my employee was excluded from a team-building event because of their weight — how do I make this right?

A reader writes:

I think I messed up with a team-building event I organized and I am not sure what, if anything, I should do to correct the situation.

There is an adventure center about 30 minutes from the office where I work. Each year for the last several years (minus the Covid years) I have set up a Saturday event where my team spends the day doing the various activities that this center offers. This event is pretty popular with the team. Based on the advice I’ve seen on your site, I make it abundantly clear that it is entirely optional. We typically do brunch before heading to the center and then dinner afterwards. People are welcome to (and do) just join for one of the meals or just part of the afternoon at the center, really whatever combination of stuff they’re interested in.

Here’s where I may have messed up. One of the activities offered by the center is a zip-lining tour. I schedule one of these tours for the team each year when we go. However, there is a weight limit. It honestly didn’t even occur to me to question whether or not the members of my team are within the weight limit.

When we showed up to start the zip-lining, the people running the tour singled out one of our team members, Chris, and asked them if they were under the weight limit and then asked them to step on a scale to confirm. Chris has participated for the last several years and was never asked about their weight previously. However, they were not under the limit and were not allowed to participate. Chris confirmed that they wanted us to still go without them, and I am pretty sure they would have been even more upset if none of us had gone because they couldn’t go. I let them know that they could take my company card and do whatever other activity they were interested in if they wanted to. They ended up sitting in the car by themselves for the two hours the tour took.

After we were done, we went to dinner. I could tell Chris was trying to be positive but they also made a few comments about how they shouldn’t eat because they’re already too heavy. Mostly those comments were met with a pause and then a change in topic because no one knew what to say.

Today is Monday and Chris is more withdrawn and unhappy than they typically are. Obviously that could be related to something that happened in their personal life after the event on Saturday, but I would have no way of knowing that.

Should I have cancelled the zip-lining tour when we were told they couldn’t come? How should I have handled their comments about not wanting to eat? I don’t know if just moving past them was the right way to handle them. Should I check in with them today? Should I just let it go?

Also, most weighing on my mind, should I continue to do these events? Should we do part of them but not the zip-lining? Should I try to plan an alternative activity during the same time for anyone who doesn’t want to participate? That feels a lot like asking people to tell me their weight range, though I definitely would open whatever I came up with to anyone who didn’t want to zip-line, regardless of weight.

I just feel so bad and my heart hurts for them because I know they’re hurting.

Oh no, this is awful.

First things first, apologize to Chris privately. Make sure you do it in a way that doesn’t put any burden on them to reassure you that it’s okay or even to talk about it if they don’t want to. I’d say it this way: “I owe you an apology for this weekend. I’m very unhappy with the way the adventure center handled that and I plan to call them later today to find out how we can avoid anything similar in the future. I really value you as a part of this team, and I’m going to be personally responsible for ensuring that neither you nor anyone else here will be put in that position again.”

Then, call the adventure center! Talk to a manager about what happened and ask how to avoid it in the future. Maybe the answer is that whenever you schedule one of these days in the future, you ask ahead of time about any activities that have weight restrictions and make it clear the team will skip those. But ask. And make it clear they need to find a way to enforce weight-related safety rules without singling out and embarrassing someone in front of a group.

If you do schedule more events there in the future, there’s a good chance Chris will be uneasy about going. You shouldn’t single them out, but you could provide everyone with info on the activities ahead of time, including something like, “We’re signed up for X, Y, and Z. None of these activities limit participants by height, weight, or medical condition, but we’re cautioned that X does involve ____  (put any details here that you can imagine someone conceivably wanting a warning about; for example, being on your feet for an hour or something that could trigger a fear of heights). if you want to sit any of these out, we’ve arranged ____ as an option too (other stuff? cocoa in the cafe? put something here).” That way you’re not singling Chris out but still letting them know they’re safe participating this time. And it’s a good practice regardless, because you never know who might have a relevant physical restriction/fear/dislike — and circumstances change, so even someone who participated in the past might not be able to do all the same things next time.

There’s also a question about whether this is a good place to do team-building at all. I’d argue no! I know you say your whole team loves it, but (a) not everyone will speak up if they don’t, although of course it’s also possible all the enthusiasm is genuine, and (b) at some point someone won’t be able to participate (a new person joins your team / someone develops a condition they didn’t used to have / etc.) and you don’t want them to be the “reason” the rest of the team has to stop. However, in this case, if you never go back after years of doing it, I’m worried Chris will feel self-conscious about that, so it’s worth thinking about exactly how to navigate that.

As for what you should have done in the moment: Agggh, it’s tough. I lean toward thinking you should have asked for an alternate activity instead of the zip-lining once you found out Chris wouldn’t be allowed, but there’s a pretty strong risk they would have felt awkward about being the reason no one else could participate (although probably not as awkward as they felt sitting in their car for two hours, so it might still be the better option). Another option would be for you to stay behind with them and find something enjoyable for the two of you — but again, Chris was probably going to feel awkward regardless. Some people in their shoes would appreciate the show of solidarity from a manager sitting it out with them, while others would feel worse … so it’s a hard call to make without knowing Chris.

Responding to Chris’s comments about not wanting to eat when you went to dinner afterwards: That’s tougher. In normal circumstances (not these), comments like that put an unfair burden on the rest of the group to manage the person’s emotions about diet/weight/food, which isn’t reasonable to ask of colleagues. But in this situation, it’s pretty understandable that Chris was looking for some emotional support after being embarrassed in front of their work team. (And to be clear, I am not saying that weight is shameful or that anyone should feel humiliated by being over the weight limit for a physical activity! But we live in a world where a lot of people do feel that way, and we can be sympathetic to Chris for how it clearly made them feel.) I suppose if you could go back and redo it, you could maybe say, “I’m upset that that happened, and I’m going to call the adventure company on Monday. But meanwhile, please eat, we think you are awesome and they suck for handling it like that.” I’m not sure, though — that’s a tough spot for everyone at that point. I think any of you would get points for trying to be supportive, rather than just uncomfortably ignoring the remarks! (But you’re all human and it’s hard to know how to respond in the moment.)

For now, though, please do check in on Chris and assure them you’re on it and it won’t happen again.

{ 787 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder of the commenting rules: Do not present your own speculation as fact.

    Yes, there are people who hate team-building events, or who would hate this team-building event. There are also people who would genuinely like it — even entire teams of people. It’s possible the writer’s team aren’t all as genuinely enthusiastic about it as she thinks. It’s also possible that they are. For all we know, Chris themselves was genuinely excited for this event beforehand. You cannot speak with certainty about strangers who you do not know.

    The possibility that some of the team secretly wish these events would stop has already been covered (and covered and covered) so I’m asking for that to stop and for any further replies to focus on other aspects of advice for the letter writer.

  2. Justme, The OG*

    You should have canceled or found something else to do. It’s not team building when one of your team is excluded from participating.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Except then there’s a chance that people who were excited about zip lining would blame Chris for it. Ultimately, I think this is probably the right answer, but I fully get why OP didn’t do that in the midst of it – it’s such a tricky situation. And, saying only that OP should have done something isn’t really helpful unless you have a time machine they can borrow.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Anyone who blames someone who is excluded from participating for the fact that they all can’t participate is an asshole and needs sensitivity training.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            What actionable advice would you like me to give here other than what was already suggested? Don’t go to an adventure center next year. I’ve been Chris in situations like this and it’s awful.

            1. Jillian*

              I’ve been in this situation too, and it IS awful. Stopping everyone else from doing it would’ve made me feel even worse.

              1. Modesty Poncho*

                Agreed, I would have felt worse doing something else and knowing everyone else had to give it up because of me than even panicking in the car.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Yes, I think this is a very normal reaction for Chris to have, and I trust OP’s guess that that would happen.

                Also to if they stop doing the Adventure center, and Chris feels like they are carrying around a gigantic neon “I AM THE REASON WE CAN NO LONGER DO THE FUN THING.”

                Going forward, I agree with the advice to have more of a detailed list (10 am ropes course, these limits; 11 am climbing wall, these limits) so people can opt in or out without disclosing any underlying medical conditions.

                Popular activities people have mentioned here in the past allowed for a varied level of participation, like silly races in the parking lot where someone could assign themselves to be photographer or guarder of the cupcakes or head cheerer from a lawn chair.

                1. Erin*

                  Totally. I don’t think anyone wants to be the reason that fun things get cancelled. And, since this activity has been well received in the past, there was no way to know that weight restrictions would be brought up. Buuut, now that LW is aware, they can find activities that are inclusive, and send out the details well in advance so nobody has to deal with a humiliating situation.

                  My heart breaks for Chris. I can’t believe the facility singled them out, and actually got out a scale to weigh them. I understand the facility’s liability in case of an accident, but their process seems just inhumane.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  A place near us has mini golf as well as a driving range.
                  I wonder what could go with ziplining…

              3. Tau*

                +1, as someone who discovered the hard way that they can’t go-kart and ended up sitting in the cold for over an hour watching my teammates race around the track, unable to even leave because our belongings were locked up and would only be unlocked when everyone was done. (I did tell people beforehand that I’d never done it before; I was assured it’s easy to pick up and wouldn’t be a problem.) The experience sucked and I would have really appreciated my manager checking in on me afterwards and apologising. But having the entire team have to abort because of me would have made me feel much worse!

                1. Freya*

                  A previous workplace did go-karting once. It really didn’t occur to anyone until we got there that someone shorter than average, like me, wouldn’t be able to reach the pedals in an adult-size kart that fits people over 6ft tall. I’d never been karting, so I didn’t know either. I was lucky, because I could just reach the pedals with a bolster so I didn’t have to sit our, but pressing them properly was difficult with legs that were already straight and fully extended, so it was a bit of a struggle to get it right. Boss apologised, and factored in our relative height differences for the next time.

              4. Rose*

                Same. My weight is low but I have an invisible disability that I abhor talking about with anyone other than my partner or best friend. I find it very embarrassing and also just private.

                I’ve been in Chris’s shoes and my personal nightmare would be everyone changing their plans. I would feel like the theme of the whole day was “Rose’s disability stopped us from doing the thing” and just want to curl up and die.

                Let me cry in my car in peace!

        1. Observer*

          Anyone who blames someone who is excluded from participating for the fact that they all can’t participate is an asshole and needs sensitivity training.

          And till that happens, what of Chris? Also, even if no one *overtly* blames Chris, people could show their disappointment just enough to make things very uncomfortable for Chris, even though that’s not what they intend.

          Which is to say, I can see the argument for just not doing the activity – especially if the OP had stopped things as soon as the facility started in on the issue, but I can also see why the OP might not have wanted to do that. Yes, not going would probably have been ultimately the better choice, but I don’t think that there is any perfect solution here.

          1. Rose*

            I’ve been in Chris’s shoes (not for weight, for some thing rare enough that people don’t stigmatize it specifically but it is embarrassing to me).

            Even if everyone genuinely knew it wasn’t my fault, and did not blame me, I would still feels super crappy that no one else was doing what they wanted to do. It was still feel super paranoid that everyone was mad at me. And I would just absolutely hate that attention on me.

            No one can know how Chris would feel in this situation without asking. I hope LW asks how they can help and listens.

            1. RebeccaNoraBunch*

              Me too. I have bad lungs. You can’t tell from looking at me but I cannot participate in anything especially athletic. It’s not “stigmatized” but I will literally take the elevator up *one floor* in order to not show up to my office winded at 8am.

              This situation was just awful and the only thing I can remotely think of would be for Chris to have asked beforehand about weight restrictions but ultimately it’s not on them, it’s on the manager to ask. Just so hard all around.

        2. Ground Control*

          True, but anti-fatness is incredibly common so there’s a good chance Chris would have been blamed for ruining fun.

        3. Ex-prof*

          To quote Mr. William Joel, granted the world is not a perfect place, still it’s the world that we’re in.

        4. FrivYeti*

          I think that even if people don’t *deliberately* blame Chris, there is a real risk that they will be visibly disappointed despite trying to conceal it, which has a high chance of making Chris feel guilty and ashamed.

        5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I wouldn’t blame Chris, but I’d be disappointed I couldn’t do a cool thing. And, since I’m human, the disappointment would be visible until I remembered to try to hide it, which would mean being awkwardly cheerful about the whole thing. That’s not fun for Chris either, even if well meaning.

          1. ferrina*

            Exactly. I love adventure centers, and I’d definitely be disappointed. I’d probably be awkwardly stoic

          2. Colette*

            And especially if that cool thing was the reason you’d decided to give up a weekend day to go.

            I agree the best option is to make the requirements clear (e.g. must be at least 5 feet tall, must be less than 300 pounds, contains strobe lighting)

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Even “link below for safety information and activity requirements” and a “anyone who does not wish to participate in X can choose either Y or Z if they wish to come to the adventure center” should cover it. I love ziplining, and would have been disappointed to give a weekend day for this specific activity only to be told that we couldn’t do it. And I’m appalled at how the staff singled Chris out in front of everyone! It can be very hard to react in the moment, and even harder to react in a way that won’t make anyone feel bad (and that could well be impossible in a situation like this–even if everyone 100% completely understands why an activity was cancelled, you’re still going to be disappointed that it was, and in this case Chris might place a lot of guilt on themselves, which is again unfair yet very human).

          3. Jessica*

            You do you, I guess.

            I had a full-body reaction to reading what happened to Chris, and I can’t imagine having fun doing an activity that had just resulted in that happening to a human being with whom I have a relationship.

            1. Rebecca*

              I’m with you on this one. I would unequivocally insist I stay behind with Chris. Simply because I’d feel so awful about how he was treated that I’d consider myself part of the problem if I participated.

              1. J*

                I would be inclined to do the same thing if I were one of the other participants, but otoh if I were in Chris’s shoes I’d 100% want to be alone for a while and would really not want anyone to stay with me.

                1. Crooked Bird*

                  Right? At least if you’re alone you don’t have to constantly control your face. Or choose between that and possibly spilling way more feelings than you want to do at work.

              2. RebeccaNoraBunch*

                +1. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t. I’d probably try to suggest some of us go off and do something else at the center, AT LEAST myself & the person affected (Chris).

