time on physical activities, not gaming.

            1. The Shenanigans*

              Eh even my tiny city has numerous board game clubs, groups formed around ethnic affiliation, religious organizations, various nonprofits looking for volunteers, and places to hang out and meet new people that aren’t at all sports oriented. So my question would be why someone can’t find anywhere else to make friends? I’d say they should ask themselves wherher there is something about their attitude that puts people off, perhaps?

        2. AskAManager!*

          I actually laughed out loud at that one. I have a “geniuses” team, and they would also have eaten that guy for lunch. (They also don’t call themselves geniuses, they just have the reputation of being the people you want working on particularly tangled projects and problems.)

          I generally side-eye anyone who feels the need to immediately announce to the room that they’re a member of any sort of special/elite group. In my experience, nothing good comes from that or them. The truly smart/special people will prove their worth by their work and actions, and you’ll only find out they’re in something like Mensa as a side note if it ever comes up in an actually relevant conversation.

    3. F*

      mushrooms are actually not really bad for you in normal doses. they are studying it for ptsd.

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        True, but I don’t want to disclose my trauma history or my drug use at work with a bunch of strangers.

      2. coffee*

        The use of mushrooms in therapy is a really interesting topic! It has a lot of potential, and is also being studied for use with severe depression. It can be a really intense experience for patients though, particularly when you’re dealing with trauma. It is still being studied. Also the therapy sessions post-mushroom are a key part of the treatment.

      3. RhondaDawnAnonAnon*

        Heh. I’ve done mushrooms before (several times, in fact), and yes, there’s very promising research that they could help a number of psychiatric conditions. But I would be mortified to discuss them at work, because (a) they’re technically illegal in most places, and (b) people tend to have strong reactions to them..

    4. Rebelx*

      The zoom one made me laugh. The ice breaker itself, while not great, wasn’t terrible, and then the fact that they all ended up drawing the same person

    5. Princess Sparklepony*

      But now I am really curious as to which titles were porn and which were Enid Blyton….

  1. ma'am*

    I will never recover from reading number 4. Never. You guys must be entitled to financial compensation for that. Mother of God.

    1. Le Sigh*

      I know some people are squicked out by feet. I’m not one of those people. But I still wish I had not read that while eating lunch.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Something tells me that facilitator was real excited. Like, probably had a secret camera going excited.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I never thought I was squicked by feet, but apparently I have a thing about touching body parts that are supposed to be clothed at work, at work. I’m shocked.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, me too. I’m Finnish, which means that I have a fairly large personal space which seems to be growing the older I get. I don’t like it when basically strangers get closer than about a handshake’s distance from me, and even that is too close if it lasts longer than a standard handshake. In ordinary circumstances, 4 to 6 ft is about right. I can deal with crowded public transit in the way that most of my compatriots do, we try to ignore each other as much as possible.

      2. Not Your Sweetheart*

        Feet don’t bother me. But you have to be awfully close to someone in order for your feet to touch theirs, while being face-to-face. I have issues with my personal space being invaded. This activity would have broken me.

        1. Trillian*

          Did they actually specify that both sets of feet have to touch at the same time? Because if not, stand on one leg, touch toes, stand on the other leg, touch toes, done.

    2. Orora*

      “Have you been mentally traumatized by a meeting ice-breaker? You may be entitled to financial compensation. Call 1-888-GRS-FEET”

    3. Dittany*

      I didn’t find the idea particularly distressing, but what would even be the point of doing that?

    4. not nice, don't care*

      I have medical issues involving my feet. Fuck no will I be sharing my sole/s with anyone.

      1. Salad Daisy*

        Me too. There is no way I am taking off my shoes and stockings at work. I would go straight to HR if necessary.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah I’m still trying to come up with a graceful / funny way of refusing this one. My feet are not standard issue and I’m not gonna take my socks off at work! And this would be weird even with socks on!

          1. Middle Aged Lady*

            Knowing how infrequently office carpets are cleaned is reason enough to refuse!

            1. Kacihall*

              I admit, I sit with my shoes off at my desk frequently. but the only place my feet go is on my chair, or on my foot rest. (Though now I’m no longer at a desk that covers my feet, so I might not do this any longer…)

          2. Michelle Smith*

            I would have just remained in my seat and refused. I would not have attempted to make it graceful or humorous and I would not have explained why. I may have offered to discuss it after the meeting with or without the presence of HR at their preference.

            1. jasmine*

              Yeah, that’s the best answer. “Just say NO!” (I think the meeting afterwards would be more interesting if HR were invited.)

            2. Manglement Survivor*

              That’s exactly what I was thinking! I would’ve said it was inappropriate for work, and I will not be participating. And afterwords I would’ve gone to HR!

          3. The Shenanigans*

            “Oh, I’m not comfortable participating. Thank you though!” with a smile while you remain seated.

    5. ecnaseener*

      Why oh why with the bare feet?? You can do that with your shoes on! (Still a bizarre and likely unpleasant icebreaker, but at least you wouldn’t be TOUCHING EACH OTHER’S BARE FEET)

    6. Domanda*

      Maybe the facilitator read the calendar wrong and thought they were supposed to do a “feeting ice breaker”?

    7. Quinalla*

      Yes, #12 is bad too, but #4 is awful!!

      Many of these are cringy, but those two were both actually winced in empathy/sympathy for everyone involved, ugh!

    8. mcm*

      I just can’t even figure out what the point of that was supposed to be!! Most icebreakers are at least silly games or misguided attempts to share about yourself. Why feet????

    9. Federal Worker Drone*

      I was 1”nope”
      2 “nope”
      3 “nope”
      4 “aaaaeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy”

    10. Unkempt Flatware*

      It was me. And it was my very first all-staff mandatory meeting as a first year teacher. And I’m very very anti-touch.

      1. Teacher with funny shoes*

        What is it with school meetings and feet? Not nearly as bad as your story, but one of the district people who runs our multi-school subject area and grade level trainings always, at some point in a training, wants us to get up and go find a new partner to talk to by finding someone wearing the same kind of shoes we are.

        I am wearing my specific not-a-typical-teacher-shoe boots based on the advice of my podiatrist, who told me it was either wear these specific type of boots or wear medical braces with normal shoes. Turns out that no one else at these meetings has my issue and/or my podiatrist, but it sure is fun to have a roomful of people suddenly notice that I’m dressed funny and then not pair up with me on the basis of me dressing funny, particularly since it happens at least once a year. A++ morale building, always wanted to feel like I was back in 5th grade being picked on for dressing funny, no notes.

        1. Enai*

          As a person who exclusively wears “feels just like barefoot” type shoes, solidarity. It’s once every couple of months I see someone who wears similar shoes on public transport in a medium-large city. I’d be the odd one out, too.

          The exercise could be made immediately better by making people sort themselves by color of shoes / shirt or any other outer (outer!! No talking about underwear with work colleagues, what the duck club!) garment.

    11. Katherine*

      Yeah, the entirety of my thought upon reading that was, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” except a lot louder and longer.

    12. Mingling Awareness*

      I’m pretty sure the facilitator was a Kurt Vonnegut fan and follower of Bokonon. From Cat’s Cradle:

      “What I had seen, of course, was the Bokononist ritual of boko-maru, or the mingling of awarenesses.

      We Bokononists believe that it is impossible to be sole-to-sole with another person without loving the person, provided the feet of both persons are clean and nicely tended.

      The basis for the foot ceremony is this “Calypso”:

      We will touch our feet, yes,
      Yes, for all we’re worth,
      And we will love each other, yes,
      Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.“

    13. sparkle emoji*

      Call me a germaphobe, but I can’t stop thinking about the potential for spreading myriad foot fungi or warts.

  2. Eldritch Office Worker*

    The mushrooms one makes me laugh – with how much it’s been in the news I can see someone in my office asking that completely earnestly and everyone else exchanging really horrified glances.

    1. NerdyKris*

      It tracks that a high level executive said it. They tend to be blind to the fact that for most employees, admitting drug use means getting fired.

      1. Elsewise*

        At an old job, the executive director asked me very seriously if I was “familiar with cannabis”. We live in a legal state and an area kind of known for its kush, so the use of the term “familiar” really threw me for a loop!

        1. Zephy*

          That’s when you play absolutely dumb – “No boss, what is that?” “Oh, no, I’ve never been to Canada. Would love to visit someday, though, I hear it’s beautiful!” “Weeds, like in a garden? Can’t stand the things!”

    2. Ccbac*

      in an undergrad collaborative research group (roughly equal parts professors and students at a small liberal arts college), one of the profs asked if anyone had every experimented with drugs (semi/tangentially related to the topic being discussed)… almost all of the professors (mostly older white men) raised their hands while all of us students looked questioningly at each other unsure of whether or not to be honest!

      1. Bluebird*

        I once had a professor in undergrad ask if anyone in my class had tried drugs. It was related to the discussion, (literature and drug culture and how they relate) and he first admitted he had never used drugs so he couldn’t verify the author’s experience and was curious if anyone in the room could. He was “No judgement or turning anyone in! I really just want to know! I’ll even leave the room so you can discuss it and write it down anonymously!” It was actually kind of hilarious and adorable lol.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          I once had a neuroscience professor tell us how to make “prison hooch” during a lecture while discussing the effects drugs have on the brain. By far one of my favorite profs.

    3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      I overheard my hairdresser in the middle of an intense discussion about if you can work while on magic mushrooms.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Oh that would terrify me >.< I am not here to be the drug police, but please not while you have scissors near my face

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Depth perception can get a little weird on psychedelics. I use scissors for various things when using weed all the time and it’s fine, but any psychedelic and you’re generally gunna want to stay away from anything sharp.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had a hairdresser once offer (out of nowhere) the advice that you should never, ever do mushrooms while camping. (Not a controlled enough environment if your trip goes badly.) Good advice, but also, huh?

        It would have been completely off the wall except that a few cities north of us is regionally famous for magic mushrooms growing wild in the cow pastures, and yearly announcements from various city authorities to the college students to please not eat them (or at least make sure they’re not picking the poisonous ones).

        1. redflagday701*

          That’s wild. Setting is really important for a good trip, but it’s really, really glorious to be outside for it, and I would much rather be camping than wandering through town while on shrooms. I guess if it were the first time someone was doing them, maybe camping wouldn’t be ideal, but for experienced users, I think it would be fine. (And I gotta think a good chunk of the shrooms done every year are done on summer camping trips.) Shrooms and acid do have powerful effects, but tripping is nothing like the out-of-control experience that so many shows and movies depict it as. If you’ve taken them before and aren’t on some insane dose, you can still understand what’s going on and interact with people.

  3. learnedthehardway*

    What the actual heck?!?! Esp. anything physically touching someone or in any way sexual.

    HR complaints all round, for those.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If someone gave me a real path to ban all icebreakers – as HR I’d throw a party. There would be no ice. Warm drinks only.

      1. Wine not Whine*

        I’m with you.
        Just be respectful of everyone’s time and get the meeting started.

      2. Phryne*

        I’m sure there are plenty of totally innocent fun little ice-breakers that are tried and tested and cannot by their very nature be offensive, invasive or triggering to anyone. The problem is that for way too many people ‘tried and tested’ is synonym with ‘stale’, and that is when the ‘being original’ starts… *shudder*.

  4. addiez*

    Have you ever collected favorite icebreakers? For quick ones, I often find myself using favorite Halloween candy or desert island book, but would love to hear from others!

    1. Little Pig*

      I do a lot of icebreakers at work and like the following:
      – What is your favorite kind of french fry? (Low stakes, and people have opinions)
      – What is a fun fact about your hometown? (People can choose where they grew up or where they live now, and the facts are usually amazing)
      – What 2 things are most important to you in a beach? (Water clarity, temperature, crowds, amenities, sports, etc – again, opinions exist but low-stakes)
      – What is a song or artist you’ve been enjoying recently?

        1. J Jonah Jameson*

          I prefer rocks. Often I want to be near the water without getting sand everywhere.

        2. Burger Bob*

          Same! Sand is annoying in its clinginess, but rocky beaches can hurt, and if the rocks extend into the water and are particularly jaggedy, the waves can wind up pushing you against them and you get all scraped (ask me how I know). Give me that nice, smooth sand please.

        3. Jonquil*

          Oh god, the horror I experienced when I first travelled outside Australia and discovered rock beaches. Awful! How are you supposed to walk or lie down on that!!!