              3. Always a Corncob*

                I hear you, but if I were Chris, this would make me feel so much more awkward and conspicuous. Like a charity case. There’s no one right answer, and it’s not really helpful to OP to Monday morning quarterback what they “should” have done.

        6. NerdyKris*

          Well, news flash, people are people, you can’t control everyone’s reactions to that extent, and pretending it wouldn’t happen is just being naive.

        7. Artemesia*

          everyone comes exited to do something and then it is called off because one person can’t. They don’t have to be ugly to Chris for them to be disappointed and somebody is going to wish Chris wasn’t on the team. It is a difficult on the spot situation — probably the OP staying behind and doing something else with Chris works best — but it is pretty much no win all around. It is the kind of thing in the future to check out to make sure everyone is welcome to participate — it wasn’t anticipated – now it will be. sometimes things go badly.

        8. Vio*

          People form irrational grudges for all sorts of reasons and often don’t even realise that they’re doing it. The brain connects “I can’t do what I wanted to do” with “[person] wasn’t allowed to do it” and our unconscious notes “[person] stopped me doing what I wanted to do” even though it’s not completely true. They can then find that something about [person] just rubs them the wrong way but they’re not sure why.
          Usually if we realise our brain is making such an inaccurate simplification then we’re able to stop it from happening and the problem is averted. But nobody consciously notices everything their brain does, there’s simply too much.

        9. Nina*

          Okay, but 1) assholes do exist and ’embarrass Chris further in front of the whole team’ is an awful way to draw them out of hiding so you can put them in sensitivity training, 2) when you’re Chris, there is no functional difference between ‘aww we can’t do this activity I was looking forward to because they can’t accommodate Chris’ and ‘I blame Chris for us not being able to do this activity I was looking forward to’ and 3) there is a not at all rare species of asshole that actually gets worse after sensitivity training and just learns to hide it from the boss better.

      2. Ms. Murchison*

        But the LW is wondering how they should have handled it, so it’s a valid response.

        Justme is right, the manager should have canceled the ziplining and said that the point is to do an activity as a group so they’re going to find something else to do all together. I have never been in Chris’s position, but I recently spent two days feeling completely Othered at a work event because of a health condition, and it was demoralizing how everyone seemed fine with me being left alone so much of the time.

        1. So Tired*

          I’m very sorry that happened to you, you should have been treated better!!

          However, as someone who has been in Chris’ shoes, please believe me when I say that it likely would have been just as othering for them if the entire team lost the ability to zip line because Chris didn’t meet the weight requirement. Especially when everyone else in the group knew that they didn’t meet the requirement and saw the entire thing unfold. Since I’m not Chris, I won’t go so far as to assume I know what they’d want in that situation, but for me personally I wouldn’t want the whole thing cancelled because I *know* people would blame me, at least a bit. Ideally, for me, the manager would have pulled Chris aside and offered to hang out with them during that time while making it clear that manager didn’t mind not ziplining, and making it clear that it was ok if Chris just wanted the time alone to process it all. But were I in that position, I’d have felt awful and extremely at fault if no one was allowed to continue on the zipline.

      3. zuzu*

        There’s nothing tricky about stepping up and putting a stop to the *public singling out and exclusion of a team member* at what is supposed to be a *team-building* event.

        Once the event staff pulled Chris off to the side, OP had a duty to step in to keep the group together. Once you start peeling off team members, or worse, letting event staff peel off team members in front of the entire rest of the team who’s probably excited to do a particular activity and it starts to become apparent where things are headed (because let’s be real: OP had to be exceedingly unobservant not to realize that Chris was either going to be excluded from the activity or OP was going to have to step in to prevent a bigger situation), that means you’re no longer building your team, you’re letting it fracture.

        I mean, it didn’t just stop with Chris getting asked their weight. The event staff actually pulled out a scale and *weighed* Chris! And announced that Chris was over the weight limit and couldn’t participate. And instead of stopping things *here,* OP was like, “Yeah, well, sucks to be you, here’s a credit card to go do something else while the thin people and I are off doing this fun thing. Ta.”

        No matter how you slice it, OP chose very poorly and did a poor job of team building. Would the team have been annoyed if they couldn’t go ziplining? Probably. Might they have blamed Chris? Quite probably. But could a good manager have turned things around and showed all members of the team that they mattered on a TEAM BUILDING trip instead of jettisoning the fat one and then being shocked, shocked! that doing so led to Chris bringing down the mood at dinner? Hell yes!

        What could OP have done better? First, make sure to research which events have weight/height/health restrictions and either steer clear of them or disclose them to the team so they can self-select out. Second, be open to suggestions about alternate activities. Third, keep an eye on how event staff is treating your employees. Just as you don’t discipline your employees in front of the team, you don’t let others single out your employees for isolation or exclusionary treatment. Fourth, if one of your team is excluded on a team-building day, no one goes. That rule should be established beforehand and you should have buy-in so nobody whines about it. You should explain your reasoning so you don’t get people treating Chris, or Pat who has a heart condition, or Dana who is afraid of heights, as a pariah because they couldn’t do the fun thing at the last minute. YOU take the blame for not doing the research in advance. YOU reinforce that you’re here as a team. YOU watch out for anyone who does treat Chris (or Pat, or Dana, or whoever) like shit.

        What you don’t get to do is watch the event staff pull Chris aside, ask them their weight and put them on a scale in front of the whole group (!!!!!) and do nothing to intervene with the staff.

        1. jtr*

          > because let’s be real: OP had to be exceedingly unobservant not to realize that Chris was either going to be excluded from the activity or OP was going to have to step in to prevent a bigger situation

          Except that Chris had been able to participate in the past:

          > Chris has participated for the last several years and was never asked about their weight previously.

          So, really, NO, OP couldn’t have objectively expected it would happen – it hadn’t in the past. I don’t think there is really benefit in hashing out what should have been done, OP – you can’t change that, you need to change how you handle team building going forward, and how you think about activities for a group inclusively.

          I agree that going forward, be a lot more investigative about your choices of activities. You don’t know who has a bad back, who is afraid of heights, who is pregnant but not telling anyone yet, etc. Super physical activities are going to exclude someone. Make sure you know all the details and provide as-much-fun alternatives (really, cocoa in the cafe is not a great alternative to two hours of ziplining, and I would hate ziplining and love chocolate) if you REALLY want to go there again. Honestly, the whole weigh you in front of everybody aspect would turn me off completely from the location, because it shows that they don’t have sensitivity to customers with different needs to begin with.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Also, people are often really bad at estimating weight by looks. I don’t think I could even give you a ballpark for any of my coworkers’ weights. The OP not realizing Chris would be over the weight limit isn’t unobservant, it’s the OP not scrutinizing their employees’ bodies.

          2. Mill Miker*

            because let’s be real: OP had to be exceedingly unobservant not to realize that Chris was either going to be excluded from the activity or OP was going to have to step in to prevent a bigger situation

            You know, thinking more about this, unless Chris was somehow expecting to somehow bluff a machine, they had to have at least some expectation that they could be below the weight when they stepped on the scale.

            So the fact is that Chris was asked “are you under X weight”, said “yes”, and then stepped on a scale when that answer was questioned. Chris themself didn’t know they were over the limit, but OPs “exceedingly unobservant” for not spotting it?

          3. Gadfly*

            I think because significantly larger folks spend a lot of the time navigating the world by learning we have to constantly be on the look out for weight and size limits, it can sometimes be very hard to put ourselves in the shoes of folks who are accommodated by default and totally oblivious to this being a ginormous pile of red flags/all but guaranteed to happen at some point. It’s very much “how did they not see this coming?”

            And this is why diversity matters and getting input from folks not like you for whom this stuff is obvious.

            1. MathBandit*

              And as someone else pointed out above, even Chris was presumably caught off-guard by this since they *got on the scale*. I’m a big guy, and if I were in a situation like that and asked “Are you below X weight” it’s possible I would say yes even if I thought I wasn’t to avoid being singled out- but at the point that they pull out a scale if the number is one I know for a fact I am well over, there’s no way I’m stepping on the scale to make it even worse.

              So it seems likely that even Chris thought they might be fine on the weight, which to me makes it all the more reasonable that OP didn’t realize the issue pre-emptively.

        2. AnonForThis*

          Respectfully disagree.
          OP can do all the research they want, but they still have no way of knowing the medical conditions of every team member and how those conditions may or may not impact a particular activity. OP does not have a comprehensive understanding of personal fears and phobias among their team members. OP also has no control over the actions of staff at a particular venue, sucky as they may be. We all encounter strangers who say and do offensive and unsavory things – it just happens, and you can’t always anticipate where or when.

          All OP can do now is reflect on the situation and have a plan for mitigating this in the future – which they are doing by writing in to this site and being open to feedback. Providing as much information up front about the activity, as Alison suggests, is the best course of action – but it can never fully prevent these situations.

          Your suggestion that “OP had to be exceedingly unobservant” to not recognize this issue in advance suggests that OP should be independently making judgment calls about how much their team members weigh. I would argue that this is worse.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          I’m going to disagree slightly about the OP being unobservant. It is possible that Chris was only slightly above the weight limit and even that their weight was distributed in such a way that the OP did not perceive them as being likely to be above it.

          I just googled to see what the weight limit was and personally, I would have no idea who would be over that weight limit. Well, I know one or two people I would be pretty sure would be, but I also know many more who for all I know might be or they might be well under it. I couldn’t tell you who is 230 pounds versus who is 280. So it’s quite likely the OP couldn’t either, especially if Chris were only a pound or two over the limit.

          1. Allonge*

            Agreed. Also, managers should ideally not even think about their staff’s bodies in this way, certainly not to note that Chris put on five pounds since last year, does that put them over the limit etc.

            By all means check in about whether or not a certain activity is possible (linking to the restrictions) but that should be a yes/no answer.

            This was a mess-up by the activity centre’s communication – they should emphasize these restrictions waaay before the weighing in line. OP maybe should have insisted to stay with Chris, but other than that, I am not sure what else could have been done in the moment or before, considering that they did this same thing before.

            1. Mill MIker*

              The only thing I can think of for in the moment, is that OP could have stated they were going to go find something else to do with Chris, and then offered that anyone else who didn’t want to do the zip-lining was welcome to come along.

              I’d be willing to bet there were at least some people who would be willing to go along with that, especially if the guides were making a bad impression like that. 2 groups is better than excluding one person, and might’ve help with Chris’ guilt, especially if there’s anyone who’s happy to have alternative to zip-lining .

              1. sparkle emoji*

                I think this would have been great, as I definitely would have wanted to get away from the zipline guides.

              2. Joron Twiner*

                This is what I would have done.

                I once went to a bath house with friends for someone’s party, but when we arrived they had signs banning tattoos. One friend has visible, large tattoos and didn’t want to risk getting kicked out once inside. I chose to wait with them outside and we hung out. At least that way others got to enjoy the event and the one person wasn’t left out alone.

              3. Oolie*

                This was my thought. Maybe LW might not have been able to pull it off, but if I were one of the CWs, I would have immediately opted out as well, with the excuse that I was uncomfortable with ziplining but didn’t want to be the only non-participant. Then hopefully Chris and I could have found something else to do together. Hopefully axe throwing was an option.

            2. zuzu*

              Why does asking in advance about any kind of limits or restrictions mean thinking about staff members’ bodies in an inappropriate way? It simply means asking the venue, “Hey, are there any events/rides/whatever that have limitations or restrictions or might be inappropriate for anyone with a medical condition?” and then considering that information so that those events/rides/whatever can either be nixed as potentially not inclusive of everyone or the information can be transmitted back to the group so people can make their own choices to self-select out in private. That’s still not ideal, because it means you’re still telling people “We want to do this fun thing that you’re too large for/too small for/too fragile for/too disabled for, we’re just going to be discreet about leaving you out.”

              If you have seven fun things to choose from, and only time to do three, and two have enough restrictions that it’s likely at least some of your group might not be able to participate, it’s safest to just not bother with those two, and then you still have five fun things to choose from and no one is the wiser.

              1. Allonge*

                I was responding to a thread about OP being ‘unobservant’ about Chris’s weight (especially change in weight since last year when ziplining was ok for them). That is not a negative, is my point.

              2. Kella*

                Speaking as someone who has several medical conditions, asking about activities that have limitations inappropriate for “anyone with a medical condition” is so incredibly vague that it’s not going to get you valuable information. There are plenty of medical conditions that would eliminate all of those activities as options. Asking that way also puts OP in the position of evaluating whether an employee can or cannot do something, rather than allowing the employee evaluate that themselves.

                This is not about finding only activities that 100% of people can do, it’s about getting people the information they need to decide whether they want to join, so they’re not put on the spot in the moment, and providing a variety of options so there is a higher chance that people can do at least one thing if they choose to participate.

                As Alison said, it’s much better to include info about the scheduled events about what the physical demands of the activities are so that individual employees can decide whether to opt in or not.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            And people aren’t as good at estimating weight as they think.

            Most people assume my best friend is 20kg lighter than she actually is. She has a weightlifter build, with dense bones and a lot of muscle under the fat. Perhaps Chris is similar. Or perhaps he’s tall as well as heavy, and people don’t think about how height adds weight, even if he doesn’t look “classically” fat. Or, as you pointed out, he could just be a tad over the limit. There are any number of possibilities that don’t mean OP is unobservant.

            Better to either avoid activities with weight limits, or state limits clearly well in advance so that no assumptions need be made.

            1. Freya*

              As a teenager, I remember once being asked by a classmate what diet I was on to be so thin. Turns out, I was 4 inches shorter than them, and a couple of kilos heavier. Big, dense bones, and lots of muscles on a short frame, mean I was (and am) a lot heavier than I look.

            2. münchner kindl*

              Since Chris did ziplining in the past, he may have added just a few pounds that puts him over the limit now, but now a few years back.

              Or he’s wearing more clothes now than a few years back – usually people weigh themselves in underwear, but for ziplining safety, you want the total weight. So Chris may think “My weight is 228 pounds” but with clothes and gear on, his total weight is 231 and thus above safety limit.