      1. Le Sigh*

        I have found people have very strong potato-based opinions in general. If you want to set off a very petty, low stakes fight, this is a great way to do it.

        1. Other Alice*

          Eggs as well. Nothing like a good debate over the merits of softboiled vs scrambled.

          1. Christine*

            Don’t get me started on eggs. I’m an animal activist, so that would not go well!

        2. jillianajones*

          Makes me think of an episode of the podcast “We Got This” about the best way to serve a potato- by far the best episode of an already great podcast.

          1. Harried HR*

            I’m weird and absolutely HATE potatoes (it’s a texture thing) my Step-Monster was a Chef and made it her mission to find a potato that I would eat. (Spoiler – There isn’t one)

            TL/DR – Best way to serve a potato DON’T :-(

        3. Caitlin*

          Another fun variation on this that a friend used to use whenever he came across an AMA with a celebrity on twitter is “what’s your favorite form of potato”. Mashed? Fries? Latke? Tater Tots? Lots of room for low stakes discussion about all the delicious ways to eat potatos!

        4. Margaret Cavendish*

          My local public radio station has a long-running debate over raisins in butter tarts. People feel very strongly about this!

          1. Elmost*

            People do tend to have strong opinions about raisins as a whole- but only if they hate them, I think. I like them in certain contexts but I don’t know anyone who thinks they are the Best Food.

            And to be clear: I am very pro-raisins in butter tarts! (I am anti-nuts in butter tarts due to my nut allergies.)

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            How do I cook rice? Badly. That would be my answer. And I don’t cook it enough to invest in a rice cooker.

            Why is always so wet? I have to cook it extra long.

        5. Storm in a teacup*

          My icebreaker (or pub conversation starter):
          You can only eat either bread or potatoes for the rest of your life. Which would you choose??

      2. Turanga Leela*

        The coaches at my gym open classes by asking similarly innocuous questions. What’s your favorite cheese, what’s your favorite smell, what’s something you’re looking forward to this week, etc.

        People can make anything weird if they want to–I’m sure pig orgasm guy could make these uncomfortable–but these questions don’t encourage inappropriate responses, and they’re not overly personal.

      3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I was amazed at how much traction an icebreaker called “toilet paper: over or under?” got. People were arguing and judging each other (good naturedly). Lots of interaction. I think the French fry one is like that with less bathroom implications.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          I must be the only person in the world who doesn’t care which way the toilet paper goes. I don’t even really notice. I’m always amazed at how much discussion it gets.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I know that for people with cats it can be a big deal because some felines like to unwind TP in great swaths all over the shop, so “under” becomes default.

          2. Becky*

            My roommate doesn’t notice; it drives me up the wall when it is the wrong way around.

          3. DataSci*

            Join me in the “who cares”club! I’m not even consistent, it just goes on however it comes out of the package.

          4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            My spouse prefers one way, and I prefer the other. I win, because I’m the one who always puts the new rolls on, and he wins, because he doesn’t have to put the new rolls on.

            Life finds a way.

          5. Rebelx*

            You are not the only one. I don’t understand why the toilet paper thing in particular is such a hot topic. Like, I can understand having random preferences about things (I have some myself, just not about toilet paper), but like… having heated debates and getting aggravated when it’s the other way around? Over toilet paper?

      4. Irish Teacher*

        Fun fact about my hometown: it has a bad reputation in like the 18th century, because it was the place for that era’s equivalent of…like spring break typed stuff. It was the place all the young men went on partying holidays. I don’t want to get too specific but there is a popular culture thing (think book/poem/song from the era) talking about married men looking back at their youthful days gets drunk and causing havoc there.

      5. Enough*

        Hometown fun fact. They last time they voted to change the real estate tax rate was 40 years ago and they lowered it.

      6. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        What is your favorite kind of french fry? (Low stakes, and people have opinions)

        A few years ago I started asking people what foods they believed are overrated (not foods they dislike, but foods they think are overrated). MAN does that elicit some strong opinions. The speeches I have been given about brunch!

        I’ve never asked it in a work context though; it might trend a touch negative, but it does get funny reactions.

        1. Sorrischian*

          It wasn’t in the context of an icebreaker, but I was once met with absolute shock and horror from my colleagues when I admitted that while I’m willing to eat either food if they’re offered to me, I don’t really like either donuts or pizza.

      7. Katherine*

        Tots. The answer is always tots. The noble steak fry comes in a decent second, but screw shoestring fries.

      8. Dog momma*

        1.Steak fries
        2. spiedies ( Binghamton NY area, its extremely regional)
        3. warmish water & no sharks or anything else that will hurt you or possibly kill you.

      9. The Shenanigans*

        Oh well if you want to start fights, ask people which way they hang the TP, backwards or forwards.

    2. Rainy*

      I like stuff like “Is a poptart ravioli?” because everyone has an opinion, it’s super low-stakes, and it’s impossible for most people to take seriously enough to make it weird. It starts the conversation and people usually enjoy it, unlike the weird Shakespeare thing that the exceedingly tedious Steve from Monday did.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        : pasta in the form of little cases of dough containing a savory filling (as of meat or cheese)

        Clearly not.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          This one probably doesn’t make a ton of sense unless you’re aware of the larger conversations around food classifications that happen with great gusto on the internet.

          The classic one is “is a hot dog a sandwich” but it goes much deeper.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Sure, but the hot dog one works because there is enough ambiguity in the definition of a sandwich. Is there similar ambiguity in the definition of a ravioli? Certainly not by the dictionary definition. In my experience, that definition is a good match with general usage. Does anyone really use the word so broadly that it could plausibly include pop tarts? We can start with the fact that pop tarts don’t use pasta and go from there.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Still missing the bigger picture. It’s about classification systems, which aren’t based on dictionary definitions but have their own own definitions there-in. So there’s cube theory, which has 8 different kinds of food, there’s legal classifications – which are wild and can vary by locale, there’s “everything is a soup, salad, or sandwich” which causes greater debate – there are several different methods.

              Typically though you’d say a pop-tart is a calzone, not a ravioli.

              1. Auntie Social*

                ice cubes aren’t a sandwich, soup or salad, but there are many ways to prepare them!

              2. Richard Hershberger*

                Oh, I get it. I just don’t think it is an interesting discussion. Perhaps this is because I approach this sort of thing from a linguistic perspective. Or perhaps it is because I am utterly humorless.

                It is a fact of the English language that “calzone” means one thing, “ravioli” means another, and “pop tart” yet something else. This isn’t to say that there isn’t some slop in the usages. That is how language works. But the slop does not extend anything like so far as to have pop tarts overlap with calzones or raviolis. Yes, we can come up with classification schemes that produce these results. At this point we aren’t talking about English usage, but some English-based conlang that we don’t actually define. And if we do define it, it turns out not to be all that interesting. Define the cube theory system and the answer is just there.

                1. Silver Robin*

                  Even from a linguistic perspective, these kinds of language games are fun. Yes, the ultimate conclusion is that all categories (even all definitions) are inherently “fuzzy” and any attempt to make language conform delineated systems of meaning are doomed to fail, but the process of figuring out where and how they fail is fun! What is it about a calzone that makes it different than a ravioli? Does that hold true across other categories? Why or why not? Can we, in fact, claim that a poptart is now a ravioli based on the previous definitions? What foods unexpectedly end up in the same category together? Is cereal soup????

                  It basically points out how arbitrary and silly language is, lets people have strong opinions on inconsequential things, and might just cause some self reflection about how we use language to communicate. Cheesy as it is, the journey (debating the categories) is the fun part, not the destination (arbitrarily decided categories).

                2. Rainy*

                  Hilariously, I do find silly classification system discussions interesting and my degrees are all in dead languages.

                  De gustibus, I suppose.

              3. Now I'm Hungry*

                Ravioli dolci are a thing, so I’d still argue that poptarts are ravioli, myself. They’re not *just* a savory-meat-and-/-or-cheese thing in Italy even.

                1. Princess Sparklepony*

                  I’m seeing pop tarts as ravioli like. I get calling them calzones too. But you got filling encased in dough. So that makes them things that are alike.

              1. amoeba*

                I’ve seen dumplings translated as “ravioli” (like, the Chinese ones) – I believe it was in French. So for them, yes, the pop tart as well, probably!

            2. DataSci*

              Dictionary definitions are boring and not the point of these discussions.

              A Pop-Tart may not be a ravioli but it probably is a dumpling.

            3. Anonny*

              Sandwich is simple: is it food in a bread that can be consumed one-handed whilst gambling?

          2. Cimorene*

            isn’t this settled law according to judge john hodgman? (fake internet podcast judge/cases for those not familiar)

          3. Generic Username*

            Hot dogs are not sandwiches; they are tacos. Fluffy, yummy (and ketchup-free if you’re over the age of 8) tacos….

          4. Wired Wolf*

            I broke a friend’s brain with that one last week…she still hasn’t given me her answer.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          I’ve seen ravioli with a sweet raspberry filling, so while savory is the most common, sweet ravioli is out there.

          1. Wired Wolf*

            Now…is a pierogi a ravioli? (my family has both Polish/Slovak and Italian roots, so some of the debates on that topic are legendarily odd)

      2. ferrina*

        We had a company-wide debate over “Is a Hotdog a sandwich?”
        It lasted for months.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          If you only break off 2 opposing sides, does it become a fig newton?

      3. Andy*

        I think the internet may have ruined me. I wouldn’t have fun with this type of activity precisely *because* of how many times I’ve read this type of discussion on the internet. I also might not like it because of my mathematician brain – if you’d have precise definitions, the answer would be obvious.

        Along the same lines, if you’d asked me a decade ago, I’d probably hate an icebreaker that involved spelling words using symbols off the periodic table. Sometimes internet-stuff oversaturates and it’s not fun anymore.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      My manager kicked off a fiscal year planning meeting by having us say what we’d want our teams to be receiving an award for in an industry organization, five years from now. I thought it was actually a really cool way to get people thinking about their priorities and goals that they wanted to work towards.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          The idea of making icebreakers RELEVANT was mind-blowing to me. Just one of several things that make me kind of in awe of my boss. I’m actually trying to think of an ice-breaker activity that has everyone try to do some small task with some using instructions in written form, some in picture form, some in recorded video form, and maybe some in the form of someone walking them through the activity, to help them start thinking about ways different instruction delivery methods and different learning styles can impact how we onboard people.

          1. Ey-not-Cy*

            I’m totally going to co-op this idea and work on it myself, if you don’t mind for school. Differentiated instruction is something we are always working on in lesson planning and “professional development”. Nice to see it in a real world application.

      1. Also Slightly Misanthropic*

        That is truly a good icebreaker. People get to know each other AND actually set goals and priorities for work.

    4. orchivist*

      – what’s something you like about the current season/what’s something you’re looking forward to this season? (allows people to be personal like “my daughter’s getting married in june!” or vague “oh, I like having more sunshine”)
      – what color crayon are you?
      – favorite office supply (if you work in an office)

      1. Enough*

        Green Engineering graph paper. used it all through college for notes, tests and homework.

    5. Lynn*

      I have a few I like….

      When I worked in something travel-adjacent we did a game of “headbandz” but with our primary travel destinations served and had a rule that you had two exchange 3 pieces of personal information before you could ask someone 2 pieces of information about their destination. It kept people moving and talking.

      When I worked with our interns, I led one where I had them (around 12 people) stand in a circle and share general biographical facts. If someone heard something they had in common with the speaker, they would note it and then they would become the speaker. Each time a commonality was noted they passed and held a ball of yarn until everyone was connected and there was a big web between them and they had to see how many times they could bounce a ball on the web before they dropped it

      Last one — my team once did a guessing game on fun facts. Each person submitted two facts in advance, and the facilitator scrambled them and posted them into a slide. We went around the room and each person took a turn guessing one fact-to-person combo. As facts were “claimed” the moderator blocked them out. The person who had correctly guessed the most by the end “won”. It was surprisingly fun!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        When I was a trainer, we did people bingo. All safe for work topics, & no one could initial the card more than once. It was fun, got people moving around after a morning of filling out forms, & got everyone comfortable with each other.

        1. Sorrischian*

          I usually hate icebreakers, but I’ve enjoyed when we’ve done people bingo – I think because talking to people one on one is much less stressful for me than addressing the whole group.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Most of them were brand-new employees, & the training was over a month long. It always got people talking & laughing without putting anyone on the spot.