          3. Anon Y Mouse*

            Yep. I’ve been Chris – not in a team building situation, thankfully, but in others. I am a plus-size, moderately muscular cis woman who carries weight all over and doesn’t have much of a belly, and people (including doctors) consistently underestimate both my weight and clothes size. (It’s not flattering when people insist they can loan you a jacket but it won’t fit, or are sure you’ll be fine to do X because you don’t look like their mental estimate of someone over the limit.)

            I don’t see how Chris could have known, but I look wary at anything that says it has a weight limit and would likely bow out before the question was asked. Would I want someone to stay with me? I would not. I’d be mortified to stop anyone else doing it – but would probably go home, if I could.

            1. Anon Y Mouse*

              Further to say – I don’t actually blame OP for being startled here and not knowing how would be appropriate to respond. We can’t all pick our ideal reaction just like that. I certainly can’t.

          4. Ace in the Hole*

            Exactly. People routinely underestimate my weight by as much as 30-50 lbs, and I’m fairly average sized. Even if LW knew about the weight limit it’s entirely possible she had no idea anyone in the group was even close.

        4. Jessica*

          > What you don’t get to do is watch the event staff pull Chris aside, ask them their weight and put them on a scale in front of the whole group (!!!!!) and do nothing to intervene with the staff.

          THIS THIS THIS.

          I don’t agree that LW should have known in advance, since Chris was able to participate in previous years, but yes, FFS, literally everyone in this “team-building” exercise failed Chris.

          How the hell do you all stand by and do _nothing_ while a member of your team is being singled out and humiliated in front of you?

          I wish for Chris a job offer that pays more, offers better benefits, and is with a team that treats them like a human being.

          1. Green great dragon*

            No-one knew in advance that Chris was over the limit. I would find it highly weird if a member of my team took it upon themselves to speak for me in this situation when I’m standing right there, particularly if I wanted to do the ziplining and couldn’t do so without being weighed.

            It sounds like Chris actually thought they were under the limit – a commentator below shared that someone may be under the limit in normal clothes, but outdoor gear takes them over.

            1. zuzu*

              My point is not that anyone knew Chris was over the limit in advance. My point is that this started happening right in front of OP and OP just let it play out. To Chris’s great humiliation. During a team-building exercise.

              Yay team.

              1. le*

                I wish I lived in the world that it seems many Internet commenters live where everyone can instantly process unexpected situations and do the perfect thing.

                How do I get an invite? Because in the world I live in, stuff like this takes people off guard, and it would be hard to react before the weighing event was already over. At that point, the damage is mostly done.

                People can say they should have cancelled the event at that point and done something else but as a fat person myself, I would nearly die of embarrassment if that happened. I’d rather wait in the car.

                So it’s actually a very tough situation in the real world.

                1. Gan Ainm*

                  This! Everyone is thoughtful, well-spoken and brave at home behind a keyboard with the luxury of time to think and not being stressed in the moment.

                  I see a large proportion of people here saying they’d know exactly what to do and say, and yet in my real life I see a very small percent of people able to speak up and do it perfectly…

                  OP is clearly conscious of her employees feelings and wants them to be comfortable. The harshness and judgemental attitudes towards OP from some of these commenters is really over the top.

                2. Allonge*

                  Exactly. OP and Chris and everyone else were doing their best in the moment.

                  The adventure center should have better policies / train their employees on handling situations like this. But it’s not like the team had a quiet room and an hour to contemplate what was the best way forward.

                3. Electric Sheep*

                  Also I would die if my manager freaked out as soon as a scale was brought out, all like NO-ONE MUST WITNESS YOUR HORRIBLE SHAME. That’s not actually something that would make me feel supported!

                4. Nebula*

                  +1. OP has acknowledged that they messed up and wants to know how to deal with this going forward and prevent something similar in future. That’s the best they can do now!

                5. Always a Corncob*


                  A lot of “shoulda woulda coulda” by people who claim to instantly have all the answers for unexpected situations.

              2. Jessica*

                And then–and THEN–at dinner when Chris was too ashamed to eat and explicitly noted that they shouldn’t eat because of their weight, no one said anything to reassure them they wouldn’t be judged for, you know, engaging in an activity they literally need to do to live.

                Normally I’m Team Weight-And-Diets-Are-Off-Limits-Topics-At-Work, but in a situation like this when someone’s just been humiliated about their weight and then is out-loud expressing fear of being judged for having dinner with the rest of the team–after having spent two hours sitting alone in their car at a purported “team-building” exercise–you address it.

              3. Green great dragon*

                I genuinely don’t see what people are suggesting the team did to prevent it playing out, given the important point that Chris was saying they were under the weight limit and not refusing to be weighed. Prevent staff from weighing Chris, which would mean they couldn’t do the zipline even if they were under the weight limit? Demand they allow Chris on the line, despite the safety rules? Insist that Chris and the scales were moved to a different location, which does not feel like a less embarrassing situation? Something else not involving a time machine?

              4. Scrimp*

                If your point was that “not anyone knew Chris was over the limit in advance,” then why did you say “OP had to be exceedingly unobservant not to realize that Chris was [] going to be excluded from the activity?”

          2. Momma Bear*

            This is where I agree that there needed to be a better option/response. I realize OP was caught by surprise but to send Chris off by themselves was not the right response. I’d even tell the team that *I* also couldn’t go so Option B or C (though I’d ask Chris first about them), what do we pivot to?

            I’d do all the things suggested re: apology and talking to the venue and I’d also look for other options for activities. People are also terrified of heights and I wonder if anyone ever opted out for that. Or is this adventure park going to exclude someone with mobility issues?

            If the group pivoted to another activity and someone on the team got irritated about supporting a team member, then that’s something to address with that person. Team building isn’t team building if someone is unsupported.

          3. But what to call me?*

            Okay, but how does that work in practice in a way that isn’t incredibly patronizing to Chris once you’re already there in the situation?

            You want to weigh one of my team members? Never mind, we’ll just cancel the activity, even if that team member still wants to do it and doesn’t expect to be over the weight limit (which presumably Chris wasn’t sure of, or why would they have bothered stepping on the scale instead of just declining?)

            By checking for any restrictions in advance, it’s much easier to avoid the problem in the first place in the way Alison suggested, and it would have been better for OP to offer to do something else with Chris once the problem occurred, but once the activity center’s staff had already singled them out there aren’t a lot of good responses that don’t single them out even more or make assumptions about how they’d like to handle it.

            Unless they physically yanked Chris over to the scale and forced them to stand on it, Chris must have decided that going along with it was the best way forward out of the options available. I guess one way OP could have stepped in at that point would be to remind everyone that the activity truly was optional and suggest an alternative for those who would rather not participate for whatever reason, but that’s a whole lot easier to think of in advance and assumes that Chris wouldn’t have gone along with the weighing anyway because they expected to be able to participate. Maybe it would be nice to have their manager standing up for them, but it could just as easily add to the awfulness if done poorly (e.g. not only is this place banning me from this activity I wanted to do because of my weight, but my manager assumes I’m so far over the limit that it’s not even worth giving me the chance to try).

            Giving everyone the details and alternatives in advance so they can make their own decisions without pressure is definitely the way to go, whether or not you’re dealing with physical activities like zip lining. Assuring Chris that you will do that in the future might also help reduce the humiliation by making the problem not specifically about their weight but about the general need to make sure people aren’t hit with surprises about activities they thought they could participate in.

        5. doreen*

          because let’s be real: OP had to be exceedingly unobservant not to realize that Chris was either going to be excluded from the activity or OP was going to have to step in to prevent a bigger situation

          Maybe – I don’t know exactly what the weight limit is for this activity but even if it was the very first time this activity was done, you don’t have to be extremely unobservant to be unable to tell by looking whether someone is over or under a particular weight. Sure, if the weight limit is 200 lbs, you can probably tell by looking that a person who is 300 lbs is over the limit. But the last activity I did with a weight restriction the restriction was 300 lbs – I don’t think most people can tell by looking if someone is 10 or 20 lbs over that limit and you certainly can’t tell by looking that someone is 301 lbs rather than 299. . Chris might not have known that they were over the limit without weighing themself – in fact, it seems that Chris didn’t know they exceeded the limit.

          And the staff really was going to have to weigh Chris unless Chris saw the limit and decided not to participate – it’s a safety issue and a liability issue. They can’t just take his word for it if they thought he might be over the limit. They didn’t necessarily have to do it in front of everyone but I’m not sure that a more private weighing would have helped – people would still have been able to figure out what happened.

          The OP should in the future find out if there are any restrictions in advance and notify people.

          1. Scrimp*

            At adventure places I’ve been where people have yo be weighed for safety reasons, they weigh everyone at the start. It is strange to me that this place didn’t do that.

            1. doreen*

              That is a bit strange – but I’m not sure how much difference it really would have made. People still would have been able to tell Chris was over the weight limit when everyone was weighed and only Chris didn’t participate.

          2. NyaChan*

            A very sweet and good friend of mine who has known me for 10 years, knows that I struggle with weight issues, and I know would never want to cause me pain about it made something like OP’s error once. She wanted to do a water activity. It’s pretty basic for our area, just rent the equipment if you don’t own it already and go. It never occurred to her when she kept suggesting that we add that to a beach day that weight would be an issue and I finally had to stop hinting and just say – there’s a weight limit and I’m not in the acceptable range. At first, she instinctively started to argue because it was so shocking to her that this could be true, but then apologized for not thinking. But really? Not her fault. 1) she didn’t know there were recommended or incompatible weights for that equipment – if you’ve never been fat, I don’t see why it would even enter your mind to check unless it was a common situation like airplane seats where most people know weight/size is a factor for comfort. Whereas I, who have been fat more than once in my life and was obese at that time am hyper aware of anything that might implicate my size publicly. Shopping for clothes, boats, planes, squeezing by people in smaller spaces, chairs that don’t look sturdy, horseback riding and yes, zip lining. 2) She and many other simply can’t tell how much I or others weigh. I’ve seen a friend’s jaw drop when I told them I was over 250 (significant because at that time, I was nearly 300 lbs) as she thought I was 180-190. When you see someone regularly, you become somewhat used to them and you may not really notice as they get larger or smaller until and unless it smacks you in the face. And then you still might not know how to measure the change. Add in the fact that people are conditioned to think of fat as bad or shameful, people who like you, won’t want to assign a higher weight to you in their heads.

      4. Calamity Jane*

        Maybe ask your team what kind of team-building activities they would appreciate, instead of assuming everyone enjoys athletic events just because you do. If I were on your team, I would call in sick that day.

    2. Antilles*

      I get the sentiment, but it’s not that easy. It’s unlikely OP could have “found something else to do” for a decent sized group on zero notice; it probably would have been canceling the event right then and there for everyone. And there’s also this:
      Chris confirmed that they wanted us to still go without them, and I am pretty sure they would have been even more upset if none of us had gone because they couldn’t go.
      If Chris is insisting everybody else still go, OP is right Chris would have felt guilty if they’d been the reason everybody else missed out. And it’s entirely possible that the rest of the team who wanted to do zip lining would be irritated at Chris for ruining it.

      The situation sucks, but I think OP did the best they could in the moment.

      1. anononon*

        And indeed, people who aren’t necessarily ‘adventure’ type people might have physched themselves up for the ziplining, only to be told that because Chris is an an ounce over a health and safety limit they now have to go and do something THEY can’t or don’t want to do, like go-karting (I don’t drive) or zorbing (I’ll be sick) or clay pigeon shooting (I have PTSD) or indoor rock climbing (booorrrinnnng!)… you get the idea!

      2. Selena81*

        I’m fat, I can’t speak for Chris, but I’d feel even more embarrassed if everyone was awkwardly searching for a new activity (especially in a case where there isn’t any obvious alternate activity so everyone is just standing around and pretending to like the decor and pretending to have a good time).

        So I think OP made the right decision to go ahead after Chris told them to (please respect what a fat person says they want, we’re dealing enough already with having our opinions swept aside)

        But next time please be diligent about calling ahead and asking about any weight/height-restrictions to put on the invitation, and also make it clear when there aren’t any restrictions.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people who only do part of the program are actually avoiding the activities because they are afraid of being in Chris’s place. I know I oftentimes bow out of playful activities instead of risking any “sorry ma’m, we have a weight limit” confrontation.

        1. Hannah Lee*


          If I were somewhere with a handful of my friends, off having fun, and I was ineligible for something fun because of weight, while I’d urge them to do the thing anyway, I wouldn’t mind if one of them peeled off to do something else with me or even all of them decided they’d rather do something else than exclude me. Because we’re friends!

          But at a work event? No, no, I would not want ALL my colleagues to skip the fun thing just because I couldn’t go. Because those are people I work with, we might all be professional at work and some of us might be friendly, but they are not my personal friends in most cases. And yes, some of them might be disappointed to not do the fun thing and yes, I’d be *more* embarrassed if I was “the reason” no one was doing the fun thing (plus even if everyone were seeming like they were okay with it, there’d likely be someone who wasn’t … and I don’t need that energy in my workplace.

          If there’s ‘blame’ on anyone, I’d put it on the adventure place for not communicating limitations freely and at multiple points along the process of having groups join them: info on their website whereever details of that activity are given, in the material given to group organizers, in the info given to individuals considering participating and on-site, on the walkways leading to that attraction. That way organizers get to determine whether something might be a no-go at the start and individuals can assess for themselves whether to sign up for that thing, or on the day, see the sign that says “you must be THIS tall to go on this ride” in time to opt themselves out “oh, you know, I just saw they have an exhibit on falconry, where you can have a hawk perch on your arm. I’ve always wanted to do that, so I’m going to do that instead. Anyone else want to come?” without having to step on a scale!!! in front of their co-workers at the last second.

          The next in line for “blame” is lw for not thinking about gathering requirement/limitation info in the first place. Thought really it should just be standard practice for the recreation center, this CAN’T have been the first time this exact scenario went down with a group.

          1. HBJ*

            We don’t know that they didn’t communicate the limit. Chris participated in the past, which means either the staff decided that he looked under the limit then (whether he actually was or not) or the staff was lax.

        2. MadCatter*

          Same. I would hate being in the middle of a group searching for an alternate activity to accommodate me in that moment. I would just want things to go on as normally as possible and not be singled out anymore.

          My heart hurts for Chris – it’s painful to be the one singled out like that and in our society, even though it’s not shameful to be fat, we are made to feel that way and it sucks.

        3. ferrina*

          Yes, definitely put height/weight/other restrictions on the invitation!

          It saves everyone a ton of awkwardness when you get there, and it gives people more options on how to bow out.
          (And of course, don’t regularly do activities that are going to exclude the same group of people)

      3. Funeral Bell*

        Of course Chris said they wanted everyone to go without them! The social consquences of them being the one to say the team shouldn’t go on the zipline would have been horrid.

        The Adventure Center behaved abominably. I’m not sure there was a good way for LW to deal with this and I’m glad they looked for advice.

        1. Anon Y Mouse*

          I’ve been in this position and I would, actually, want everyone to go without me. I’m socially anxious and company would be the last thing I would want (and if I could, I’d probably want just to go home).

        2. Nebula*

          Yeah, totally agree that this is mainly on the adventure centre. They put Chris, OP and the team in a really awkward position, especially since this hasn’t been an issue before, so it’s not like OP was expecting it.

    3. Come on*

      To counter your opinion, if my manager cancelled an entire event or activity everyone was looking forward to because me not being able to participate, I would feel like trash for ruining it for everyone else. That is what my focus would be, and it wouldn’t feel like team building.
      It is hard to say exactly what LW should have done because we don’t know Chris. Personally, I would think LW staying behind with Chris would have been the best option in the moment. That way LW could have found another activity to do with Chris

      1. Selena81*

        fat people are like everyone else: sometimes ‘it is okay’ means ‘it is actually okay’ and sometimes ‘it is okay’ means ‘i want you to tell me to stop being silly, and that of course it is not okay’.

        Only Chris knows what he really wanted to happen.

        1. zuzu*

          And sometimes “it’s okay” means “Good lord, I’m humiliated enough already, go off and leave me alone to pull myself together.”

          1. Interestingly Fat*

            Fat person here…

            The worst possible interpretation of everything all the time is exhausting on the behalf of fat people robs us agency and is insultingly infantilizing.

            1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

              That’s true, but I don’t think zuzu’s offered interpretation is the worst possible, or even ungenerous at all. I think it’s very likely that in this circumstance, “it’s okay” may well have meant “Oh just let this moment end, for pete’s sake!”. What else could they say when put on the spot like that?

            2. Rose*

              How is this the worst possible interpretation? The entire group was standing there while he was weighed and his weight was discussed. Wanting that moment to end is very reasonable.

          2. Mentalrose*

            This, this. has happened to me before too and yes, it’s humiliating beyond belief, especially if like Chris it’s something I’ve done before with no problems. But it’s even more humiliating when more attention is called to the situation in any way. If Chris said “everyone go on”, then everyone needed to go on. Trust what the person says they want.

            1. Allonge*

              Fully agree. Sure, there are situations in life where we should not take ‘I’ll be fine, go’ as said, but mostly they involve much closer relationships than we have at work.

            2. Beth*

              Agreed. Even if it meant “It’s obviously not fine but I don’t want an even bigger fuss, so please go,” respecting Chris’s wishes was the way to go here.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        I did wonder if the LW/manager should have stayed behind with Chris.

        But OTOH if I were in Chris’s situation I probably would have wanted to wallow in some misery and try to process what happened alone before everyone comes back. I wouldn’t want to be one-on-one with my boss.

        I am very much a “I don’t want to inconvenience people” person so I’d probably want them to continue and not change plans because of me. And I also generally do not want deal with trying to scamble to find an alternate group activity that’s acceptable to all at the last minute. I’d find that frustrating no matter what the cause and it would be extra embaressing if I was being side-eyed to access if I could do the next activity.

        I think we need to take Chris at his word here that he wanted the others to go without him. We can’t know for sure, but the best thing to do is trust they’re being honest about what they want.

        1. KR*

          I think that would have been a good call LW or someone else who opts to stay behind with the coworker goes to find something else to do with the coworker and then the group does the zip lining. I think it only really works if it’s done in a super off hand manner so the coworker or anyone else doesn’t get the feeling it’s a pity thing

          1. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

            I agree, of the terrible range of available choices, I think the manager staying behind with the excluded person is the least worst.

            I think that’s more befitting of leadership, and of immediately trying to make it up to that person, plus presumably then Chris would have someone to play some games with or whatever in the Adventure Center. OP would then have been able to insist on paying for some nice things for Chris, rather than giving the corporate card where Chris may still have felt awkward really using it.

            1. ClaireW*

              As a larger woman who’s likely to be the Chris in this scenario, I literally would rather go home alone than have my manager sit out the activity with me, because it would mean I can’t just try to distract myself and instead my thoughts and my manager’s thoughts and half the teams’ thoughts are on the fact that I not only couldn’t join but basically pulled someone else out with me. So instead of like listening to a podcast or going shopping and coming back, I have to pretend to be fine with my manager for 2 hours.

          2. Sylvia*

            I agree. The point of these activities is to spend time together, and no one should be have to be alone.

        2. Olive*

          I’ve had some past positions where the only thing worse for me than being the reason everyone had to cancel an activity would be if I had to spend the rest of the day doing something with just my boss.

          It would have been kind if Chris had had a work friend who might have genuinely wanted to do something with him. I’ve had work friends I’d have happily spent the rest of the day with. But I’d rather be by myself than be stuck finding an activity with someone I didn’t really mesh with.

        3. There You Are*

          If I was Chris’s coworker, I would hope they would understand when I said, “I’m not going ziplining. What the employee did stinks nine ways to Sunday and I would not be able to enjoy myself after witnessing that.”

          Chris could choose to sit in their car, but I for sure would grab the OP’s corporate card and go find something fun to do, preferably not spending the money at the same place that just went out of their way to humiliate my co-worker.

    4. Excel Jedi*

      That would have made it even more of *a thing,* I think. Especially if people were already engaged. If it’s anything like the zipline/adventure center by me, it would have meant that the whole group was awkwardly sitting around for 2 hours. Usually these kinds of places can’t find something for a large group to do on the drop of a dime.

      I wish Chris would have chosen to do something else – or someone else on the team volunteered to hang out with Chris in the interim – but stopping everyone and trying to make a backup plan would have likely made everything worse.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, the unfortunate truth is that by cancelling this event in the moment, that would likely have been the end of it. These activities get booked up in advance, especially on the weekend, and with a larger group there’s not the ability to turn on a dime and do something else, as the rest of the center is likely booked with others. It’s life! There’s no perfect response!

        And even though they handled it badly (too public), remember that the staff at the adventure place has a responsibility to make sure that someone is eligible to use their equipment. The consequence of a person exceeding the weight limit on the zipline is not good, so even though they did their job badly in the moment (there is no good excuse for not pulling Chris aside privately and speaking to them, although unfortunately as the only person too big for the activity, the upshot is the same), but there is no upside for the staff on not making sure Chris can or can’t go. They can’t take someone’s word for it if they can’t fit or exceed the limits of the safety equipment. Really the best solution is disseminating the safety info and limitations BEFORE the activity, and having people sign or otherwise acknowledge that they have read it. Maybe Chris still would have thought they could go, I don’t know, but there’s a better chance of this not happening when everyone has had all the info in front of them as they look at their own computer screen a week in advance, and aren’t in front of a crowd of coworkers.

    5. Green great dragon*

      If they’d known in advance, sure. But it’s not always easy to instantly ‘find something else’ with a large group, especially if they had another activity scheduled afterwards, so let’s give LW a break here.

    6. Beth*

      What OP should have done, in an ideal world, is look at the limits and conditions for the activities in advance and take a moment to think about whether they’d limit participation for their team. Ideally they would’ve had a moment of “Hm, I see that there’s a weight limit–I don’t know how much everyone weighs and don’t feel like asking is appropriate, so we should do a different activity.”

      Once they were at the activity, in the process of starting, and Chris got pulled aside–that’s too late to cancel. It would be way more dramatic to call everyone off, and Chris was obviously already embarrassed and being hard on himself without OP making an even bigger scene of it.

      1. Antilles*

        Per the post though, they’ve done this tour for several years and Chris has always been able to participate before. Seems pretty reasonable to assume that if it wasn’t a problem in fall 2020, 2021, and 2022, it’d be fine in fall 2023 too.

        1. Selena81*

          It seems pretty likely to me the weight-limit was always there, but wasn’t strictly enforced (that happens a lot: after all most stuff has a lot of redundancy and is actually safe way above the published weight-limit)

        2. Beth*

          That’s absolutely understandable logic but it’s also flawed! People’s weights fluctuate. People’s proportions fluctuate too–even if someone’s weight didn’t change, if they went from carrying it mostly in lean muscle to carrying more of it in their gut, they might be seen as more likely to be above the limits. (A lot of these adventure-type places manage weight checks basically ad-hoc, by their staff asking anyone who looks like they might be over the limit to step aside and weigh in. It’s a terrible method, but is what it is.) The adventure center may have reevaluated their standards over the course of a year. They may have installed new equipment with different limits.

          I’m not saying OP is a total asshole for not checking. But the lesson here is to check every time, and to make the current limits clear when they’re asking who wants to go.

          1. Old and Don’t Care*

            Or the adventure center has a new insurance company with different requirements.

            When I’ve been to a similar park they weigh everyone, but the scale display is behind the counter and they don’t tell you your weight. Not sure that would be that much better in this set of circumstances, but it would allow people to opt out before being weighed. If it were me I would claim to have an upset stomach and pass.

            1. Mill Miker*

              I think it’s better if it’s combined with clearly communicated weight limits. Someone should be able to be 90% sure that whether the scale will say “yes” or “no” before they step on (there’s always a chance your personal scale disagrees with theirs).

              I really do wonder if this is one of those situations like in some of the other comments on this page, where “Chris” was under the limit, but “Chris + equipment” was over, which is totally an unfair thing for the business to do, as you have no way of checking before sign-up what that weight will be.

        3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          People’s needs and limitations change. I may have been able to go on an eight-mile hike last year, but maybe this year I’m recovering from a knee replacement or a sprained ankle and can’t handle it.

          This isn’t to say “no physically active team building activities, but to reiterate the usual advice to mix things up – don’t have EVERYTHING be an extreme sport. (Or one that isn’t suitable for people afraid of heights, or whatever.)

      2. Busy Middle Manager*

        “What OP should have done, in an ideal world, is look at the limits and conditions for the activities in advance and take a moment to think about whether they’d limit participation for their team”

        This is the correct answer. I’m not sure why OP didn’t think of this. Surely there would be physical limits, including those besides weight

        1. Beth*

          I can absolutely see why OP didn’t think of this! Like I said, in an ideal world they would have–but missing this kind of thing is common, it’s just not on a lot of people’s radars at all.

          As a large person myself, I’ve noticed that a lot of smaller people don’t understand what weight amounts mean. Plenty of people see things like “weight limit: 250lb” and think that that’s a high limit and the activity is fine for almost anyone. In reality, that’s a common enough weight in the US, and probably won’t even register as fat to people’s eyes if you’re tall enough.

          And that’s if they think to look for a weight limit at all. Weight limits are often in the fine print rather than highly advertised–you have to be looking for them. And in my experience, people who have always fit into the clothing and activities they want to do, often assume that others will have the same experience without really thinking about it. That’s a bad assumption–fat people have a different experience, as do unusually tall or short people, as do disabled people–but it’s a common blind spot.

    7. Anonymous 75*

      Except he hasn’t always been excluded and has done it in the past. This literally happened in the moment, everything was likely already paid for and people were dressed to go for this activity.

    8. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      In my fat experience, cancelling the whole activity would be highkey humiliating and would generate resentment in my colleagues, especially since they’re all apparently the kind of people who are fine with letting one person sit out on their own during a team building activity. Not all fat people are the same and some will feel differently, but I think I’m in the majority here.

      This is a tough situation to navigate, but it definitely jumped out at me that not a single coworker excused themselves to hang with Chris. I will tell you as a fat person the message you receive from silence is that you deserve to be left out; loneliness and exclusion is a punishment for existing in your body. Maybe your team was just taking the lead from you, LW, but for Chris’ sake I’d ask you to look deeper into this response.

      1. Pippa K*

        Yeah, I was really surprised no one said “you know, zip lining’s not really my thing; is it okay if I hang with Chris?” This doesn’t magically solve everything for Chris if they’ve been made to feel embarrassed about weight, but it would have been nice. (And also pretty plausible that someone might want an excuse not to do the thing.)

        1. Bern Notice*

          That surprised me as well. I would like to think that I would be that person who says “I’m kinda glad someone else is sitting out, because I don’t really want to do it either. Chris, how about we find something else to do?”

          1. Lily Rowan*

            I mean, I would have been genuinely relieved, because I can see myself going along with a group activity everyone was doing, but I would 100% never choose to go ziplining of my own volition. My hands and feet are sweating just typing this. But I do like to challenge myself! So anyway, given the slightest opportunity to do something else (including sitting in the car), I would jump at it.

        2. Esme*

          I would have felt too caught up in second hand embarrassment to think of this, but it would be perfect. If the manager took the lead on hanging and said “Anyone who wants to join us is welcome” that would have let people join without feeling pressured or like they would be judged for staying or going which wouldn’t help Chris’s embarrassment.

        3. Ho-ho-holey hose*

          I know! That was my first thought. And, as a minimum, the manager should have done so as well. Yes, it might be awkward, but it is awkwardly sending the message that Chris is important and valued, rather than awkwardly sending the message that he isn’t. Also, I can imagine plenty of people wouldn’t like zip-lining! It would definitely be an example of the type of activity where having an option B would make sense. And who knows- maybe having an option B pre-set up would have made more people willing to jump in and join Chris

          1. Selena81*

            It’s extra complicated because the group already self-selected for zipline-lovers (everyone else only came for diner). And has been doing so for several years.

            So it’s not like there’ll be a groupmember who is like ‘yes! finally a good excuse to skip this nonsense! if Chris is not going I am not going either’

        4. Hiring Mgr*

          I don’t blame anyone for not doing that though, since it’s also possible Chris didn’t want company in that moment

      2. Interestingly Fat*

        I am fat too.