      2. Zephy*

        I’ve played a variation on the second one, with the ball of string. Participants stand or sit in a circle (if standing, use something to mark how many spots there are in the circle – we took off our shoes and stood behind them, but something like tape or post-its on the ground could also work). There should be one more person than there are spots in the circle, so one person is standing in the center.

        The center person calls out something that is true about them – the exact phrase depends on the variation you’re playing, I’ve done “move your butt if X” and “the great wind blows if you X.” If you have blonde hair, if you have a tattoo, if you were born west of the Mississippi, if you’ve been to Disney World, if you’re wearing a blue shirt today, if you wear glasses, whatever. Anyone in the circle for whom that thing is also true has to find another place in the circle, and the center person has to try to nab one of the recently-vacated spots. Participants must move at least two spots over from their current place (no switching spots with the person next to you).

      3. lin*

        I have done the ball of yarn / web one, and made it both a) about work, and b) do-able in a hybrid meeting!

        At our last planning retreat, we used “work project I am looking forward to exploring with X other person on the team this year” as the prompt. Like, I would say “I’m looking forward to building our new dashboard with E” and pass E the yarn, and then E would say “I’m looking forward to writing our new grant application with M” and pass the yarn, and M might even say “I’m really NOT looking forward to filling our vacant position because I hate interviews, but I’m glad to be working with S to get them done” and pass the yarn to S.

        to make it hybrid – the moderator was in person – we had empty chairs stand in for the people who were on the phone, with an index card labeled with the person’s name, and we used masking tape to stick the yarn to the back of the chair before the moderator passed it on. Easy, fun, work related, and we ended up with a really neat web of possible projects we wanted to work on this year!

    6. Jenny*

      We did one at our staff meeting that was, “What is your favorite summer fruit, vegetable, or flower?” Low stakes but I learned a little bit about my coworkers.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        We did this one. I had to gently explain to a senior male colleague why eggplant wasn’t a good choice.

          1. HBJ*

            Because, especially with emojis and in typed text, it is used to represent male genitalia. Many people would probably assume he was saying that to be edgy or bring sex into the conversation with plausible deniability, even if it was completely innocent.

            1. Happy*

              I feel like saying your favorite emoji is the eggplant is inappropriate but the vegetable itself is fine.

            2. metadata minion*

              Unless there’s some prior history with this guy being inappropriate, can’t he be allowed to like eggplant without people getting their minds in the gutter?

              1. The Shenanigans*

                Of course. A lot of people like eggplant. He just needs to be prepared for the snickering from the under 40s when he says it.

            1. Luna*

              Mentioning eggplant in a work scenario where the question is about favorite fruits and veg? Come on. What about melon? Am I allowed to like cantaloupe? Peaches? This is really pearl clutching nonsense. Or looking for offense. Anything can be dirty if you’re trying to make it so for outrage points.

              1. amoeba*

                Yeah, that’s… weird.

                I mean, if it were virtual and he replied with the actual emoji, maaaybe. Although depending on his age, I’d probably have a chuckle and be sure he did not mean to imply anything.

                If a youngish guy was saying it in a way that clearly indicates innuendo… also, sure, not cool.

                But if not? I’m sure there’s tons of other fruit and vegetables that would be at least as bad! For instance, in German, “melons” are actually sometimes used to mean boobs (not in a very nice way). I’d still give anybody the side eye who’d find it weird when I talk about liking the actual fruit. Says more about them than me!

                1. E. Chauvelin*

                  That one’s in English, too. As long as they weren’t making hand gestures, saying it in a “wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more” kind of tone, or generally known for being inappropriate, I wouldn’t think anything of it during an actual discussion of fruits and vegetables.

        1. The Shenanigans*

          Lol! Though that one is perhaps generational? Millennial me will never stop snickering at eggplants cuz of the emoji. On the other hand, my brother just had to explain to our boomer parents why we were laughing…

    7. Ice(Breaker)Queen*

      Friends, I got you on this one.
      Ask people to share one or two things that they are delighted to find out that they have in common with someone they meet at work.
      The “at work” part hopefully keeps it work friendly, but people share things that almost always get someone else to say “HEY, ME TOO!” and there is a new connection to someone in the group.

      1. badger*

        I discovered that my boss and I have the same favorite pizza toppings – it is an odd combination and neither of us had EVER met anyone else who liked it. It’s great because if we order office pizza, boss and I can share one and no one else will touch it.

    8. Irish Teacher*

      One we did at work that was actually fun was if money was no object, what singer/band/sporting event would you want to go to?

      It gave an insight into what people’s interests were without getting too personal.

    9. lurkyloo*

      I was #5 and absolutely I have favourites! :D
      Probably the best is the ‘interview sheet’ or Bingo card.
      Interview is where you have a partner and interview them and then introduce them to the group. Usually selected by pulling cards or coloured sticks. It’s usually name, location and fun fact. (favourite ever was someone get introduced as AND THEY MAKE SAMOSAS PROFESSIONALLY! lol the excitement was palpable)
      Bingo card is literally a card with a bunch of random facts and you find someone who has done the items. First person with a line wins, say, a donut and the first person with a full card (if there’s enough people) wins a coffee card for $5-10.

    10. metadata minion*

      My office once did “what’s one thing that’s made you happy recently?”, and people named everything from major life events to their morning coffee.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        Ooh we have a radio show in the UK where they do a weekly feature of little wins. A celebrity says their little win and a caller says theirs and then the audience votes on the best.
        Examples: you get to the bakery just in time for fresh out of the oven croissants, someone pulls out of the best parking spot as you drive up or a baby smiles at you in the supermarket line.
        I think I may use this as a future icebreaker.

    11. MissEm*

      I hosted a breakfast meeting on the first day of a conference and used “what was your first concert?” as the icebreaker. Easy and fun to answer!

      1. E. Chauvelin*

        I actually try not to answer that question, because my answer is “something at the local philharmonic” and people seem to think that’s not the right answer and I can’t figure out why.

    12. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Favorite Icebreakers would be an excellent Ask The Readers question.

      My SIL gave my spouse and I a game called Hygge. It’s a box full of conversation starting questions intended to get people comfortable opening up without being awkward or intrusive. Think “describe a kind thing you did for another person” or “If you had an extra 4 hours each day, what would you do with them?” It was the best gift she could have given an introvert who often has to break the ice with others.

    13. Distracted Librarian*

      A colleague used one yesterday that I really liked. Choose an item within arm’s reach and tell us why it’s important to you – so basically show and tell with something you keep in your workspace. It was a) optional and b) fun.

    14. Era*

      There was one at my last job where a presenter would pull up a webpage that had a daily rebus (one of those puzzles where an image represents a saying) and the group would collectively try to guess what it was — I really enjoyed it. Tragically I didn’t save the website and now I can’t find it, but it felt like a nice level of engagement to get people thinking without putting anyone much on the spot.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        My Big Boss would ask Family Feud questions in staff meetings from his Family Feud question of the day calendar.

        Worked surprisingly well to change the meeting culture enough to make them bearable.

    15. Believeitornot-it'sme*

      A speaker at a conference I was at asked, “What color are you bringing here today?” I am someone who loathes ice breakers and I loved it! It’s low stakes, you don’t have to explain anything, and most folks can name a color that fits where they are in the moment.

      I agree with other commenters in this thread that ice breakers that are low stakes, don’t require much thought, and don’t require you to remember what others have said are the best. I experience a lot of anxiety when doing most ice breakers that I can’t focus on what others are saying, this defeating the purpose of the activity (for me anyway).

      1. E. Chauvelin*

        It might be the autism but my reaction to “What color are you bringing here today” is split between “What?” and “This is probably one of those things that’s actually meaningless and I should just make up something random.” I don’t think I could answer it meaningfully unless I was given a chart of what each color was.

    16. Liz*

      I know of a choir which almost fell apart over what I would have thought was an innocuous and fun question: “What is the worst type of pasta?”

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        See, I think if you went with “best type of pasta” it would’ve gone better. Focusing on the negative, you’re going to end up annoying someone who loves macaroni if you say macaroni is the worst. But if you say penne is the best, that’s less…confrontational, I guess? The macaroni lover can still say they think macaroni is the best, and everyone can move on from there. It’s easier to say “oh, I get why you might like that better” than “how dare you insult MY favorite.”

    17. Luva*

      I had a good one recently: split into groups of 3 and find 5 things you all have in common, then merge into two big groups and find 3 things, then merge into one big group and find one thing. It was surprisingly difficult!

    18. Media Monkey*

      i used to have a big list! we do a lot of creativity icebreakers and my favourite is for everyone to hold a piece of paper behind their back and tear it into the shape of an animal (giraffes and elephants are popular as they are distinctive). best one wins some sweets.

  5. New Senior Mgr*

    I’ve only read through number 4 so far and I’m horrified! My condolences to employees who have had to put up with these shenanigans. Just ugh!

  6. Alex*

    I don’t know why #8 broke my funny bone but I can’t stop laughing picturing this. WTF.

    1. PrettySticks*

      Oh man, I’m alone in my home office, so I was trying to figure out what that would look like…. and you’re basically pelvic thrusting at each other? Forget my funny bone, it broke my brain.

    2. Fives*

      This was mine. I honestly can’t remember any one else, I just remember my mortification when it was happening.

  7. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 6, I wish I could have been in the room when Bob saw your test scores, because I would have been crying with laughter in a way you all couldn’t in front of your new boss. I’m petty that way, and I am also a member of Mensa. But don’t tell anyone, I’ll deny it.

    1. Silver Robin*

      That was a delicious read, though I am sorry the OP got stuck with somebody so insecure in charge of their team.

    2. Forty Years In the Hole*

      This was “chef’s kiss.” Also, Bob…be careful what you ask for.

    3. Chauncy Gardener*

      #6 was EPIC!!

      Reminds of the missing stair at ex toxic job. The MS was really smart and that was his excuse to treat everyone he thought was “dumber” than him super poorly.
      So I had to have a call with him (as HR) to tell him, yet again, that this was unacceptable. And he was saying “But it’s so hard to me to slow down and they can’t keep up with me and it’s really frustrating to be so intelligent” (yes my eyes rolled back so hard they actually hurt).
      So I said ooh, aaah, geez, what’s your IQ? He told me. And I said, well, mine happens to be 50 points higher than yours and I’m not a total jerk to everyone.
      Dead silence
      I’d like to say there was an amazing turnaround, but there wasn’t. But he was less bad.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        My favorite quote that I try to keep in mind at work, given I work with a bunch of smart people: “We’re all smart here. Distinguish yourself by being kind.”

    4. Poor Bob being outranked*

      Did anyone tell Bob Mensa is the high IQ society with the lowest entry qualification?? Intertel (1 in 100), Triple Nine Society (1 in 1,000), and Prometheus Society (1 in 30,000?) all require at least one standard deviation higher IQs than Mensa (1 in 50)..

      1. Cheeky Nandos*

        Don’t forget the Mega Society (1 in 1,000,000)! Not that that can be reliably measured accurately with current testing…

        1. Poor Bob being outranked*

          I can’t guess how insufferable the members of those organizations must be.

          A lot less than you think. Pele didn’t brag about soccer, Kobe didn’t brag about basketball, etc. Richard Feynman just did himself, he didn’t have to brag about his IQ…

          The really intelligent ones can match the tone and content level of their audience well enough to mask the differences.

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            This. You probably have no idea how all the people around you score on an IQ test.

            But also, yes, these tests have a lot of built-in biases. So scores don’t really translate into how smart somebody is in a given situation.

            Also, code-switching is a thing. What makes Sheldon funny is that he can’t code switch. What makes a lot of POC characters on television funny is that they refuse to code switch. What often makes life difficult for neurodivergent people is that can’t recognize when codes have switched or need to be switched.

            Testing somebody’s actual intelligence in a given situation makes about as much sense as basing your estimate of their intelligence on how much they like cherry pie.

          2. DataSci*

            Eh, anyone in those societies values IQ enough to take an official test. I have no idea what my IQ is and don’t really care. The last time I was tested I was in elementary school, for the gifted and talented program, and they told my parents the number but not me.

            1. The Shenanigans*

              Well to be fair they could have been given one in school or taken one for a diagnostic reason. Both of those are true in my case.

          3. metadata minion*

            I can’t speak to what he was like in person, but Feynman comes off as insufferably smug in his autobiographies.