        Unpopular opinion, looking at the comments, I think LW is being too hard on themselves and the comments stating this should have never happened aren’t helpful. One person has a mentioned a time machine!

        Chris making comments about how they shouldn’t eat because they’re already too heavy?! I
        would be curious for suggestions of what were people supposed to say with a person publicly putting themselves down for being heavy? Again I’m fat.

        1. Celeste*

          Honestly, in response to the comments, I probably would have tried to direct the attention to the adventure center to try to make Chris feel less awkward. “They should be better equipped to handle more people on their zip lines! I’m sure you’re not the first person they’ve turned away. Not cool!” Or something.

          1. Selena81*

            yeah, making it ‘they should be able to accommodate you’ over ‘you are too fat’ is a better spin
            (insofar as talking about the incident at all, which you should keep to a minimum)

          2. RVA Cat*

            They also could have talked about how rudely the event staff handled it (the scale!). One thing to emphasize is that Chris’s size is normal and not his fault the same way as if he’d been too tall (which could also be possible for zip lines).

            1. Starbuck*

              This is interesting because I would feel so weird trying to harp on it like this – I would assume it’d be more painful to keep thinking of it, and as a small/thin person I am never really sure what is helpful to say in these scenarios, because I clearly have no clue what it’s really like and worry about coming off as patronizing. Telling someone their size is normal.. is that really a thing to say?

              1. Fellmama*

                I wouldn’t use the word normal, but I would say “all bodies are valid and deserve equal consideration. I’m so sorry you were treated that way.” Since I’m fat myself I would add something like “stuff like that is the worst, isn’t it?”

                It’s definitely not helpful to try to empathize by comparison–from a thin person to a fat person it comes across as a backdoor brag “oh I have the worst time finding clothes, too”–but *personally* I think it’s nice when people acknowledge and leave space for my fatness.

          3. Jaydee*

            This is the right answer. The problem is not Chris’ body. The problem is partly that the zip-lining place doesn’t have equipment/courses* that accommodate a wide range of bodies and mostly that their way of addressing a customer who appeared to exceed the weight limit of their course was absolutely tactless.

            The even deeper problem is society’s anti-fat bias. I would bet that if the issue was a height limit or a “don’t ride this ride if you’re pregnant, have heart problems, have any implantable device, have back or joint problems, or have recently had surgery” rule or if they had gone bowling and the bowling alley didn’t have large enough shoes or a light enough ball with adult size finger holes, Chris might still feel embarrassed by being singled out and not participating but they wouldn’t feel like they should skip dinner because they’re tall or short or have a bad back or large feet or tendinitis in their wrist.

            *A brief Google search has taught me that the weight limit at most zip lining places is not because of the strength of the harness and ropes but because more mass moves faster and leading to harder landings and higher risks of injury. There’s also minimum weights so you don’t get stuck in the middle of course because you couldn’t build up enough momentum. I’m assuming that variation in the steepness and length of courses is why there seems to be a range of weight limits between 250 and 300 lbs depending on the course.

        2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          “What happened at the adventure center sucked; I wish I hadn’t been so frozen by surprise. You shouldn’t take it to heart, plus that __________ looks delicious.”

          I tend to feel it’s similar to when you accidentally misgender someone. Making a huge deal out of it or pretending it didn’t happen both make it worse. Just acknowledge, correct, and move on.

          LW shouldn’t be beating themselves up over what should have happened, but reflecting on how we might have handled a situation better is a good way to prepare for if it happens again. And it seems like that’s their interest since the wrote in to AAM!

        3. Selena81*

          Chris’s remarks were not okay.
          Chris was just humiliated so it’s reasonable to cut them some slack. But if Chris starts talking like that again than LW (or someone else with standing) needs to shut it down asap.

          1. Selena81*

            But also: Chris (or any other fat person) should not self-censor themselves into the position of ‘good fattie’. Always upbeat, always the first to judge other fat people.

          2. ferrina*

            Yeah, this is where I landed. Chris’s remarks were not okay and demanded undue emotional management from coworkers. It’s one thing to need some emotional support, another thing to demand conciliatory comments.

            I wonder if this is something that is normal for Chris. If Chris usually doesn’t make comments like this, I’d chalk it up to stress from an awful experience and I’d make comforting noises. But if this is a tactic Chris has used before, I’d be annoyed and keep mum.

            1. ferrina*

              And not necessarily about weight- I’ve seen people of all sizes use this tactic on things like “you don’t have to hang out with me, I’m used to being alone” to “I guess I’m not smart enough” and “it’s okay, everyone takes me for granted” etc. It’s passive-aggressive, and not okay.

              Again, there is nothing in the letter to indicate what Chris is like on a normal day. If this is just a snapshot of Chris on a horrible day and this is an anomaly for Chris, that’s totally different. That’s a “everyone is off after a terrible day”

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Also can explain why all the coworkers seemed really awkward about it. It’s a “oh, I’ve never heard Chris talk like this before, I don’t really know what to say in response, I feel weird, ummm, let’s change the topic”.

                1. I forgot my user name again*

                  I heard his comments in the pitiful tone too, but now I’m thinking maybe he was trying to make light of the situation or break the tension with a joke and because of everyone’s discomfort, the joke fell flat. How many times have you said something in your head and it doesn’t sound that way when you say it out loud?

              2. rufous*

                I’m normally not one for doing others’ emotional management, but in this case I think Chris deserved conciliation. Manager and teammates should have repaired the breach.

            2. Interestingly Fat*

              I saw these comments earlier and couldn’t articulate why I Chris’s comments could be wrong. Thanks for saying what I couldn’t

          3. ClaireW*

            This feels *really* harsh – he was clearly frustrating and feeling crappy, and it’s very cruel to say someone needs to “shut that down asap” when clearly Chris was trying to process the horrible situation and feel reassured that everyone they work with doesn’t think they’re too fat to be there.

        4. Insert witty name here*

          I could see myself making those types of comments when I was younger. I was the fat kid and the really fat teenager and a super fat adult. I wouldn’t put myself down out loud to others now, but it takes awhile to break that mindset of “I’d better say this awful thing about me before someone else does”.

        5. Marna Nightingale*

          Well, in my crowd we usually go with “Hey! Don’t talk about my friend that way”.

          In my experience, it’s the perfect combination of mildly startling (to interrupt their harsh self-talk for a second so they can hear you) and clearly sincerely caring, while not telling them how they should feel or think about themselves.

      3. Miette*

        As much grace as I want to allow OP–and this is a difficult situation to navigate in the moment and you do have my sympathy on your struggles–this stood our for me as well. I don’t know how to address this with a team, but perhaps there is a lesson for a future team training around practicing empathy?

    9. Office Lobster DJ*

      If OP knew this ahead of time, definitely, but OP had to make that decision on the fly. Maybe solidarity would have made Chris feel supported, but there is just as good a chance that it would have made Chris feel worse to be the cause of everyone having to sit out a fun activity.

      If I had a time machine, I would suggest OP state that they would be staying with Chris and getting a head start on mini golf or whatever, and everyone was welcome to do either thing. Asking Chris what they want everyone to do is putting an already embarrassed employee in the position of being responsible for derailing everyone’s fun afternoon plan.

    10. WillowSunstar*

      I think in the future, calling ahead and checking would be the right way to go about this. I’m on a team with more than one person of size and would not want to do any activities that exclude them. Plus I’m over 40 and have a bad back, so there are issues besides size that may preclude people from participating. Managers do need to think about things like that.

      One of my other work teams used to do bowling before COVID and anyone who didn’t want to/couldn’t bowl were the cheerleading section.

    11. Random Dice*

      As someone with a disability that excludes me from a lot of activities, including sitting in a non-ergonomic chair on the sidelines…

      I would be hurt and disappointed by that incident, but a sincere apology and change in procedure would greatly help.

      I once went to a mandatory team-building event that was inherently VERY physical. I politely declined and said I’d grab a coffee instead. I was told I couldn’t cancel, and had to go and just sit, for hours, in what I feared would be a hard uncomfortable chair (but which turned out to be a VERY hard and very uncomfortable chair, that threw out my back by hour 3).

      There were four of us who had to sit there, and there was social pressure for each of us to have to disclose our private medical conditions that precluded us from the intense physical activity. (UGH.)

      I made the best of it, cheering others on and taking photos. But I felt very Othered and demotivated and disrespected as a person; and very aware that my documented disability was being illegally violated.

      I could have taken it to HR, but there would have been career repercussions, and fundamentally I didn’t trust the senior manager who organized this event.

      I think that was the part that was most demotivating: feeling all of those excluded and disrespected feelings at a mandatory team-building event, but also believing that my feelings don’t matter to those in charge.

      A genuine apology and change to that process going forward would have let me with only the original feelings, and not the broader “you don’t matter and can’t trust us with your disability” feeling. If that makes sense?

      1. EmilyClimbs*

        Wow. That is AWFUL. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that (both the incident itself, and working for people who would think something like that was in any way acceptable.)

    12. Busy Middle Manager*

      I wonder if OP thought it would only be one person not doing it? I went to camp until I was 17 and everyone would walk over to the zip line every year to watch 1/3 to at most 1/2 of people actually do it.

      I am surprised 100% of people in any group wanted to do it, wondering if OP just assumed many of the people would opt-out from fear or other reasons such as arm injury or their self-eval of their upper body strength or whatever, and just have fun watching the few people who actually did it.

      1. Myrin*

        The whole thing is voluntary, though – OP says that there are people who select to only come to certain parts of the activities and others who only join the dinner – which means that “the team” going zip lining already consists of everyone specifically choosing to do the zip lining; those who didn’t want to do it weren’t there in the first place.

    13. NerdyKris*

      Canceling on the spot would be even more humiliating for Chris, as they would feel like the reason everyone’s fun was ruined.

    14. Irish Teacher.*

      I think if I were Chris, that would have made me feel even worse.

      Now, I’m probably not the best judge here, as I have a terror of heights and ziplining sounds like a nightmare to me, so somebody who wanted to do it might feel very differently, but my feeling is that if I were in Chris’s position, I would be quite embarrassed, especially as weight is something that is stigmatised in our society and I would be hoping I could just slip off without people noticing too much and would be really hoping nobody commented on it and that they forgot pretty quickly. Somebody saying, “hey, let’s do a different activity, then” would just draw attention to it and make me feel more self-conscious.

      I would also feel guilty about having things changed to accommodate me, not because I think any of my colleagues would blame me, but because I would feel they missed out because of me.

      Again, this is just how I would imagine I’d feel. Chris might feel very differently; I don’t know. But I do think it is worth considering the possibility that Chris might not want the activity cancelled and might even find that more upsetting.

    15. Maggie*

      I would be mortified if the entire team changed plans because of me, and I would personally (I know everyone won’t feel the same) way rather have them just go than make a thing about changing the activity. Next year OP should ensure each activity planned has no weight limit and make any other limitations known and provide a place for people to anonymously say it won’t work for them, and then if anyone says that they can plan something else.

    16. Jessica*

      Not just excluded, but *publicly humiliated.*

      The staff there could have pulled the LW (or whoever scheduled the activity) aside and said “Hey, we’re worried that one of your team members might be over the weight limit for this activity, and we have pretty strict safety rules about the zipline. How do you want to handle this? We can say we found a safety concern with the zipline and will have to do a different activity instead to avoid embarrassing that team member.”

      Or any NUMBER of other ways of handling it discreetly.

      The staff chose the least professional way possible to handle the issue, and LW chose to indicate, at a “team-building” exercise, that not everyone’s really a member of the team in the ways that matter.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yeah I really hope the LW gives feedback to the event center about this, it’s truly horrible the way they handled it. They put the whole group in a no-win situation.

      2. oddlyphobic*

        I don’t think this is the centre’s responsibility tbh, and I don’t think they need to be suggesting to OP that they lie to the group, or put their reputation at risk by pretending there was a random “safety issue”. There is a weight limit, Chris was over it. Presumably they asked, he said he wasn’t, they had concerns as this would be a significant safety problem, so they suggested they weighed him, he obviously agreed to this, and they were right. He was indeed too heavy to ride the zipline. The weight limit should have been sent out in the joining instructions so people could opt out, but I don’t see what other options the centre had once Chris was there. I’m sorry he was embarrassed, but thats surely better than him being allowed on the zipline and some accident occurring.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I think the center is at fault only for singling one person out. They really should have a procedure to just weigh everyone in a relatively discrete way (like a scale with a readout only visible to the attendant). It only takes a few seconds per person. Not only does this avoid calling undue attention to any one person’s body, it’s also good safety practice because people are not usually good a visually estimating weight.

    17. Menace_to_Sobriety*

      I know that due to some health/mobility issues I have, that if my entire team had to cancel an activity that everyone ELSE could and WANTED to do because of my lack of ability, I’d feel AWFUL. It’s super hard to find something that literally everyone is able to AND enthusiastic about, and this event was prescheduled, so also, likely pre-paid. I, as the manager might have offered to hang back with Chris and told the others to go on ahead while we… played mini golf or had a drink, or whatever. But cancelling the entire event for EVERYONE after Chris was singled out by the operator, would only shine a brighter spotlight on him. In the future tho, AG is correct, the team needs to know the agenda and possible activities so they can make informed decisions ahead of time “Ok I’ll happily play some volleyball but I am NOT climbing a rock wall,” etc… Include a link to the facility, maybe some FAQs and expectations. Also, instead of the entire group doing the same activity (e.g. zip lining) as a group, schedule several smaller “pick your own adventure” type activities.

    18. Dee*

      As someone who is often unable to participate even in marginal ways because of disability… Thank you.

    19. Scout*

      They were literally about to start the activity. If I were Chris, I would have been more mortified by the rigmarole around canceling and everyone walking away and looking for something else to do, which might have wound up being nothing because you often have to book ahead for a group. And, because the weight limit is clearly in the rules, declining to go would have been met with “no refunds” and that would also make me feel bad, even if my manager instantly said “no problem.”

      I feel bad for Chris, because I would have been mightily embarrassed, but I’d also acknowledge that it was on me for not seeing if I met the criteria for the activity. Anyone in the vicinity of 275-285 pounds is surely aware that some activities have weight limits for safety reasons. You could be an extremely fit person at 295 pounds, but you’ll still be unable to zipline, parasail, bungee jump, etc. at most places.

  3. surprisedcannuk*

    Please go easy on the LW. I think the Zipline people should do a better job of advertising weight limits. Once everyone is inline it’s hard to switch to something else.

    1. Anonymous 75*

      Exactly, especially since Chris has done the activity at this place before. Personally I think this is 100% on the adventure sites fault. if there was an issue (and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it’s a half-hazard enforcement or over enforcement of rules) it should have been dealt with privately.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Yes, I agree, it was bad management on the adventure site’s part. No one should ever be forced to weigh themselves in front of their coworkers.

      2. Presea*

        Yeah, things like bone density, muscle density, etc can make people a fair bit heavier or lighter than they “look”, and as many others have pointed out, there are a lot of other issues that could interfere with someone completing a zip-lining activity. There has to be a better and more discreet way to handle this situation.

        Honestly, I’d say the circumstances around this incident are concerning enough that it’s imperative that the OP contact the adventure company and comment on the worker’s behavior – it seems decently likely that either the safety regulations are being enforced in a really crappy and inconsistent way, or Chris was deliberately singled out and bullied for their weight.

        1. Spiders Everywhere*

          Good point, would they have even noticed someone who was over the weight limit due to being muscular? Visually scanning for fat people is a terrible way to do it.

        2. Janky*

          I agree with this. I am often thought to be larger and taller than I am. In group photos I am often put in the back row because I am typically guessed to be 4-5 inches taller than I am (so I’m just hidden in group photos since high school). In stores I am regularly given a 2-3 sizes larger by the salesperson. Its easier to to just try them on, show I’m swimming in them and then only request my size than initially face a salesperson who thinks I’m delusional.

          1. Clare*

            I had this problem when I went to get a custom-made wetsuit. I don’t LOOK wildly out of proportion, so they insisted I try on several of the standard sizes first. Only after seeing me waddle around for several minutes like a penguin in a shrunken wool sweater (long limbs short torso) did they understand why I was willing to pay for tailoring.

            There’s no such thing as a standard body!

        3. sparkle emoji*

          Yes, based on the fact that Chris has previously done this and the fact he was the only one weighed it seems like the zipline staff is doing weight checks based on vibes. I’d think if Chris had a substantial weight change it would have been mentioned. If the weight limit is that important then this adventure center should weigh everyone and then discretely deal with people over the limit one-on-one.

        4. oddlyphobic*

          well, except they were right. They enforced the safety regulations – he said he was under the weight, they checked and he wasn’t. That’s not bullying.

      3. Regina Phalange*

        Yes, this! I 100% don’t blame the LW for not knowing, because they allowed Chris to do the activity in the past. They need to be clearer about the requirements *and* consistent about enforcing them. Either the activity was unsafe for Chris when they did it previously, or thee staff was singling them out in an unfair way this time.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Just remember that people and bodies can change over time, so it’s not true that doing it last year means you can do it this year. This is why linking to the safety things and physical requirements beforehand would be very helpful.

      4. A.Smith*

        That’s what got me too – Chris has done this before. Of course we’re assuming they’ve always been generally the same size, but it seems like a reasonable assumption to make. In whatever case, I hope the LW does call the company and point this out. It’s 2023 and generally fair for us to expect way more of companies that have any sort of physical requirements of participants to be incredibly communicative.

      5. Rose*

        And if you have requirements like this for the love of all that is holy, send them out before hand.

        The fact that they actually anticipated people being too heavy, thought ahead about how to handle heavy people, and their answer was “surprise public weigh ins” is so infuriating.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      This. I feel for the employees at the adventure center, too – they likely don’t have any say about whether they enforce the weight limit or not, and I’m sure they’d rather not have had to pull Chris aside either.

      Ideally, the adventure center would make it very clear upfront that XYZ activities have ABC restrictions and aren’t for everyone – and anyone scheduling group outings would deal with this information intelligently and tactfully.

      1. Observer*

        , and I’m sure they’d rather not have had to pull Chris aside either.

        I don’t really buy that. They could have done what reasonable places do, and make everyone hop on the scale. They didn’t have to single Chris out.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Except when Chris hopped on the scale and then didn’t go on the zip line, they would have been singled out, anyway.

          1. Revi*

            Perhaps not; there may have been a coworker who didn’t appear over the limit to the adventure center staff member (which is to say: was not fat) but nevertheless was.

            If Chris *was* the only employee over the limit that’s still something to be dealt with, but if everyone had been weighed OP wouldn’t *also* have to deal with the adventure center going “heyyyy fatty let’s make sure you aren’t too fat” at Chris.

            1. No heights*

              Yeah, I weigh quite a bit, but I’ve been told for years that I “carry it well”. Among friends guessing weights and so forth, friends consistently guess at least 30 less than I weigh.

              So it’s entirely possible I look fine to participate but am actually too heavy.

              We will never know, because the only way I’d get on a zip line is if that’s the only way to escape a burning/collapsing building. Major fear of heights.

            2. sparkle emoji*

              Yeah, I think the singling out was a major issue. People who are tall or muscular or both can be deceptively heavy. If the adventure center’s protocol is just “weigh anyone that looks fat to the zipline attendant” that’s both insulting to those customers and not serving the safety function it’s meant to. Weigh everyone as standard practice if it’s necessary.

            1. Observer*

              As @Revi says but if everyone had been weighed OP wouldn’t *also* have to deal with the adventure center going “heyyyy fatty let’s make sure you aren’t too fat” at Chris.

              And the odds are high that at least one other person was over the weight, as well since it’s extremely unlikely that this staff is any good at estimating people’s actual weight.

        2. Yeah...*

          Some people get weighed at the doctor’s office and even then you don’t have to look at the number.

        3. Kindred Spirit*

          I have only been ziplining once, and everyone had to step on a scale. It was similar to the luggage scale at the airport, and the read-out was only visible to the staff checking people in.

          There’s still potential for embarrassment, though, if the weight limit is 250 lbs (that was the limit when I went) and a person’s bathroom scale at home says they weigh under the limit, but the zipline scale puts that person at a pound or two over the limit. The adventure center needs a more sensitive way of handling the situation when this happens.

            1. yvve*

              thats a cool idea, though it might be frustrating to people who correctly know they weigh 245 and therefore dont bother to go

      2. I should really pick a name*

        In practice, it looks like they DO have some say.

        Chris has participated for the last several years and was never asked about their weight previously.

        A weight limit can be a legit thing, but it should be communicated in advance, and be applied in a more compassionate way than “you look heavy”.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Or perhaps the staff just had a safety review meeting where it was strongly emphasized that they had to enforce the weight limit, no exceptions. And don’t bother the manager with this. There is no knowing.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            Maybe management is cracking down, maybe they had an actual safety issue recently, maybe they modified the course and have a lower limit, maybe the staff member was new and not comfortable bending the rules, maybe Chris put on a few pounds and went from “eh, close enough” to “sorry, but no”. There are tons of reasonable explanations.

          2. Allonge*

            Also, humiliating or not, the weight limits are there for a reason.

            I am fat and would much rather be singled out and feel really bad for hours than crash and fall from a zip line.

            1. Interestingly Fat*

              As a fat person,

              I feel like there’s a lot of what if’s by people who aren’t fat in the comments.

          3. ferrina*

            That’s what I suspect- for some reason the adventure center is now enforcing weight limits, whether due to insurance requirements or someone had an accident at the center or a new manager that is more diligent about the rules…who knows.

            It sucks that they suddenly started enforcing and Chris was caught in a situation where they reasonably expected they could participate (since they had in the past) and now they couldn’t. (exception: if Chris was aware of the weight restriction and aware that they exceeded it, then this was more a calculated gamble on Chris’s part. It was not just a gamble with participation; it was also a gamble with their safety if there was an equipment failure).

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              A couple years back I had a chat with a manager at one of these places. According to him, there is an industry association that sets safety standards and audits member parks. Like many examples of industry self-regulation, the entire point is to avoiding tempting the government to regulate it. He claimed that they really were pretty strict about it. It could well be that this place in the letter had just been dinged in a safety audit.

          4. Observer*

            Or perhaps the staff just had a safety review meeting where it was strongly emphasized that they had to enforce the weight limit, no exceptions. And don’t bother the manager with this.

            Nope. Because *properly* executed safety concerns would have meant that everyone was weighed. So that tells me that things are not being properly handled to start with.

            Also, if everyone had been weighed, it’s quite possible that at least one more person would have been found to be over the limit. And even if not, it would have been less “in your face” and also not about “hey, you look fat.”

            1. TechWorker*

              I just don’t think you can assert this without knowing the make up of the group and what the limit actually is. But hey ho. (What if that slim looking 5ft 4 person actually weighs 250 pounds? Spoiler, they don’t).

              1. Allonge*

                Yes, I mean – It’s not an exact science but can we stop pretending that there is no correlation between body size (percievable by someone with reasonable eyesight) and weight? Also, everyone being weighed would not have made the issue go away.

                The adventure centre absolutely needs better procedures overall, though.

              2. Observer*

                (What if that slim looking 5ft 4 person actually weighs 250 pounds? Spoiler, they don’t).

                If you are asserting that the whole group was slim 5′ 4″ people, except for Chris, that’s utter fan-fic – and highly unlikely at that. The reality is, as others have mentioned, that it’s incredibly hard to gauge people’s weight properly. I’ve absolutely had people – including at least one doctor who did a *lot* of weight loss work – get my weight very, very incorrect. I’m not talking 4-5 lbs. But closer to the 30lb that at least one other person mentioned.

                1. TechWorker*

                  Clearly not what I’m asserting. But the assertion that there was *definitely* someone else who was close to and possibly over the limit is also fanfic

        2. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

          Yeah, they’re 100% signing a waiver if they’re going ziplining. It seems like the waiver should’ve been emailed out ahead of time, and included a checkbox to certify that you weigh less than whatever pounds.

          1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

            This is what strikes me. My spouse is 6’6″ and falls outside of more than a couple standard sizes of things. We absolutely check when we are presented with safety restrictions, because it’s not always obvious where he won’t fit.

            If there are safety conventions to be enforced, there has to have been some sort of waiver. And if the employees are enforcing different limits than indicated by that waiver, that’s even more of a problem that LW should be raising with the company as a whole.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            You know what group is skeptical of the value of those waivers? Lawyers. Especially personal injury lawyers. These waivers might have value in a random “stuff happens” situation, but then again so does the doctrine of assumption of risk. The waiver’s main value is in establishing that the signer understood the risk they were assuming. But negligence by the park is a different matter. What sort of negligence? How about letting in a customer who exceeded safe weight limits? A customer who reasonably relied upon the expertise of the employee who let them in?

          3. oddlyphobic*

            I don’t get the waiver thing though – presumably, before he got on the scale Chris was told what the weight limit was and believed he was under it, otherwise why would he get on the scale – so he would also have checked this box, but it would have been untrue and therefore he would be putting himself in danger.

      3. Daisy-dog*

        There really wasn’t a way to not single Chris out once everyone was lined up to go, but they could have done it in a much more sensitive way. Start the activity (so people are distracted), pull Chris aside (perhaps under the guise of checking equipment), advise of the weight limit, allow them to privately depart the group (ideally suggesting an alternative activity), then staff notifies the team’s manager privately.

        1. ferrina*

          That’s a great way of doing it! I can see why someone wouldn’t think of it in the moment, but I’m definitely keeping this idea in case I need to pull someone out of an activity in the future (for any reason)

      4. DameB*

        “I’m sure they’d rather not have had to pull Chris aside either.” I wish I could think that but honestly, the amount of very deliberate and malicious fat shaming I’ve dealt with and heard of means…. yeah, maybe someone did just want to do that. There are vicious people everywhere.

      5. Scout*

        Every ‘adventure’ type activity has ABC restrictions, and I’ve never seen any company not be upfront about them. You can find the restrictions in their FAQs (and LW even states they knew weight limits existed, but no one thought about anyone not meeting them).

        Ziplining is moving at great speed, high above the ground, while harnessed to a metal cable by a small turnbuckle. Yes, there are weight limits, lol.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I think it’s also possible that the weight limit is in their literature and whoever organized the event at the OP’s end didn’t notice or ignored it because they themselves were within the weight limit. People fail to take into account other people’s physical restrictions all the time if they’ve never had to deal with those restrictions personally.

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        Possibly, but it still stands that the adventure center shouldn’t have called Chris out in front of the group like that at the last second.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I get that this rule hasn’t been applied evenly but if it’s down to calling out or risking injury, there isn’t a good answer.

          But that the place seems to be run inconsistently is another reason to stop going there.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      If this had been the first time the group went to this site, I would feel strongly that OP should have done better research ahead of time. But since the group had enthusiastically done this activity for a few years without problem, I understand how it wouldn’t have come to either OP or Chris’s mind.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, I think the fact that LW’s team had been doing this for several years with no issue makes it understandable that LW’s mind wouldn’t have flagged the weight limitation as an issue this time around.

        As Alison said though, going forward LW should be more aware and diligent about ensuring any sort of restriction, limitation, or potential blocker is considered and brought up to participants well in advance.

    5. BlondeSpiders*

      This whole situation is bringing me back to my own humiliating failed zip line experience, about 15 years ago.

      Booked a zip line experience for an anniversary trio for me and my hubs. A weight limit was posted on the booking website, and my H and I were thrilled to discovered we met this one, with room to spare. (I’d never made the cutoff before.)

      We get up the stairs to staging area; we’re all lined up along the wall in the circular tower. It’s been raining all day, and they gave you cold weather gear to wear: heavy coat and pants. Big shocker, once I add #40 of rain-soaked outerwear, I’m over the weight limit. Which the guides made sure everyone in that tower heard about with their loud voices, and when they made me stand on the scale in the middle of the room with everyone’s eyes upon me. It was the most humiliating thing I’d ever experienced. They were pretty callous about it too, as if I was trying to pull a fast one. No compassion whatsoever.

      I got my money back, but talk about a ruined anniversary.

      1. jtr*

        Oh, man, BlondeSpiders, I’m so sorry that happened to you! And what dicks, I hope you wrote a scathing review.