            1. JustaTech*

              And horrifyingly misogynistic.
              I read “Surely you’re joking” before college and I was all like “he’s so cool!”. After college I read another one of his memoirs and was like “First, eww, second, he sounds exhausting to be around.”

    5. ferrina*

      The people that brag about being the smartest person in the room are almost never the smartest person in the room.

      1. Auntie Social*

        A scary brilliant litigator at our 100+ firm would let others talk during games, competing, etc. Told me “never underestimate being underestimated”.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I am a litigator too, though I am not claiming to be any kind of crazy brilliant, but I absolutely adhere to this philosophy! And among the attorneys I come up against, the truly successful ones who get the best outcomes for their clients are never the ones who are showing off!

    6. LikesToSwear*

      Honestly, I was almost cry laughing as well. But that was seriously a failure on the part of management because either 1) they were not clear about who was being managed and why they were bringing in an outside hire or 2) just a flat out bad hire because the guy was just an egotistical jerk.

    7. Quill*

      I would have a visceral dislike of Bob from the beginning, so I’m very pleased he spent his time there miserable in a way that he engineered himself.

      1. Esprit de l'escalier*

        If only. In fact it says he made everyone else miserable for the next 2 years until he left.

    8. Goldenrod*

      “I got to go first. My fun fact was “IQ tests are racist,” and my score was 28 points higher than Bob’s.”

      I love this so much.

    9. DistractedDeveloper*

      I got so excited when I got my IQ tested as a young team, searching the internet for like-minded individuals who’d want to have “intellectual conversation”.

      Well, I realized pretty quickly that the people who like to talk about their own intelligence are pretty unpleasant to be around. Mensa-level intelligence is useful for fighting imposter syndrome, pushing back against the Bobs of the world, and not much else.

      1. DistractedDeveloper*

        And that’s without even taking into account the heavy biases and inherent arbitrariness that the OP touched on, making IQ tests anything but reliable.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Real intelligence is something people can observe. If you feel the need to spout a test score at people to convince them, you clearly aren’t making it obvious in your choices and behaviors.

    10. Jessica*

      Anyone who wants others to know their IQ is alm0st certainly a walking exhibit for why IQ is meaningless.

      1. Boof*

        The IQ test was apparently originally developed as a means of figuring out what level to place kids in public school during the French Revolution? Which makes a lot more sense than pretending that everyone has an intrinsic level of intelligence that is continuous throughout their entire life.

        1. Jessica*

          Especially since science shows that IQ scores in children are more closely correlated with *how motivated the child is to succeed at the test* than they are with any other metric.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          Yeah, the original IQ test is now called the Stanford-Binet test and was created to identify students who needed remedial help. Fun fact: there have been multiple iterations of IQ testing, the most commonly used one currently are the Wechsler tests(there’s one for adults and one for children). The things IQ tests assess for have changed pretty drastically as the definition of what intelligence is has changed.

  8. H3llifIknow*

    So, honestly, I think #11 would be a fun game for adults after a few drinks, if you have the right group of friends. I could see some of the titles being hilarious. But, an icebreaker at work? Oh haaayyyuuullll no.

    1. Le Sigh*

      Yeah I’ve played a version of this. It’s pretty fun. But not with my boss nearby.

    2. Ama*

      Honestly several of these would be appropriate for non-work groups. Some of them struck me as better for a middle to high school summer camp — the underwear one I definitely did in college. I do kind of wonder if some of these happened because someone searched “fun icebreakers” on the internet and didn’t bother to notice the list they found wasn’t supposed to be for workplace icebreakers.

      The foot one…uh maybe a marriage retreat? It feels way too intimate for most audiences.

    3. H.Regalis*

      Same. #11 made me laugh out loud, but I would want to play it with friends, not coworkers.

      1. Quill*

        Yes. There are some circumstances where you can play games like that, and it’s “where you could play truth or dare and it wouldn’t (necessarily) be weird.” Same goes for playing cards against humanity.

    4. Media Monkey*

      i think that very much depends on your office – mine would think it was hilarious!

    5. Phryne*

      I can see it working at my workplace, but definitely not all workplaces. Know your audience…

  9. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

    i knew, i just KNEW he would answer pig as soon as i saw the animal prompt.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Yes, because a friend of mine used and abused that joke regularly, but NOT AT work!!!!

          1. WhatFloatsYourGoats*

            Ok, if you’re wondering about my qualifications I’m an animal science and zoology double degree and I still have my copy of pregnancy and parturition textbook as they filled this thing with so many fun facts it’s ridiculous. Swine duration is anywhere from 5-20 minutes. Sounds good right? Not the best however! You see they also find the average number of times they can ah-hm before being done for the day. Swine average 3. Camels on the other hand have a duration from 6-20 minutes as well but average 23 matings in a 24 hour period. Apparently rumor has it that desert warlords would put stones inside female camels to hopefully trick their bodies into not going into heat otherwise all their pack animals would be useless for a full day while they got busy.

            1. allathian*

              I knew that sows have long orgasms, but do boars as well? I’m hoping not, because the guy sounds misogynistic enough that he’d be horrified if he knew what he wanted was to be a female of any species.

              My fun factoid is that Disney got it wrong with Santa’s reindeer. Reindeer are the only species of deer where both sexes have horns. The males drop theirs after the rutting season in the fall, but the females keep theirs until the spring. This gives the pregnant does a competitive advantage when they dig for lichen under the snow.

        1. Quill*

          I didn’t! Sounds like a fact (or factoid) that was widely circulated at a specific time or in a specific context.

        2. mondaysamiright*

          I didn’t know it either. Apparently, I have much to learn about animal orgasms!

          1. WhatFloatsYourGoats*

            May I point you to a good book? Pathways to Pregnancy and Parturition is the textbook we used for Reproduction class for my Animal Science degree. Every chapter ends with a lot of fun facts regarding reproduction. For example, Appalachian folk apparently thought opossums mated through their nose since the males have bifurcated… members. How that worked for transport to the uterus was apparently not considered.

        3. RVA Cat*

          I did not know this fact about pigs. I was guessing he’d pick bonobos for a similar NSFW reason, but that’s more…quantity than quality.

        4. Sharpie*

          I didn’t know it. The weird fact I know about pigs is that they can get sunburn, which is one reason they wallow in mud.

          1. WhatFloatsYourGoats*

            Actually the main reason they wallow in mud because they have no sweat glands, it’s mostly the white pigs that’ll burn, the dark breeds are fine. But if you’re wondering, white pigs are not smart enough to stay in the barn during the heat of the day and will roast themselves. I used to raise them for FFA.

        5. linger*

          See also Mary Roach (2008) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, which contains a chapter describing the prescribed procedure in Denmark for increasing fertilization rates from artificial insemination of pigs. Which amounts to mimicking, as accurately as possible, the boar’s typical activity.

  10. an infinite number of monkeys*

    #5: I’m actually kind of intrigued by the idea of two co-facilitators taking on a “good cop, bad cop” dynamic. I might incorporate this into my next customer service training session.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “We’re willing to do an extra worksheet for Drusilla; she saved us from Griselda’s dance challenge.”

    2. Megan*

      Curious about what you would see as a benefit of that? Surely people would respond better to two facilitators who are equally nice/pleasant. What would a gain be of one person being a dick and one person being nice?!

    3. Isabelle*

      I want to praise #5 for their quick thinking. The people there probably breathed a huge sigh of relief internally.

  11. Rainy*

    #10 is weird and intrusive and inappropriate but could also get some (truthful!) responses that would kill the conversation deader than vaudeville. And I would happily do so!

    1. RVA Cat*

      90s flashback of Noah Wiley as Carter on ER: “I was twelve.”
      It was not about kissing.

    2. Tiger Snake*

      It also seems like it kind of forces people out of the closet?

      Like “I’ve never had one, I’m aro-ace” is not what I want to say at an icebreaker.

      1. Late*

        yeah, ‘Anxiety disorder, I was late 20-ies and very drunk, did not enjoy’ is not a fun story for work really.

        1. Rainy*

          I mean, mine is “with my high school boyfriend, who was tragically killed not long after”.

  12. Anna Badger*

    the person who joined the zoom call first either had a brilliant rest of their day wandering around feeling fly, or it totally broke them. there is no middle ground here.

    1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

      I didn’t realise zoom was this organised, I thought it was totally random and everyone saw a different layout!

      1. Stripes*

        With software, the laziest way to build something usually results in a consistent-but-arbitrary pattern like this. Randomizing it would have taken work!

      2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I’m not convinced it is! Not all the time. I agree it loads everyone in that way to start, but the grids do shuffle sometimes. I’ve been in meetings where we tried introducing ourselves “in order” but we weren’t all looking at the same grid. Some actions will shift it, like hiding self view or if someone talks. This happens most when there are a lot of attendees — if it’s multiple pages of people, it seems to push up people who talk and/or are on video to the first page.

        1. La Triviata*

          When I’m on a Zoom call, the pictures of the other people on the call shuffle. Constantly. Gives me motion sickness. (And I keep my camera off)

      1. Wired Wolf*

        I always hide self-view on our family Zoom meetings….for some reason though my mom insists on having it turned on (she doesn’t like my backgrounds, so feels a strange need to make sure I’m not using one). Self view for me is just distracting, moreso when there are two of us in frame. Mom likes showing off her knitting projects and pushing me out of frame…I’ve told her to use her own laptop, but no *headscratch*

  13. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

    Oh my goodness… thanking everything that I’ve never been in any sessions with ice breakers like these! I wonder if asking fave TV programme goes too far.

    #5 you are my facilitator HERO and I hope that if I ever find myself in an event like that, I channel you!

    I was on an optional Getting To Know You event this week as our wider team don’t interact much. The people running it thought their categories including of ‘worst ever haircut’, ‘most embarrassing moment’ were hilarious and what we all wanted to share with our colleagues… pretty innocuous, but no.

    1. DataSci*

      Please no pop culture. People get super judgy if you don’t watch enough TV to have acceptable and up to date answers.

  14. Agile Phalanges*

    Plenty of these are horrific, but that Mensa one is EPIC. I love it! I wonder how he enjoyed his two years with the team of geniuses.

    1. Esme_Weatherwax*

      Yes, this is the favorite story I have ever read on this blog, and it’s going to run through my mind in every meeting I have with my vastly overconfident, underqualified boss. Whoever sent this in, THANK YOU.

  15. cmdrspacebabe*

    It wasn’t an ‘icebreaker’, per se, but many jobs ago at a baby shower, they decided to play ‘Labour Or Orgasm’.

    The game was played by showing screenshots of a woman’s face from either a birth video, or a porn video. Attendees would then guess whether the expression was someone giving birth, or the ‘climax’ of a porno.

    This was not out of character for the office.

    1. Rainy*

      I think I would excuse myself to the restroom and go back to my desk. Baby showers at my office are pretty amusing, in that they’re just parties with silly games and cake and then the giant present we all went in on is wheeled in (it’s almost always a stroller system).

      Sometimes we all do an activity that results in presents, like tie-dyed burp cloths, or onesies decorated with puff paint, and those are fun. The games are usually sort of takes on our work, so for example if we did financial planning, we would gather in teams and then do a fantastical financial plan for the baby and present our plans to the parents, who then judge them and award a prize. …it’s more fun than it sounds, honest. The last baby shower had people rolling on the floor laughing.

      1. cmdrspacebabe*

        The work-related-activity game concept actually sounds kind of brilliant. I may need to suggest it someday!!

        1. Rainy*

          It’s actually SUPER hilarious, at least to us. If you try it, try and remember to let me know if it worked, I’ve never seen it in any other workplace.

          1. cmdrspacebabe*

            I remember doing something a bit like it as a group exercise in university – writing and presenting communications plans for various scenarios. With appropriately humorous (preferably non-birth-or-porn-related) scenarios to work from, I think it would be amazing!!

    2. Silver Robin*

      That is an incredible game and would have me crying laughing but it NOT AT WORK?!

      Definitely marking that for any future baby showers I need to organize though XD

    3. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Please tell me there was at least one clip from the movie “Orgasmic Birth” where the answer would be “both!”

  16. Meow*

    #5 is an icebreaker I’ve had to do before, more than once, but when I was a kid. It was really common for overnight summer camps, girl scout meetings, homeroom class activity, etc. I hated it as a kid so I remember it vividly but god I’d hate it even more as an adult in a professional context.

    1. Anonymous Demi ISFJ*

      I remember it from youth theater! (It does work as an icebreaker in such a setting IF you say your name as you do your dance move. But it would be very weird in a professional/work setting!)

    2. Goldenrod*

      #5, I honestly don’t think even kids should be forced to do this!

      The only way I can see this being okay is if it was a meeting OF DANCERS. Maybe also cheerleaders. That’s it.

      1. Arabella Flynn*

        I have done this at intros. I am a professional dancer, and it was the first rehearsal for a piece where a large group of us would be collaboratively improvising a lot of the movement outside on grassy terrain. And even we screwed up a lot – the point was not to succeed, but to not take things too seriously, and cope gracefully with whatever movement you planned falling apart.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I hated it as a kid too, but am weirdly okay with dancing in public (in a fun setting) as an adult. But this is a no-go at a work event. It’d be fun for a social event that at it’s core involves being silly – like training volunteers for a kid-centered event. Even then, people should be able to opt out.

    4. Tenebrae*

      My grade one teacher was very into dance. She choreographed routines as part of school assemblies and everything. We did this on the first day of class. When the guy next to me’s turn came, he just fell over backwards onto the floor.
      There was an audible smack.
      (She made him choose a new move).

  17. Just me*

    The first kiss one I would have said on my forehead from my mom in the car on the way home.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Honestly I don’t really have recollection of my first kiss.

      Maybe I’m weird about this (I am weird), but my first kiss wasn’t life altering or embarressing enough to recall clearly. And I didn’t run to anyone to talk about my first kiss when it happened.

      1. Sorrischian*

        I could absolutely spin the story of my first kiss to be fairly dramatic/romantic – we’d had to evacuate the building due to a fire alarm during a rainstorm on opening night of the play we were in, we were huddled in full costume under a very small awning across the street, and that’s when he asked if he could kiss me…

        The actual experience was very anticlimactic.

      2. Breaking Dishes*

        I don’t recall a first kiss either. I might make one up if I thought others were making them up-but I’d probably not think to do that on my own.

      3. DannyG*

        I would end my first kiss story with “… and I put flowers on her grave every year on the anniversary of that first kiss.” Which is the truth, then I would walk out.

    2. Micah*

      Aww, that’s the sweetest answer!
      And the sweetest way of saying, “That’s all you’re gonna get from me!”

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I would be happy to retire at any point after that meeting. I would have peaked. I want to buy them all a beverage of their choice.

  18. soontoberetired*

    I would have walked out at #12.. And number 11! what the heck was she thinking?

  19. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I might scream if someone touched my feet. I can only do touching if I know what I’m going into and a regular work thing is not where I’d expect touching

  20. orchivist*

    ok to be a little fair to the co-facilitator in number 5, a VERSION of this is a great intro activity for kids, or dance or theater classes. I’ve been in groups that did it.

    the way that we did it was each person would do their dance move and everyone would do it back (in the way that worked for their body) while saying their name. For many people a visual or movement is easier to remember than a person’s name just said aloud. For kids etc, it can be helpful to have an excuse to do wiggling! and it can even be a little part of a warmup for a class that involves physicality. But doing it such that the last person in line has to remember every single person’s choreo is wild.

    another key element was the two organizers went first and both did really corny/simple dance moves (I think disco arms and head nod/fist pump) so no one felt they had to do a solo from swan lake.

    that said, terrible for work!! especially if people are dressed professionally, in heels/skirts/blazers!

  21. RandomQuestion*

    Apologies if this is off topic, but I was wondering about consequences for not going along with this stuff – there are several of these that I would simply refuse to participate in: the underwear, the first kiss, the violation.

    Has anyone simply refused to partake in an ice-breaker that was inappropriate? Is it likely that a workplace dysfunctional enough to use them would fire you for refusing to participate? I’m just kind of wondering what the push-back would be for an employee who refused; presumably one could be written up or even disciplined, right? And would there be social consequences, like would the other employees who DID suck it up and participate be resentful that one “got away with” not having to?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s highly unlikely to have real consequences. You can usually just cheerfully say, “Oh, I’m going to pass on this one, thank you.” The exception would be if you’re working somewhere dysfunctional that is already bothered by what they see as a pattern of you not being engaged in their culture — but even then it would be about the pattern, not one instance of opting out.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s pretty easy to just say “I’ll pass” and shrug and shake your head if pushed – they’re trying to get a meeting started, they usually won’t linger on you too long. You might get asked about it afterward, at which point you can raise your concerns. But the consequences – punitive, social, or otherwise – are minimal.

      I have shut down inappropriate icebreakers in meetings but I am positioned to do that, I don’t expect that to be the automatic reaction from everyone. Though I will say: any time I’ve had to do that I have been profusely thanked.

    3. Forty Years In the Hole*

      Ex-military here. Attended a conference with/for military family support staff: a mix of civilian and military staff, most with many years’ experience/seniority. So…somewhat conservative, hierarchical but ready to hoist in new ideas, processes etc.

      Day 1- the usual roundtable “introduce yourselves” stuff. Ok, simple courtesy. Some silly games, some eye rolls. Then the facilitator says: “ok, everyone hug the person on your right, then the person on your left.”

      Uh, nope. You’d have thought you were at Mme Tussaud’s wax museum, cuz virtually no one moved. A couple women freaked and left the room.

      The follow-on dinner/murder mystery was ok, but geez, read the room/know your audience.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        > everyone hug the person on your right, then the person on your left

        With no more instruction than that, I see some logistical problems…

        1. 2e asteroid*

          “In order to avoid collisions, please use the left-hand side of the staircase to go up and the right-hand side to go down.”

    4. Rara Avis*

      At our meetings every other week, my boss likes to do — not exactly icebreakers, but turn to your neighbor and discuss some work-related prompt. Sometimes I don’t have the spoons, and I tell my neighbor I can’t think of anything. (Like my best takeaway from a retreat I didn’t attend, due to being stuck at home waiting for a negative Covid test, or the best thing about a major change to our working life which I hated.) So I listen carefully to the other person and try to ask them questions which will keep them talking and fill up the time …

    5. Quill*

      Not technically inappropriate (It was just something that I technically couldn’t really participate in) but I’ve had a couple icebreakers where I’ve had to decline. (Example: I can’t do the everybody adds one dance move to the dance, because it involves standing on one leg) If the place is reasonable, nobody even remembers in a couple days. If the place isn’t reasonable, it usually takes more than one icebreaker to have anyone after you, specifically.

  22. Forrest Rhodes*

    #2 The mushrooms. The tempting response would be, “Oh, of course I’ve done mushrooms! They were a great help when I was trying to quit LSD.”

    1. SweetestCin*

      I could absolutely see my younger self pulling a “of course, they’re delicious on pizza” with a very innocent, wide eyed smile!

  23. Falling Diphthong*

    Was the Tik Tok skipper the one to suggest this ice breaker?

    Someone in the thread observed that whenever the ice breaker was weirdly specific (your most memorable bear attack) it was because the facilitator was convinced their entry would “win.”

    1. Rainy*

      “I have been advised by counsel NOT to comment on the most memorable time I attacked a bear.”

    2. NotBatman*

      That is an excellent point I hadn’t considered. Might explain the Scar Story one as well — if someone has a great story about “the time a log flume broke mid-ride and now I have this shiny patch on my arm” then they might genuinely assume everyone else has something that’s just as harmless/fun.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Anyone who needs one can borrow my “I spilled boiling hot ramen noodles on my hand during an all-nighter in college” scar story. Sure a lot better for sharing at work than the surgical scars from cancer treatment.

        1. Rainy*

          My scars are all really boring. Rat bite. Cat bite. Dog scratch. Surgery. Caramel burn. That sort of thing.

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    #6 sounds like GrandBoss really didn’t want to get stuck with Bob but was outvoted by someone who thought Bob was a genius.

  25. ENFP in Texas*

    #6 “We had a team meeting to meet our new boss, an external hire. Grandboss basically said “here’s Bob” and left the room.”

    Sounds like Grandboss had already had quite enough of “I’m in Mensa” Bob and decided to chuck him in the deep end.

    1. SweetestCin*

      I read it as similar, specifically as “okay, Bob can go (bleep) around and find out with his team….”

      1. Rainy*

        Yes, this seems extremely likely, especially if Grandboss was a reasonable human and Bob had already spent the morning pissing them off.

        1. Quill*

          I dunno what OP’s job was, but I’m imagining Grandboss throwing Bob to the engineers like one might throw a chicken carcass to a pit of alligators.

          1. Margaret Cavendish*

            This is a perfect mental image, thank you! I hope that’s exactly what happened.

          2. Poor Bob being outranked*

            This. Having a top 2% IQ is table stakes to get into a good Engineering school of any flavor. Graduating with decent GPA takes serious brainpower.

  26. Holly*

    Many years ago in a training meeting the icebreaker was, stand in a circle, now turn sideways, now put your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you (It’s worth noting that the room was so small that there was no space to step out from the circle. At this point I’m imagining some sort of country dancing or hokey cokey dance…).
    .. Now give the person in front a shoulder massage while receiving a massage from the person behind you. *shudder*
    I spent the rest of the training hyperventilating till I could escape to the ladies and cry hysterically.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Oh my gosh. I’m vicariously freaking out on your behalf. That’s absolutely freaking horrible and I want to email the person who did that and tell them all about themselves.

    2. Panicked*

      I’m a *very* physical touch averse person. If I’m not married to you or didn’t give birth to you, please stay far away from me. This would legitimately make me walk out.

    3. Elitist Semicolon*

      This prompted some discussion on Musician Twitter recently when someone asked whether choirs still did this at the start of rehearsals. The level of horror reached in the thread was impressive.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        My children’s choir director used to have us do this. I despised it vigorously.

      2. OrigCassandra*

        Yes, but every choir I’ve been in that did this, it was opt-in and nobody so much as blinked at anybody who didn’t do it.

      3. Former singer*

        I haven’t thought about doing that in middle school choir in about 20 years! Wow. It never seemed odd to me back then, just one more indignity to tolerate in school, but now I strongly disapprove, both for myself at work and for the choir kids of today.

      4. nightengale*

        I was in a chorus that did this.

        I hate being touched. (I now know that I am autistic) and that goes double for touch I can’t see.

        After a few weeks I said I would leave the chorus if I had to continue because instead of relaxing me it made every muscle in my body tighten up. They made me continue to give back rubs (sorry for the person who got mine I have no idea how to do it) but at least I could stop receiving them.

    4. Bazzalikeschasingbirds*

      You’ve just made me remember, I’ve done this at a conference! I knew the person that did it to me, so it didn’t worry me, but a complete stranger, um no thanks. It must a thing facilitators get taught to do for ice breakers.

  27. Bluz*

    I’m horrified as I read all of these. Who in the world thought any of these ice breakers were okay to use? It really makes you wonder. I’ll keep shuddering and thank my organization for not putting us through these painful icebreakers.

    1. WhoopsieDaisy*

      Not an icebreaker, but at my previous company, we had a Christmas party at my boss’ house, where we played Cards Against Humanity. I was completely mortified to read the cards aloud in front of my fairly new coworkers. Won’t happen twice.

  28. Choggy*

    For the rest of my career, I am confident in my ability to respond with a resounding “No” to ice-breakers. I remember a few from my younger days when I felt I had no choice but to go along, but not any more! Of course one of them reminded me of a cringe-worthy exercise where we had to face another employee with our hands up, not touching, but just stand there starting at each other until someone broke the stare. I lasted about 30 seconds, on purpose.

  29. Sparkles McFadden*

    I just don’t know what to do with any of this. I wish I could un-know most of it right now.

  30. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #1 – underwear matching: I would have been so tempted to say “none”.

    1. Phony Genius*

      I was thinking the same. Either that or something absurd like “polka dot” or “purple with pink hearts.”

      1. badger*

        never in my life have I been so grateful that I regularly get silly things like rainbow unicorns or dinosaurs, where I can be reasonably sure that I will be the only one in the room wearing that print and just bypass all the awkward altogether.

        1. metadata minion*

          And finding out that yes, someone else has that same pair of underwear with cartoon octopuses reading books would somehow be a less intimate thing to share than finding out that someone else was wearing lacy red undies.

          1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

            You can find out who else has a MeUndies subscription.

            (I had a colleague wearing socks that had the same distinctive pattern that my underwear did [bacon and eggs]. I knew exactly where she got her socks from.)