      2. Mill Miker*

        This would infuriate me too. The number they provide for a weight limit should be your weight before you add on anything they give you. Otherwise there’s no way to check for yourself if you qualify.

        If there’s such a low safety margin on their weight limits that the provided gear can push someone into an unsafe weight range, then honestly that feels like a dangerously tight margin to me.

      3. Scout*

        Ugh, after you made sure to check the limits, that sucks!

        I think it’s obvious that ziplines have to have weight limits (both upper and lower), but I don’t think it would occur to many people that they might have you wear clothing that then puts you over the limit.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Chris had previously done this activity with no issue, so LW had no reason to think they would be barred this time.

    6. Angie S.*

      I agree with this. I feel that a lot of zipline places are run by younger people so they don’t necessarily have the training in dealing with sensitive issues such as this. Your feedback properly is a good wake up call for these places.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      I completely agree that the Zipline people need to be totally transparent about any restrictions. OP sounds just as shocked by the situation as Chris was.
      I think the whole thing was just so awkward all around and I feel bad for everyone!

      1. Scout*

        OP knew there were weight restrictions, but just didn’t think they would affect anyone in his group.

    8. sulky-anne*

      I think this experience shows why places like the adventure centre are not an inclusive choice. Usually these places don’t prioritize finding ways to serve a diverse group of participants. They can be inherently targeted for a restricted type of customer (young, non-disabled, physically fit, thin) and don’t know how to deal with anyone else respectfully.

      I would switch up the activity but provide some framing to the team so it doesn’t sound like Chris is the reason. When speaking privately to Chris, I would emphasize the reason for this change is that the centre has revealed that it sucks and wasn’t a great choice to begin with.

      1. Sarah M*

        Agreed. Are they so limited in terms of available local activities that the event has to take place at the Adventure Center each and every single time? And is it really a team-building event if it’s limited to the Kewl Sporty Kids Who Love Doing This Stuff, and those who can’t/don’t self-select out? Are there really *no* other options here? Because one thing that struck me is that only having part of the team show up for ___ event isn’t much of a Team Building Event, it’s more of Like-minded Team Member-Only Event. I thought the whole point of these things was to get various team members – who might not otherwise have much in common – get to know each other better (for the purposes of working together more effectively). Not to provide the self-selected Lovers Of ____ Activity a way to hang out together without the Non-Lovers of ____ Activity. They don’t need their Team Leader to organize that for them, and it defeats the whole purpose of “team building”.

        Also, I understand the safety concerns, but the Staff at the Adventure Center went about this in a really, really crappy way. I hope LW contacts the owner/manager about that, in particular their publicly singling Chris out in front of the whole group and making a big show of it. That’s seriously sh”itty. Poor Chris!

  4. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh, this just sucks. Poor Chris. What a position to be put in, especially during a work event where they probably felt like they really HAD to make a good show of things and act positive regardless of their real feelings.

    To be honest, an “adventure center” sounds like a place where the activities involved would be extremely physical, and could easily exclude people for reasons other than weight. It might be that this is the first time that’s happened, but if you hire from a diverse pool of people, it likely won’t be the last. I would strongly recommend trying to find some more inclusive team building ideas. I know that’s something that’s been discussed a LOT on this site, so searching here should be a good start!

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I would never go to an event at an adventure center, I agree that it’s not the best idea for team building. But this center in particular is in the wrong for how they treated Chris.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        LW says it optional. But how optional is it if its team building. You might feel obligated to go to be seen as a team player. Even if LW is exemplary about not treating those who don’t go differently, its still a mental thing for the employee.

        Try switching it up. The adventure thing some times with lots of optional activities so no one has to feel they have to do something they are not suited for. Then do some non physical activity some time. A trivia lunch. Or putting a puzzle together in the break room (although OY that can lead to … discussions). Switch it up ocassionaly so they get the benefit of bonding without feeling they have to be physically fit.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          It sounds like people treat it as optional.

          People are welcome to (and do) just join for one of the meals or just part of the afternoon at the center, really whatever combination of stuff they’re interested in.

        2. Pink Candyfloss*

          “Optional” and “team building” are two terms that by nature cannot co-exist in the same sentence. If you are excluding anyone from the team, then it isn’t “team-building” it’s just a social get-together. More people need to understand this. Calling something team-building to legitimize or be able to write it off or expense it, is unfair when that isn’t really the goal of the activity which is outside of work hours, optional, and by its nature exclusionary for anyone who may have any one of a variety of reasons why they can’t participate in a physical event.

          1. TechWorker*

            ???! This is clearly rubbish I’m afraid. Alison recommends all team building events are optional for the precise reason that basically any activity there will be people who don’t enjoy it or have a reason they can’t participate.

            If all your ‘team-building’ events exclude the same people, I agree that’s a problem. But if not everyone comes to every single one, that’s very normal and not inherently bad.

          2. AngryOctopus*

            But there is also a brunch and a dinner, and it sounds like plenty of people select out of one or more of the events. I’m sure some people who would like ziplining select out because of other obligations, and some are like “oh not in a million years would I do that” as they click “no, I will not attend”, and happily accept the brunch, then get on with their day.

        3. Peon*

          I love the puzzle in the break room idea, but I can only imagine the discussions. I’m a “start in the middle on something colorful” type person, and I drive the “entire border must be complete first” people nuts.

    2. purlgurly*

      Thinking about alternatives – if this is a group that sincerely does enjoy this type of activity, maybe something like an escape room would be a better fit. I know that the rooms local to me are very good about describing how much standing/walking/whether there are any stairs required/etc. are involved in solving the room and often have varying options that would accommodate different levels of mobility.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        But escape rooms have other issues. The idea of being locked in with no way unless you solve some puzzle in a set amount of time is not great for some people.

        Also, as everyone else says — teams change. Next year everyone may not like the idea of a physical activity. Or may have a condition that makes it impossible to do. That’s why switching it up so that sometimes the people less interested in physical activities can also participate.

        1. Lya*

          Some escape rooms are better than this than others though. I went to one where the side door was unlocked the entire time and we were told to feel free to use it if we needed to use the bathroom/make a call/get a break. I was really nervous about the idea of being locked in a room but having the option to leave made it a lot easier to focus.

          But agreed- definitely need some non physical options.

          1. UKDancer*

            I’ve never been to an escape room that actually locks you in. Every one I’ve done with a locked door has a large ostentatious locked door you have to open and a much smaller door that you can use to leave to use the loo or in a fire and you’re told in the briefing that you can leave at any time.

            Some of them don’t even make a pretense of locking you in. It’s just you have an amount of time to solve puzzles and achieve a goal.

            I don’t think in the UK they’d be allowed under Health and Safety if they refused to provide a means of exit.

            1. sparkle emoji*

              In the US and I’d guess that the escape rooms here probably have to operate under similar rules. I’ve never tried the doors when I’ve been but I think there is typically a fire exit or similar to meet the “means of egress” requirements.

        2. Phony Genius*

          I once saw an escape room that eliminated much of the claustrophobia problem. In this one, you had to break INTO the room – specifically a bank vault that you were trying to rob. So all of the activity took place in a totally open area.

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            Oh, that’s cool! As someone who loves small spaces but panics at the idea of escape rooms because “someone has trapped you” as a concept is too close to “someone has restrained you” for my hypervigilent brain, I didn’t expect the alternative to be good, but it totally is. It is immediately more appealing than needing to get out of somewhere.

            1. Mill Miker*

              I’ve also seen rooms where even from a narrative standpoint, you’re only “trapped” in the sense that you’re trying to find something or solve some issue within a time limit, and everything you need is in this room, so why would you leave?

          2. allathian*

            I’d love that! I enjoy puzzles, but being in an enclosed space makes me a bit uncomfortable (mild claustrophobia). Not enough to make me panic, but enough to make my brain focus on feeling uncomfortable rather than solving the puzzle.

        3. Jessica*

          (Hi! I designed some escape rooms! Staying in an escape room is voluntary. You’re not literally solving the puzzles to be able to exit the room any more than you’re literally in an Egyptian tomb or an art museum or an apartment on Baker Street. Most of us make design allowances to account for common triggers like claustrophobia.

          And not all themes even involve “escaping.” There are heist escape rooms, mystery solving escape rooms, all sorts of different themes, and plenty of them allow you to come and go freely from the room. You voluntarily stay in the room because that’s where the clues are, not because you can’t leave.)

      2. Hrodvitnir*

        Look, not to get all not everyone can have sandwiches here, but I really hate how escape rooms are seen as such an unproblematic choice.

        I have come around to the idea that in reality, if work organised it, I would probably be OK. But the idea of role playing being trapped (yes! I know you’re not actually trapped!) makes me panicky to think about. And I am absolutely not someone you would suspect of feeling that way IRL.

        Also, as someone who loves ziplines and adventure parks, “solve puzzles with your coworkers” does not bear much resemblance to me. Not disagreeing physical activities are not terribly inclusive, but for me the former is fun and the latter is potentially incredibly irritating.

    3. Tio*

      Yeah, anything heavily relying on the physical bend is tricky. In the future, definitely ask for any activity whether there are any physical restrictions or guidelines, and provide those to the team upfront (and don’t pick ones that have explicit limits, like weight or mobility)

    4. Lauren19*

      Another vote to find a different activity. Even if everyone has done it before and enjoyed it, CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE! One common example – an employee is pregnant and not ready to disclose to their workplace. The center (and employee’s doctor) advises against these types of activities. It’s really not fair that the employee is forced to sit out a team building event in which the event itself has nothing to do with work.

    5. June*

      There is an adventure center in my town and it’s not all physical. Sure, they have ziplining and mountain biking, but they also have guided tours through the mountain range nearby (you can either drive a four wheeler yourself or go with a driver provided by the center) and ebike rentals and obstacle courses with varying levels of difficulty and such. We shouldn’t assume that everything at the center is strenuous or doesn’t have something for everyone.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        My husband wouldn’t be able to do any of the activities you listed. He has a bad back and absolutely couldn’t risk even the guided tour, especially if it was off-road.

        1. June*

          I didn’t say it was off-road and you’re missing my point. All I’m trying to say is that the commentariat shouldn’t be making assumptions about the nature of the adventure center. I’m not interested in veering into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes same. I’ve only done one of that type of day and there was a range of options of varying levels of physicality ranging from physical (abseil, something involving a hire wire, assault course) moderately physical (axe throwing, clay pigeon shooting) or not physical (code breaking, treasure hunt) and we all had to identify 3 things we wanted to do and were put into groups accordingly. That way everyone including the colleague in the wheelchair had options.

        Equally when we did an escape room challenge there was a mix of activities and sensibly we used the marathon runner for the physical challenge involving sit ups and the person with 2 crutches for the strategy challenge.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I think the point is that the adventure center itself may offer a range of physical activities, so those who are already self-selecting for wanting to do physical things may have a choice. In that exact moment they may not have been able to swap (if things are booked up), but maybe next year offer up a few activities, give restrictions and safety considerations for all of them, and book smaller groups for different activities that people sign up for. That way those who WANT to have an activity have them, restrictions are known up front, and if something unexpected happens there could be an alternate group to switch someone to.

    6. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This was my thought too, that maybe LW could think about how it has come to be that her team is comprised mainly or entirely of people with enough fitness to be capable of and enjoy physical activities like this. Google tells me that around 1/3 of people have “visual height intolerance” which is fear of heights that falls short of a phobia. I appreciate that LW recognized her error and is looking to make this right.

      My other suggestion is to add another team-building event that is not so physical (an escape room maybe?) to the annual calendar without yet removing the adventure center and then think about dialing down the adventure center over time so that it gets to be every other year or every 3 years once there is something else that is also looked-forward-to by her staff.

      1. Myrin*

        OP’s “People are welcome to (and do) just join for one of the meals or just part of the afternoon at the center, really whatever combination of stuff they’re interested in.” doesn’t suggest to me that the team is particularly uniform. For all we know, the people partaking in the activities are only a small percentage of the overall team.

  5. Charleston Girlie*

    Oh no, this sucks! I think that Alison’s apology script would go a long way with Chris though, so make sure to do that as soon as possible! This is coming from someone with body image issues herself, and I know I would find that script very reassuring and comforting.

    Also, I know I’m in the minority here, but I think the team building day overall does sound fun! I like that there is the option of attending all day or just going to a meal or just to the activity center. That way, people still get to socialize even if they are not athletically-inclined or feel uncomfortable eating around other people. I also like the option of a more relaxing activity as the afternoon alternate – ziplines scare me, but hanging out in the cafe or walking an easy trail would be fun, especially if people were encouraged to bring any craft projects or a book they want to work on.

    1. Adultier Adult*

      I agree! Im not going ziplining, but I will totally meet afterwards to eat lunch and hang out!

    2. TPS reporter*

      yes please talk to him ASAP! He must be feeling pretty down about it.

      I know lots of people of all shapes, sizes and abilities who are afraid of ziplining. but would feel pressure to participate in a work situation

    3. Mo*

      This. Having a variety of team building events throughout the year is the only way of making them truly optional.

      1. Charleston Girlie*

        Absolutely! Also, I didn’t think of this earlier, but I think taking a short class could be a good team-building activity, especially if it’s focused on something related to their work/helps them grow a skill they use. Alternatively, it could be a class or presentation on something connected to their local community, like a local charity or initiative.

  6. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, I know you meant well, but this is a good example of putting yourself in your employees’ shoes. Alison makes a good point that in the moment, staying with Chris could have been very helpful. Leaving one team member alone sends a message, even if unintentional.

    In a similar vein, in the future, you should always have an alternate option pre-arranged for anything adventure related. Someone may be fine zip lining and petrified of anything aquatic. Someone who doesn’t mind falls could be terrified of closed-in spaces. You may never know who developed a cardiac condition in the past year. It would help to always have a choice, so no one spends two hours alone in their car.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      “Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” doesn’t necessarily help. If OP has never been overweight, then they will never know what it feels like to be excluded from something or called out in front of people for your weight. Also, “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” is usually trying to imagine how YOU would feel and want in that position, as you have no idea what the other person feels or wants. Me personally would have hated if my manager chose to stay with me. The last thing I would want was to draw more attention to myself, and feel like I ruined something for someone else. Plus, the last thing I would want to do in that moment is to act like I’m okay and happy to hang out with my manager instead. Any conversation would feel awkward and the only thing I would want to do is go hide, maybe cry a bit, and wallow in self pity. And I certainly wouldn’t want to do any of that in front of a coworker, especially my manager. And if my manager, or another colleague, volunteered to not do the activity, then I would feel obligated to hang out with that person because I wouldn’t want to ruin their fun any further. Honestly, I don’t think there is one easy answer to how this should have best been handled.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Same, I would very much have wanted to be left alone. The last thing I want with an impending panic attack is company.