          2. MagicEyes*

            I will not be happy until I have underwear with cartoon octopuses reading books, even if I have to make them myself.

            1. metadata minion*

              They’re from TomboyX, but they don’t make them anymore! I intend to wear the pair I have until they fall apart.

      2. Trillian*

        I’d have been biting my tongue on, “Oooh, that takes me right back to the golden age of obscene phone calls … I never told any of them, either.”

      1. DryRoasted*

        This made me laugh out loud. What I wouldn’t give to be in a meeting where this was the ice breaker so I could wander around shouting “skid marks? Anyone?”

    2. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      I have visions of someone wandering around the room asking, “Commando, commando? Anyone else commando?” Shudder

  31. NotImportant*

    OMG, #8… I would rather poke out my own eyes than participate in that icebreaker.

  32. Amber Rose*

    I saw the dancing thing as a competition on TV, except the participants were the willing members of a boy band. Yeah, it was fun to watch, but they were professional entertainers!

    1. Rainy*

      Oh, yes, a lot of these things hit differently in one’s actual office as opposed to wherever the organizer saw them demonstrated–we have a recovering Theatre Kid in our office and periodically someone forgets why we don’t let them handle meeting agendas.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Yeah, there’s a huge difference between “fun warm-up for the improv group” and “fun warm-up for the finance meeting”, and it’s rare icebreaker indeed that would work seamlessly in both groups.

        …although I am now trying to imagine an improv group responding to “what’s your favorite Excel feature?”

  33. Blarg*

    Context: Conference for people who worked in prenatal case management (usually people with high psychosocial risk). Session on assessment/interviewing skills. So the facilitator starts with:

    I want you to turn to the person next to you and tell them about your most recent sexual experience.

    My coworker looked to me and said, “How much time do you have?”

    Of course, for most people, this got the reaction the speaker intended — demonstrating how awkward it was for us, and how much worse must it be for the clients we are speaking to.

    This was nearly 20 years ago and I still giggle every time I think about it.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Not quite an icebreaker, but a similar use of a teaching moment: I had a professor in college who, on the very first day of class, assigned us to write a paper on one of two topics:

      1. What an orgasm feels like to me
      2. Why we enrolled in this human sexuality class

      On the second day of class, he said that all of us had chosen option 2, and that was exactly what he expected. Then he talked some about how the case studies, etc we would learn from in this class demonstrated a vulnerability that none of us were willing to give, and outlining his expectations that this class would be respectful of things we learned about that we might not agree with or relate to.
      I liked that approach!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I am so curious if he ever got an essay on the first one.

        As a former Composition instructor, I would assume he did every once in a while, & I can imagine what that student was like.

  34. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I am very much a person who will say shocking things for the lulz, but, ALL of these “ice breakers” are making me imagine Edvard Munch’s painting”The Scream”.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      FYI, somehow I have been lucky enough to be in a boring industry where the ice breaker is “Tell everyone your name, hometown, current project, and a hobby”.

      Once we became heads on the MS Teams screen, hometown became “where you’re sitting”.

  35. Ivana Tinkle*

    A colleague of mine did something very similar to number 11 at an office quiz night – his name was Paul & he called it the ‘Paul or Porn’ round & we had to guess if it was made up by him or the title of a genuine porn film!

    1. ecnaseener*

      …all I can think of is how much work it must have been for him to check that each of his made-up titles didn’t already exist!

    2. Rainy*

      The best (and mostly work-appropriate) version of this is “Real Movie or Troy McClure”. You can find a comprehensive list of the oeuvre of Troy McClure on the Simpsons wiki, and it’s hilarious. “The Revenge of Abe Lincoln” (Troy McClure), “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (yes, actually a real movie, the fight scene on top of the moving train will change your life).

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          I think more than a few of us could come up with “AAM letter or my bookshelf.”

        2. Faith the Twilight Slayer*

          And now I just read a fascinating article about how drugs are named and the “rules” for it, and I never would have thought about it without AAM. Thanks Alison!

        3. pls don't try to guess my name*

          Do I get bonus points there for my birth name being a prescription drug?

          (I was around first, at least. No one named me *after* a prescription drug.)

          1. Rainy*

            You are the third one I’ve known (unless, I suppose, you are actually one of the other two, in which case hi).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        AL:VH is in fact way better of a movie than it has any business being. And I really enjoy their interpretation of Mary Todd.

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          The book it’s based on is ALSO surprisingly good. I read it for a laugh, but it was actually really well done!

      2. Ivana Tinkle*

        Oh god this version is so much better – Troy McClure has so many great film titles!

      3. Here for the petty stories*

        We had a work quiz where one of the rounds was “Spoons or not Spoons”, after a UK chain of pubs which often have ridiculous names (eg there is one which is genuinely called the “Chief Justice of the Common Pleas”).

  36. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

    I hate ice breakers. I’m an adult. I either already know the people here, or I’m never gonna see them again. I don’t need to break the ice. The last time I had to do one was a “fun fact about me” and I said ” A fun fact about me is I hate ice breakers” another time I got up and left for 10 minutes. When my supervisor came looking for me, I said I needed a reasonable accommodation as ice breakers triggered my anxiety.

    1. Amanda*

      Really, you’re not ever going to be interested in getting to know new people? No new friends or work relationships or romantic partners, ever? I understand not liking icebreakers, but don’t close yourself off from the possibility of making new connections!

      1. Aquamarine*

        But that’s the thing – I think they tend to be a terrible way of getting to know someone or making a new connection (even the “good” ones, not just the horror shows described here!).
        I think just chatting with people naturally for a while before the meeting starts is much, much more effective.
        But I get it, YMMV.

  37. Scott*

    This was not work-related, but still the most awkward ice-breaker I’ve ever sat through.

    A church I went to years ago was holding a sort of meet and greet for new members of the congregation. This was held regularly due to the frequency of people moving in and out of our area. The usual procedure was to have everyone in the room introduce themselves with their name, their occupation or some other trivial personal information, and their answer to a fun “ice-breaker” question posed to the room. This particular meeting fell close to Valentine’s Day, so the facilitator’s assistant thought a fun ice-breaker question for the day would be “Who is/was your biggest celebrity crush?”

    The facilitator apparently had not screened this ice-breaker question and felt it was inappropriate for the setting. He interrupted before anyone had a chance to start answering and stated as such, and matter-of-factly instructed us all to skip the ice-breaker question and just give our names. Assistant was very enthusiastic about the Celebrity Crush question and insisted on it. They went back and forth a few times and the facilitator quickly grew visibly frustrated. Finally the facilitator boomed “SKIP! THE QUESTION!!” in what was supposed to be a very lighthearted, fun, and welcoming gathering.

    Everyone in the room quickly gave their names as the assistant hung his head at the front looking like a scolded puppy. That meeting could not have ended quickly enough.

    1. Really!*

      Oh man, I recently had a conversation where the celebrity crush question was the other person’s example of an awful ice breaker!!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this.

        That said, I think that white lies are underrated. When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, nobody says you have to tell the truth assuming there even is one.

        Lots of people never have celebrity crushes, either because they couldn’t care less about celebrity culture or because they’re somewhere on the aro/ace/demi spectrum and either can’t imagine having romantic feelings for anyone or at least not for someone they don’t know fairly well already.

  38. noncommittal pseudonym*

    I forgot to submit mine when these were open.

    We had an admin who organized our off-site retreat who looooved ice breakers. Think, extrovert admin to a whole slew of introvert geek-types. She came up with a few doozies, but her worst was that everyone had to write down their most embarrassing experience on a piece of paper, then each would be read and everyone had to guess whose most humiliating experience it was. The person who matched the most won.

    I walked out, though quietly enough that most people didn’t realize that I wasn’t in the room. I ended up complaining to the department lead. The admin moved laterally to a conference planning position from our science division shortly afterword.

  39. Adverb*

    I have a winner here.
    We were a combination of a newly hired team (5 people) from Cleveland, and a team which had been with the company for 10+ years (15+ people) from Columbus. We were in Columbus for a team building session. The team building session was being led by a professional facilitator. He started out by welcoming everyone and asking our EVP to say a few words to set the tone for the session. She said (and I’m paraphrasing a little bit), “I want each and every one of you to know that I can and will fire every one of you. None of you are special. Now let’s get this started.”

    The ice was broken!

  40. skiptotheloo*

    OMG #3, I have to send that to a friend. Years ago her son came home from kindergarten with a mark against him for not being able to skip. She spent like an hour with him and it suddenly she stopped “You know what, you’ll never have to skip in real life. Don’t worry about it.” And they went in and had ice cream.

    1. Rainy*

      I had a family member whose son failed the kindergarten “entry exam” many years ago because one part of the “exam” was holding up common household items and asking if the child knew their name. He had no idea what a comb was–the entire family had straight hair and they used brushes.

      1. JustaTech*

        My husband almost failed kindergarten because he didn’t know what an iron was, because his mom doesn’t iron.

    2. Rara Avis*

      Skipping is a developmental milestone, though — it could be the teacher was flagging it as a potential concern, but phrased it badly.

      1. Rainy*

        I feel like writing a kindergartener up for not having hit a developmental milestone is way past “phrased it badly”, though.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I remember having to skip around the room as part of a disability assessment in 6th grade. That wasn’t relevant to my actual problems, but I remember the guy testing me felt weird about asking a middle school student to skip and apologized for it. None of my adult PT people have felt the need to know if I can skip. I have no idea if they just stop asking after a certain age, or they’re more focused on my specific problems now rather than testing for everything, or what.

        (In 6th grade, not only could I skip, but I could jump double dutch in complicated patterns while singing. What I could not do, however, was tie my shoelaces or write neatly in cursive. I will say eventually mastering the shoelaces thing has been useful as an adult, not so much the cursive.)

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I know as a kid I skipped, but now, no. If you asked me to skip I would be flummoxed as to how to even start.

          1. allathian*

            Same. Ask me to skip and you might have to take me to the ER with a turned ankle or worse.

            I loved skipping as a kid, even though I was very uncoordinated in many ways. I could never master the skip rope thing that boxers do for training where you have to spin the rope yourself, although I could do 15 minutes without stumbling with a couple of other kids at each end of a longer rope.

        2. nightengale*

          Mostly stop asking after a certain age.

          At one point in my training I had to give kids an assessment which included skipping. Which meant disabled me had to relearn how to skip (fortunately I was able to learn.) I also had to assess how children caught a ball, which of course depended on how well (badly) I threw them the ball.

    3. Elitist Semicolon*

      I failed swimming in first grade because I couldn’t rotate my knees in the exact manner the gym teacher wanted for elementary backstroke and she made me wear a bubble for the rest of the unit despite the fact that I was on a summer swim team and could already do back crawl and butterfly. There’s a whole subset of gym teachers who are on power trips.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Wait, what kind of backstroke involves rotating your knees? Some kind of backwards breaststroke? (Also swim team, none of my schools had a pool.)

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          It’s essentially an upside-down breaststroke, yeah. But my teacher insisted that I keep my knees together and rotate my lower legs outwards instead of frog-kicking, so there I was, bubble, summer championship ribbons, and all.

          1. Retired Accountant*

            I think in swimming lessons they called that the “elementary backstroke”. Haven’t thought of that in 40 years.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          It’s called “whip kick” – very important for being able to drag a person with you, in a life-saving situation. You can hold the person’s head in your hands, and kick in a way that is efficient and doesn’t hit the person you are saving. Also, the person can’t reach you to cling onto you and drown you, if they panic – you can let go and swim away from them, if needed.

          It is just like the movements of the legs in breaststroke, but upside down from that.

      2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

        I was a swim coach for four years, and there is always some very good swimmer who can’t breaststroke kick because their toes don’t want to point out. (And then there are those of us who walk like ducks and, therefore, find it easy.) I only had one of them who I eventually couldn’t get to do it, and only because they moved too early.

        1. allathian*

          I can breaststroke kick but I never learned to crawl. I simply couldn’t learn to exhale underwater. But swimming was one of my favorite forms of exercise as a kid, I was never the slowest or clumsiest swimmer in my class.

          1. Rainy*

            For whatever reason, if I turn my head to the side underwater to prep to take a breath, water immediately shoots through my sinuses and down my throat into my stomach. If I’m exhaling, my breath comes out of one nostril and water shoots in the other. I’ve had *two* swimming instructors (as an adult! ten years apart!) watch me working on it and throw their hands up in confusion.

  41. Mostly Managing*

    At an event a few years ago (not work-related) the ice breaker was to pass around a roll of toilet paper and everyone had to take some.
    Then we were told we had to go around and share one thing about ourselves for each square we had taken.
    In context, it was ok.
    Except that I had only taken one square.
    So I said, “My name is … and I am apparently deeply suspicious of ice breaker games.”

    Most people laughed.
    The event organiser, bless her, followed up with me afterwards to make sure I was ok!

    1. Rainy*

      I had an all-division meeting last year (“how is this a good use of my time?” was my anonymous comment on their post-meeting survey) where we had to write our own ice-breaker questions on post-its and then wander around like confused ants bumping into each other answering and exchanging post-it questions. Most people’s questions were bootlicky things like “What’s your favourite part about [Division]?” but I let my inner chaos goblin loose and, determined to Make It Weird, made it REAL weird (but still SFW).

        1. Rainy*

          In my previous life, a perennial conversation topic down the pub was “Favorite case usage annnnnnd…go!”

      1. Mostly Managing*

        I’m not sure it’s legal to post that and not also share the question!! :)

          1. Quill*

            Oh hang on I have several answers… wait, that was your plan all along, wasn’t it!?

          2. Mostly Managing*

            That is actually brilliant, and I will try to remember to steal it at the earliest opportunity! :)

    2. Ccbac*

      I have done the tp icebreaker before too. always in the context of a scout or similar youth group retreat in a quasi outdoor setting and, prior to passing around the tp, the leader would say something like “oh yikes, we realize we are a little short on tp for the weekend and only have this one roll. we will see about getting some more tomorrow but in the meantime, lets pass this roll around and everyone take what they think they’ll need for the next day or so”

    3. Blarg*

      This is such a pre-Covid icebreaker. Now … you’d never waste toilet paper so brazenly. :)

  42. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Very thankful I’ve never worked anywhere that did icebreakers. Never even heard of them until I read AAM.
    Despite that, all teams I’ve been in worked together well.
    imo icebreakers are unnecessary and sound obnoxious.

    1. Aquamarine*

      Yup! For someone who hasn’t had direct experience with them, you definitely nailed it.
      Without them, people get to know each other by talking with one another about things they want to talk about. I’ve never seen an ice breaker improve a social interaction.

    2. Enai*

      Yes, anything more than “say your name and function relevant to this meeting” is sus and needs to be justified. “I think it might be fun” isn’t good enough. Do that at the office party or something, for the people who also think it might be fun.

  43. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    Are ice-breakers something fairly new in the workplace? I’ve been retired for about a decade, and had never heard of them until reading about them here in the last few years. if someone had asked any of these questions where I worked, I’d have thought they’d lost their mind. But we were a pretty sociable bunch of people who didn’t need the ice broken.

    1. Melissa*

      I think it’s just suuuuuper office-specific. It all comes down to whether the person in charge likes this kind of thing. I’ve never been asked to do an ice-breaker at work, either. But when I was a college student, some professors were real into it.

    2. Rainy*

      I think it probably varies a lot by type of workplace, but they’re not new by any means. I’ve definitely encountered them in a work setting for longer than 10 years, although I think they didn’t used to be quite so performative.

      That whole “let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves” is an icebreaker, but nobody says “as an icebreaker, tell us all your name” because icebreakers tend to be associated now with horrific nonsense like the above.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      I haven’t done them in “the office.” I have done them in work training classes where people from all over the country show up, and you’ve got to get to know each other and work together for the next 3-5 days.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I have a book club meeting tonight, and I will do an ice breaker. Which will be name, where you’re from, and answer a question (I have a list). The questions are not embaressing – Best costume, favorite restaurant, favorite vacation, bucket list vacation destination. Simple, getting to know someone a little better, but not intimate. And it is just a question … no embaressing actions.

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          I always try to do a book related question for book club–favorite book, favorite author, genre you’ve never read, book you want to read but haven’t gotten around to, etc.

          I find some of it actually comes back up in conversation when we’re actually talking about the book later, or it easily leads into talking about the book we’re reading.

      2. DannyG*

        Did the “favorite animal” one in a management training class 30ish years ago. I got stuck going as I was clinical coordinator in my department at the hospital and, as such, was the #2 on the org chart. I’m a pilot, too, so my animal was easy: the Red-Tailed Hawk. It’s the Chevy Sedan of Raptors, not flashy, loyal, and a good flyer. Haven’t encountered anything like the ones above, even in the current land of Zoom.

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Oh, that’s a classic choice, especially if you’ve ever read Animorphs. Red-tails are the best.

    4. Quill*

      I’ve mostly seen them at trainings.

      But the memorable ones are the ones that suck, not “Tell me your name and one thing about yourself” or “tell me your name and how long you’ve been with your team.”

    5. catsoverpeople*

      The only time I’ve been forced to participate in office ice-breakers was about 12 years ago. It was that “two truths and a lie” one where everyone states two true things about themselves and one lie, and everyone else has to guess which are which.

      In my days of frequent bridal/baby showers, some women (I’m also female) tried to get participation in the “most embarrassing moment” sharing, which I’ve always hated. I honestly haven’t done anything all that a) embarrassing, and b) also funny to tell a group of women I don’t know very well. Maybe if that ever happens to me again, I’ll borrow one of the lovely and hilarious submissions from Mortification Week.

  44. buddleia*

    1. I’ve had this one before! Not in a work setting though. I think it was an environmental youth group in the late 90s. I guess it’s supposed to be funny but it’s really not.

    6. This was amazing. LW 6, in what way did Bob “make you pay for the next two years?”

    7. I feel bad for the person who everyone drew.

    12. They’re all bad but this one especially because of the * shudders * butts touching

  45. Quill*

    The only one of these that does not make me flee in terror is the drawing one.

    (Though the mushrooms one is bringing up memories of a former boss who liked to talk about when he went on a fishing trip, caught a fish that was NOT legal to catch in our location, and ate it’s toxic caviar and got sick. He was a winner… in his own mind.)

    1. DistractedDeveloper*

      #6 wouldn’t have been so bad; partly because I enjoy logic puzzles but mostly to see Bob’s face when everyone shared their fun facts.

      1. Quill*

        I’m afraid knowing that I was going to be managed by Bob would have ruined it for me.

  46. Tales from the porcelain throne*

    When other people’s workplace experiences make you wonder just how bad your own were, on a scale of 1-10. I used to think mine were at a 7 until the underwear, dance one and foot touching ones today. Maybe mine was a 4 or a 5. I am relieved this is not a contest.

  47. redflagday701*

    The mushrooms question strikes me as a little oblivious — a very high-level person should understand a lot of employees would be nervous about discussing their experiences with federally banned substances — but I can see how it happened if this took place in the last few years and they’d just finished reading an article. The stuff that’s come out about psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA and their ability to treat psychological trauma is pretty amazing, and the tone of the conversation around hallucinogenics is way less “Far out, maaaan” than it used to be.

    1. Amanda*

      Yeah, i wouldn’t necessarily answer honestly, but it’s a good sign that the organization is laid-back about drugs!

  48. Safely Retired*

    I keep seeing the words “had to”. I understand about pressure and expectations, but what kept running through my head as I read this was “no, you didn’t have to”.

    1. WellRed*

      I don’t understand how these icebreakers, especially the ones with physical contact, didn’t have everyone noping out. You’re unlikely to be fired and if enough people speak up? Yeah, I’ll take that risk.

  49. Kool would have worked*

    A company I interned at did icebreakers for every training session for weeks. The very first one was to give your name with an adjective that starts with the same letter as your name. “Serious Sarah” or “Patient Paul” or whatever. I went first. I blanked. I blurted out “Kinky Kelly”. And I never lived it down.

    1. The answer is always kombucha*

      This made me spit out my sip of water! I’ve mentioned before I always say Kombucha no matter what the ice breaker question. Invariably someone will point out that kombucha is: not an adjective, not alliterative, not a spirit animal, not a funny story, etc. I smile brightly and look quizzically, “Oh?”

    1. alienor*

      I totally do! And I already have one point because I know that The Naughtiest Girl in the School is, in fact, Enid Blyton.

  50. Modesty poncho*

    ironically, my new favorite ice breaker is “what’s the worst icebreaker you’ve ever done?”

  51. Cookie Monster*

    I don’t get #4. You’re holding hands, facing each other…how could you NOT touch the other person’s feet with your feet? They’re, like…1 foot in front of you…?

  52. SMRT*

    I had to laugh at #6 because any IQ test you can take online…is not an actual IQ test!
    I once had an acquaintance try to insult my intelligence, and they mentioned IQ. I quipped back with what my (someone high) IQ is.
    I knew what it was because when I was a kid, our neighbor was a child psychologist and could administer these tests. My parents had them done in an attempt to get the local school system to admit me a year early because my birthday was close to the cutoff.
    After I said this, hoping they’d shut up (especially because it was such an awkward thing to bring up), he said I couldn’t possibly know my IQ because no one who runs these tests is supposed to share it with you?!?!? Which is irrelevant because my parents are complete erudite narcissists that, OF COURSE they would brag about having smart children.
    You can’t call someone out about IQ while simultaneously claiming they’re not allowed to know it.
    I later learned in life that IQs can change over a person’s lifetime (usually for better) and that things like emotional intelligence can often be far more valuable.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      That’s nonsense, what your acquaintance said – parents are provided the results of those tests. I have every one of the IQ and other test results that my kids took.

      1. Quill*

        My mom’s got the paperwork for mine somewhere. The result was “congrats on knowing the number, it will not materially change how the school district treats your kid.”

        1. DistractedDeveloper*

          I did extremely well on a bunch of different assessments (thanks, ADHD hyperfocus) and was also super bored in class, so instead of giving me more challenging material, they graciously allowed me to come to school every second Saturday and do solve additional math problems with some other “gifted” kids from neighbouring schools. I did not continue bonus school for very long…

          1. Quill*

            The family brainweird tends to express itself as “but if you’re smart you must be good at math and chess! Why aren’t you doing the stereotypical things?”

            I found chess boring as soon as I realized it was about memorizing stuff, I didn’t like math as a kid because there wasn’t any creativity in that class ever, and I was busy identifying playground bugs and being scolded for reading books above my grade level. On some level I think most schools don’t have any concept of designing a gifted program that isn’t just a walking stereotype.

      2. redflagday701*

        I believe some parents will tell their kids the test results aren’t shared because that’s the only way to stop a child from asking what their score is. And whatever the score is — high, low, or average — knowing it isn’t healthy for a child. (Or probably for most adults!) They’ll get fixated on the number and let it affect how they feel about their own intelligence and abilities.

        1. pls don't try to guess my name*

          I’m in my 30s now, and my parents continue to this day to both:
          1. Hold my apparently-high IQ number over my head whenever I struggle with anything.
          2. Still say they’re never ever supposed to tell me my IQ, in a way that makes me think they literally think they’ll be in some sort of trouble if they do.

          I highly doubt knowing my childhood IQ would do much for me now so I’ve never pushed, but I also highly doubt the IQ Police are somehow listening in on us.

  53. AJ*

    When I was a TA in college, we would usually do an ice breaker the first day of class. In a TA meeting, someone suggested having the students take off one shoe each, put them in a pile, pick a random shoe each, and find the person who owned the shoe to give it back to them. Not my kind of ice breaker.

    The after story was a comedy of errors though!

    TA Alice decided to play a prank on her students that day, and when she got to class, sat down to pretend to be a student. Until the bell rang, and TA Bob walked in! Oops, Alice had the wrong room. Alice found the room down the hall where she’s supposed to be, and walked in on TA Carol in the middle of a pile of shoes and confused students. Oops, Carol had the wrong time! And the weird icebreaker.

    (Usually the TAs were more organized, I don’t know what went wrong that day.)

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I knew TAs who did the “sitting as a student on the first day” thing. But it never went that wrong.

      My icebreaker was to have students write a line of text, put one word on the next line, fold the paper so the rest of the text can’t be seen, then pass to the next person. It was fun, funny, easy, & got a conversation about writing, intent, & audience started.

  54. Merrie*

    These are horrible. Except the zoom one, which is just kind of dumb and silly. Anything involving physical contact or personal information is right out.

    A “who’s wearing the same X as you” would be ok if it were their shirt or hairstyle, but not their underwear! Even those are a little juvenile for a work context (we did “find people with the same hairstyle” at a college orientation).

  55. to hr or not to hr*

    Uh, quick calibration needed: Am I alone in finding no. 9 (the animal) inappropriate but not worthy of several calls to HR? It seems more like a discussion a manager should lead, in a “refrain from such comments, that was inappropriate for a work setting and will negatively impact how people see you” way? Though I guess I never had any contact with HR that wasn’t related to hiring/firing or contract stuff, so maybe I just don’t use their whole potential/capacity?

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      He also crashed a meeting for the food. I think he was already on their radar.

    2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      I have a feeling this guy was creepy on a regular basis.

      And delighting in a sexual reference in a captive audience at work, during an activity designed to make people feel comfortable or facilitate relationsionships, not cool.

  56. PDB*

    I used to be a music recording engineer and if #2 were asked at most of the places I worked the answer would have been an emphatic yes and do you have any?

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I was in grad school for Lit. One of the PhD students had hung out at City Lights back in the days of the Beat poets. I’m sure his answer would have been similar.

    2. Arabella Flynn*

      One of the nice things about working in the arts is that the only reason anyone would ever drug test you was to see if you were taking enough.

  57. handfulofbees*

    #4: BOKO-MARU???!

    Honestly the mushrooms one would be very normal lunchtime conversation at my workplace, but my workplace is not typical. Most of us will pass around joints at lunch, including the bosses.

  58. Christine*

    Icebreakers never should be sexual, involve clothing or physical features, or require physical dexterity. Any question that would come up in psychotherapy or a doctor’s exam is right out.
    I’m fond of the simple name, department, short description of one’s job. People who work together will get to know each other. Don’t force it.

    1. XF1013*

      Yes! What in the world makes people overthink this so much? “I’m Jane and I work in accounts payable.” There, ice broken.

  59. Faith the Twilight Slayer*

    Sweet Goddess. I absolutely need some stories from Bob the IQ dude’s tenure. And also, the one time I was asked to do something completely ridiculous like this, my response was simply “I’m too old for foolish stuff. I’ll be sitting this one out” followed by the most horrible glare I could produce, back when my forehead wasn’t flattened by migraine Botox. He backed out of my cube and never returned.

  60. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    My daughter starts college soon and I hope she won’t have any horrendous ones to share after freshman orientation.

    1. WhatFloatsYourGoats*

      To be fair to icebreakers they have good results too. On our bus ride to fish camp (Texas A&M’s version of freshman get-together/summer camp) they had a random ice breaker where the kids on the aisle basically rotated around and had one minute to talk to the window seat kids before switching. I found my best friend and roommate for three years (my freshman roommate was by lotto and already assigned). We’ve known each other ten years and and are even doing a cruise this fall together. I was in her wedding. All because of a simple icebreaker and the fact we stumbled upon an author we both really enjoyed in that minute.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        Same state, different university. I agree that icebreakers can be good, especially in this environment. Reading all of these toxic ones just made me hope for no major fails.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I recall freshman orientation icebreakers being appropriately ridiculous and enough to keep us on our toes for about an hour. I remember one, everyone had to guess others’ majors cold. Another, once I’d moved into my dorm weeks later (orientation was a separate visit), we’d done the whole “my name is ::name:: and my favorite movie is….”. Supposedly it was to help us associate names/faces/a little personality with our new hallmates.

  61. Not Broken, no Heroes Allowed*

    Worst ice breaker answer ever:

    Statewide disability advocacy council. The question was “You are a superhero. What is your super power?”

    Brand new council member and his support person decided that their BEST answer was to say that they wanted the power to cure all disabilities so that there would be no need for the council.

    I was in the audience, listening and planning to report back to those my nonprofit serves (These people are our FUNDING SOURCE) I have a physical disability… and I had a group in college try repeatedly to heal me without my consent. They often used nicknames throughout our 4 years. As superheroes.

    The answers continued in this direction (probably because most people didn’t want the youth to be embarrassed by being steered into a strange position by an adult who really should have known better). I managed to get through the rest of the all day meeting.

    I’m not ashamed to say… I sobbed in the van as my own support person drove us both home

    1. Enai*

      Holy mother of all … What. What on earth.

      “Y’all shouldn’t exist” what a nice answer, Mx support person.

    2. Lucien Nova*

      My jaw has become very intimate friends with the floor.

      What in the name of all that is good and holy would possess someone to think that is a good thing to say???

      (Also disabled, for the record. By this person’s logic, I…should not be allowed to exist without being 100% healthy? Am I getting this right?)

  62. slashgirl*

    Reading these makes me appreciate our opening staff meeting at my larger school in September. We went around the room–said our name, what job we did (ie teach grade 1, EA, LT, etc), how long we’d been at the school and one thing we’d done over the summer. A few of us said: “Absolutely nothing and it was fantastic!” And we have to do something as an intro because we pretty much always have new staff members.

    I’m not sure what they did at smaller school the first day, but I DO know they had assigned seating with name placards like you’d have for dining. The meeting was in the library and the principal was in there the day before, setting up while I was getting some things ready. I went down to talk to our secretary (who is also a friend) and, after making sure admin was not nearby, said, “Tell me you’re a control freak without telling me you’re a control freak.” And explained it to her. (To be fair, my admin at larger school is also a control freak but it’s harder when you have a staff of 50+ than when you’ve got a staff of less than 30….)

    And f**ksticks, I just realized that our first day of school for staff in Sep is a day I’m at the smaller school. I guess I’ll find out what fresh ice breaker hell admin there will have for us. Oh, well, maybe I can just sit at my desk….

    1. Enai*

      Okay, I don’t understand: what’s bad about assigned seating? I like it personally, because if I’m told where to sit I don’t have to worry about taking somebody’s favorite spot.

  63. nnn*

    An entertaining way to respond to #11 would be to say that of course every single one is an Enid Blyton book, because you can’t possibly imagine an erotic interpretation of that title.

    1. Blue Horizon*

      Then if the CEO revealed any of them to be porn, put on your best baffled expression and say “I don’t get it.”

      (Captain Awkward calls this ‘returning to sender’).

  64. Robin*

    I once had to go around the room driving a pretend bumper car. It could have been worse. Some of the others had to be pretend choo-choo trains. I wanted to die.

  65. Taco Temptress*

    I’m dying at #6. I went on a few dates with a guy actually named Bob who tried to brag that he was in Mensa. I was like okay, what do you do with Mensa? He told me he took an IQ test, got a good score, and paid for a membership. I asked if there were meetings and he said yes, but he didn’t go. I asked if there were any other benefits other than being able to brag about being in Mensa and he paused. I, not feeling the date and the dude trying to brag about being a Mensa member, said that it sounded like he just got scammed by a eugenics test and paid a subscription to brag about it. I wish that was the last date. He turned out to be fairly awful but I was young and didn’t trust my gut yet.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I am crying laughing at this…I’m sorry you suffered through more dates with that guy but “scammed by a eugenics test and paid a subscription to brag about it” is a fantastic line.

  66. Never The Twain*

    #8 would be terrific at a birthday party for 8-9 year-olds (I may even grab it…). A group of professionals? Less so, although that’s because, like lots of others here I guess, I just tried it.

  67. lucanus cervus*

    “We had to take off our shoes, hold hands while face to face with a colleague, and try to touch each others’ feet with our feet. It was horrific.”

    OH NO. I physically recoiled when I read this. Like, hands flailing in the air. And I don’t even get grossed out by feet.

  68. Katherine*

    I think the dance thing is trending for some weird reason? Because I just had to do it at a unit meeting and then a few weeks later in a small group at a division-wide meeting. I was discouraged from moshing for some reason.

  69. Sanity Lost*

    My kids and I do these for laughs and giggles (especially on long car trips!)
    Which villain would you work for as an executive assistant?
    Who would win in a villain contest (ex. Lex Luthor vs. Darth Vader)? That one will last hours!
    Who is the truly worst villain of them all? Umbridge hands down
    Who is the most inept superhero?
    Who is the best teenage hero? (Jim Lake from the Troll Hunters series is the current fave)

  70. NotAnotherManager!*

    I just want to give a shout out to the co-facilitator on the dance challenge icebreaker for shutting that shit down. The point of an icebreaker is to get everyone acquainted and feeling comfortable, which is not how a that particular exercise is going to go over outside a few niche groups (dance/theater company, improv class?).

  71. Angela Zeigler*

    Oh, I have one- at an HR event we were put into groups and given a fantasy survival situation (think Lost) that had no relevance to our company or work, and had to determine how to survive using a worksheet. At the end, after the answers were given, everyone totaled up their individual scores. Everyone had to reveal their scores by raising their hands. Then, the top AND lowest scoring people were called up to the front, in front of everyone, as an example of good and bad planning.

  72. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I have an icebreaker story, but it wasn’t the activity that was weird, just the responses to it.

    The activity: bring a small object with some meaning to you and explain what it is and how it reflects you.
    My response: “This is an owl figurine I got at my old job. I collect owls.”
    Almost everyone else’s response:
    “This is my grandfather’s watch, which he gave to me before he died and that I keep as a symbol of my commitment to my mission.”
    “This is a picture of my dog, who just died.”
    “This is a poster of a play I was in, because I do theatre for fun… and the play reminds me about my childhood trauma.”

    Almost every response involved sharing some kind of tragedy or personal trauma, and most people tied that to our job (public interest) in a ~moving forward despite adversity~ sort of way. It was bizarre to me, and I’m usually considered too open about my personal life.

  73. finalgirl*

    This one was my fault, I guess. I asked the icebreaker “What’s something you’ve done once but never plan to do again?” and expected answers like grad school, etc. Most answers were normal and not shocking, until we get to our CEO who said “Can I be honest? Methamphetamine. Well, I guess that doesn’t even count because I did it more than once.” This then prompted another coworker to say “Well, if we’re going there, my answer is MDMA.”

  74. The Shenanigans*

    This just proves that icebreakers are never, no, never, a good idea. I really hope the facilitator in #5 drops the whole idea of an organized icebreaker and just sets up coffee and snacks and just allows people to chat or not as they like.

  75. Spanokopita*

    #9 sounded eerily familiar… turns out, there was this sketchy old dude at my company who answered the “what animal would you be” question with “pubic louse”.

  76. Paulina*

    We had a professional retreat that started with getting us to pair up (simply in the order we were sitting in, largely in the order we arrived in) and share our biggest concern about our lives.

    I had not been working there long. This seemed very personal (though at least it wasn’t to share with everyone), especially since I had some very “wtf am I doing in this place” fears. I was paired up with a much older colleague who I didn’t know well.

    I started off by saying that I didn’t really know what to say.

    He responded with “sure, because this is completely unprofessional.”

    We didn’t bare our souls that day, and we skipped the shoulder massage that we were also supposed to be doing, but we did share a bit and bonded over our mutual unwillingness to do the exercise. It worked, though I expect not as intended.

  77. sparkle emoji*

    Number 6 has me internally screaming as someone who majored in psych. All of the points about the racist and eugenicist aspects of IQ testing are correct, but additionally, legitimate IQ tests have to be administered by another human being, and that person has to be trained BOB!! The audacity of bragging about your “IQ test” results from a test website?!

  78. hiding under the library steps with a cheese tray, giggling*

    I have honestly left the room before when a particularly egregious icebreaker (involving lots of touching) was introduced. I decided it was the opportune moment for a bathroom break. I have also just sat in a room and said “I’m choosing not to participate” about something that was much less outlandish, but still outside of my comfort zone. Of course that got me looked at like I was sprouting devil horns, but I was uncomfortable so I really didn’t mind if I made everyone else uncomfortable, too.

  79. a*

    I am pretty sure my response to any of these would be “I will not be doing that. Here’s my ice-breaker: I am apparently No Fun.”

  80. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    Not exactly an ice breaker, but at one job I had, someone got the bright idea to rewrite the lyrics to the 12 Days of Christmas to pertain to our department and have 12 of us take one part and sing it to a high level person at a holiday gathering. The ‘mean girls’ of the group rushed to make sure they took the parts toward the end that had the fewest repeats so they wouldn’t have to sing as much while the others had to keep repeating their part (and the ‘mean girls’ kept gloating about it). The high level person sat there politely, uncomfortably listening while we sang to him around a conference table, pretending to be amused. It was cringe-worthy.

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