      2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        100% agree BrownCow. It would make it so much worse if my manager had to stick around with me. Nope nope nope.

  7. Observer*

    I think you really need to rethink your relationship with this place. Unless you get a real apology and a clear explanation of how they are going to prevent something like this from happening again, you are really asking for further problems.

    I get why they have a weight limit. But the way they handled the situation was abysmal. They should absolutely NOT have singled Chris out – if you have a weight limit you either make *everyone* attest to the fact that they are within that limit or you weigh EVERYONE. Because it’s highly unlikely that Chris was the only one who was over the limit. And even if he was, do you really think that anyone could know that? No. Someone decided that Chris is “too fat” and that’s why they singled him out.

    Also, I think it’s worth noting they changed their procedures here. If there is a real safety issue why were they not enforcing it till now? If it’s not really a safety issue why would you even think about embarrassing someone like that? Because even if you (supposedly) think that being overweight is not something to be embarrassed about, singling people out is almost always embarrassing. So you need an explanation of why they changed their procedures so drastically and *without warning*.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      To your last paragraph, I assumed that it wasn’t that the adventure center changed their policy, but more likely that Chris gained weight since the last time they participated. Which makes my heart hurt even more for them.
      Agree that the center handled the situation terribly though, and everything else you said.

    2. So many questions...*

      My guess is new insurance. Sometimes new insurance warrants an eagle eye at policies and they change/are enforced in a heartbeat leaving everyone flat footed.

      1. Lilo*

        They also could have had an incident or failed a safety audit. I used to work at a theme park and after any kind of incident ride ops would be put under a microscope.

        1. Antilles*

          Height limits for theme parks is where my mind went.
          The ride operators would get casual with the 60″ height limit as long as things went well. If you were very obviously too short, they’d stop you, but if you were even close to the limit, it’d be fine. But then an audit would happen, the 60″ auditor breezes by without even being checked, and management cracks down so the operators check everybody who appears even close to the limit.
          (Then of course after a few weeks, management chills out, complacency sets in, and the cycle repeats)

    3. Phony Genius*

      My guess is that they worker in charge of the zip line is more diligent than other workers in past years, and Chris looks like somebody who is very close to the weight limit. But as diligent as they are, their people skills are not very good.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Diligence would require weighing everyone IMO. I think another reason this activity should stop is their lax safety procedures.

    4. Anonymous Koala*

      100% – you may want to think long and hard about whether you can patronise this place in the future, OP, because it sounds like they handled this situation atrociously. And when you pull Chris aside for a private apology, it wouldn’t hurt to mention how seriously you’re taking the adventure center’s mistreatment of them and reiterate how much you value Chris as a person and employee.

    5. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

      Other than possibly being more discreet, I fail to see what the center did that was wrong. I’m sure the weight limit is there for liability and safety reasons. If Chris had hurt himself or someone else, I’m sure a hefty (no pun intended) lawsuit would have quickly followed.

      1. Observer*

        Other than possibly being more discreet, I fail to see what the center did that was wrong.

        Pretty much everything.

        They changed their policy without any warning or explanation. Which means that either they have been incredibly lax in the past or they are not being especially safety conscious currently.

        They singled Chris out for looking fat, not for their weight. Otherwise they would have weighed *everyone*.

        They do not actually care about or understand their own safety regulations. Again, they *should have weighed everyone* if safety was actually something they being careful of.

        1. another big girl*

          Exactly. And if I were Chris, I’d have noted that they were weighing *everyone* in front of me, and had a few moments to consider suddenly developing a leg cramp/headache or something that would let me step out of the line and say, “Oh, you guys go on ahead” but with dignity intact.

        2. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

          If they had weighed everyone and Chris was the only one over the weight limit, how would he have been any less singled out than he already was.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            In that alternate universe, Chris wouldn’t have been singled out based on appearance and quizzed about his weight in front of weight in front of coworkers. The zipline guides were picking who to weigh based on looks.

        3. Hiring Mgr*

          We don’t really know that they changed their policy, they could have just increased their enforcement, or for that matter Chris may have gained weight since the last time.

          I don’t think you would weigh everyone, just like when going on a Disney ride you don’t make everyone measure themselves against the height sign, just the kids who look like they’re short.

          Either way though, you would think the place would train the staff on kindler/gentler ways to do this part of the job.

          1. Observer*

            I don’t think you would weigh everyone, just like when going on a Disney ride you don’t make everyone measure themselves against the height sign, just the kids who look like they’re short.

            That’s not really true. I mean, you don’t need to shove each person against the ruler to see that someone who is 5’5″ is taller than a 4′ height range. In general, it is FAR easier to gauge height by eye than weight. Yet, even so in every park I’ve been in with a decent safety record all the kids who are not obviously, significantly taller than the height bar are measured.

            With weight, it’s extremely difficult to know. At different times in my life I’ve had my weight seriously mis-estimated both over and under. If you have a safety reason to worry about people’s weight, the you simply *cannot* depend on how people look.

      2. sulky-anne*

        It is crappy to publicly single someone out and weigh them in front of the group. It is also crappy to size people up visually to decide who is too heavy to use the zipline. If it’s that important, you should weigh everyone (privately) and disclose that it’s a requirement ahead of time. Or make it part of the waiver process.

        Those are the overtly sucky things. But this incident indicates that this place is not designed for everyone. It is designed for people who fit a certain mold and everyone else is at risk of being singled out and excluded.

    6. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

      “Because it’s highly unlikely that Chris was the only one who was over the limit. And even if he was, do you really think that anyone could know that? No.”

      I just googled and found out that professional ziplines can carry a person who weighs up to 400 lb. IMHO it was possible for the adventure center to look at everyone in the group and conclude that Chris was the only one who could conceivably weigh over 400 lb.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        This really depends on the location. Two hundred and forty to 275 seems to be a common range of upper weight limits for this type of attraction.

  8. Properlike*

    I would bet money that people over the limit go on the zip line all the time… and that the staff is making decisions based on what people look like, instead of weighing everyone.

    That’s crappy. The zip line people handled it very badly, and I would definitely raise that with the adventure center because it’s had a profound effect on your colleague and your workplace relationship, and you don’t want to run that risk in future years.

    1. Observer*

      I would bet money that people over the limit go on the zip line all the time… and that the staff is making decisions based on what people look like, instead of weighing everyone.

      Absolutely. Because if they are doing this just by eye, the *are* going to make mistakes. And we do see that the only person they asked to be weighed was Chris. I’d be very, very surprised if there was not one other single person who as at least near enough to the weight limit that they should have had to verify.

      You are totally correct in saying that they handled the situation poorly and that you should raise it with the adventure people. The situation was difficult. This make it several orders of magnitude more difficult.

    2. Mayor of Llamatown*

      100%. The adventure center is the real a*hole in this story. If the weight restriction is that important, they should weigh everyone, because you cannot know what someone weighs by looking at them. There were many, many other ways to handle this sensitively, and they sincerely missed. I would consider whether or not you want to do business with someone who would treat your employees so insensitively.

      1. Mayor of Llamatown*

        Also, consider making a part of your conversation with the adventure course finding out how to make the zip line course safe for all attendees. They may have specialty equipment, or there may be courses rated for higher weight levels. There may be options that the staff could incorporate, or maybe this could be their opportunity to invest in equipment for different bodies.

        I say this as a plus size woman, who weighs more than your average woman, and who has been on several zip line courses with no issues whatsoever.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Definitely, I wouldn’t be surprised if other people in the group were also over the limit but don’t look it.

      Reminds me of when I was in college. My roommate and I weighed about the same and were about the same height, but people usually guessed that she was heavier because she carried her weight differently than I did.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Yup; I recently had a professional underestimate my weight by 15%. You really can’t tell by looking.

  9. anononon*

    As a person who weighs mid-teens stone is and sometimes OK for things like this and sometimes not depending on the type of activity – the adventure centre staff could have been WAAAAY more discreet in finding out who was safely able to participate in the activity (and indeed should have established this before the group arrived). But where ziplines are concerned, Chris is better embarrassed than dead.

    1. FrogFriend*

      Well, yeah, I don’t think anyone is suggesting the center should have ignored the safety concerns. It’s just like you said, the way it was handled is what folks are talking issue with.

      1. anononon*

        And I would far rather read ‘my fat colleague was embarrassed by a indiscreet employee at a zipline centre’ than ‘my colleague fell to their death on a team adventure awayday’.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Or even “my poor colleague got stuck in the middle of a zip line course because it sagged too much under their weight, and it took an hour to get them down while everybody else stood around”.

    2. Observer*

      But where ziplines are concerned, Chris is better embarrassed than dead.

      Yeah. But the problem is that they handled it very, very badly. And also, what makes you think that Chris was the only one who might have a problem. Lots of people are heavier than they look. If someone decided last minute that they finally need to focus on safety (this *is* a a change in how they operate), they should have been weighing everyone.

    3. SAS*

      Yeah, I have to provide my weight regularly to my work and it’s fine as the process is very consistent (every person booking a flight on this craft must provide the same information) and private.

      If the charter company we use suddenly changed their communication or processes around this, it would have to be very well handled to maintain my comfortability, even though I understand it’s a completely necessary safety process.

    1. 37 Pieces of Flair*

      This was my first thought as well. How can the OP possibly think that spending a Saturday with people from work comes across as “optional” and is “popular”?

      1. Sorrischian*

        Because sometimes both of those things are true. Certainly not always, the AAM archives have plenty of examples of team building going wrong, but I’ve been on teams (as a member, not a manager, and I’m pretty sure I was getting my coworkers’ real opinions) where people’s feelings on twice-yearly weekend team building range from very enthusiastic down to “it’s not my favorite way to spend Saturday but it’s fun enough that I’ll go” to “my weekends are mine, see you Monday” and as far as I could tell no one treated those who declined to attend any differently at work. Sure, proceed with caution, but I think it’s going too far to claim it’s an impossibility.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. Sometimes some people enjoy that sort of thing and some people like spending time with their colleagues. I’ve a young colleague who gets together with 3 others from across the team each weekend to do what to my money is a very long and muddy hike. It would not be my idea of a good time but I accept that it’s theirs and when they do the 3 peaks for charity together each year, I’m the first one in the queue to give them money.

          Also I probably wouldn’t want to do this every weekend, if it was twice per year I’d probably not object to doing it once. My company doesn’t do things at weekends (which suits me) but it’s not outside the realms of possibility for people to enjoy doing that sort of thing.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Because people are enthusiastically participating?

        Aren’t we supposed to take LWs at their word?

        Also there is no team building exercise that will make everyone on earth happy, which is why the activities should be varied and rotated. But it’s not outrageous to think people enjoy adventure centers with their coworkers, especially if they say they do.

      3. Lana Kane*

        Because not everyone shares your tastes?

        I know this is a common thought in this forum, but really truly, some people don’t recoil from something like this. What we think as individuals is immaterial because we aren’t the people involved in this scenario.

      4. metadata minion*

        So long as it was just once or twice a year, I would be genuinely enthusiastic for something like this. I like the people I work with and would enjoy spending time with them.

    2. Lola*

      Right? I’d opt out for that alone.

      If people enjoy it and the OP finds it useful, I hope they consider using a work day instead. Or give another day off to swap out the Saturday I really like my co-workers but weekends/free time are precious to me.

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Yeah. Even when I like my colleagues, it’s 100% true that anything that’s billed as “team building” shouldn’t be optional (because then the whole team isn’t involved) and shouldn’t be done outside of working hours.

  10. I should really pick a name*

    That seems really tricky, having to make a decision right in the moment when the activity is about to begin.

  11. Dust Bunny*

    Good grief, don’t pick activities that have weight limits!

    Ask about weight limits when you’re (figurative you’re, not you, personally, unless you, personally, are the one organizing it) getting information on possible activities, and if you suspect–don’t ask them!–someone might be outside of the safe weight range, pick something else.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      Not just weight limits, but anything that might be challenging for someone with ANY type of physical limitations. Bad knees, post-exercise malaise/PEM or chronic fatigue/MECFS, pregnancy, asthma, fear of heights, motion sickness ….. there are so many reasons why this type of activity can be limiting for a team, and weight is only one.

      1. Properlike*

        And depends on the day too. If it’s a migraine day, I can’t do things I might be fine with on other days.

        Consider sensory-sensitive activities. And weather exposure as well. Indoor/outdoor.

        1. Gemstones*

          But what activity could be sensory-sensitive to everyone’s needs? If you’re dealing with chronic illness, wouldn’t you accept that sometimes you’re going to have to sit something out?

          1. Watry*

            If you have multiple and contradictory needs on a team, cycle the activities. I know this requires disclosure from the relevant employees, so on a large enough team maybe one should consider doing this anyway, but as the person who gets left out time and time again, it really sucks.

        2. Courageous cat*

          This is very “not everyone can have sandwiches”. It’s going to be really, really hard to find something that works perfectly for every single persons involved, especially on a larger team.

          1. Properlike*

            It is not, neither does it require disclosure or nitpicking that a manager can’t possibly anticipate a migraine. I wasn’t saying that at all.

            It was simply pointing out that physical activity events could be fine for someone on one day, and a non-starter on another, simply because of an intermittent disability.

            Taking that into account may mean having alternatives that are fun (but different) happening at the same time so that more people might have something to enjoy. It does not mean you don’t serve sandwiches.

            I’d like to choose the activity where we don’t rules-lawyer every comment.

    2. Palliser*

      That is the answer. There should not be activities with weight/size/strength minimums or maximums. I was reading recently that zip lines are sometimes used to transport heavy machinery. The company could have accomodated larger clients if desired, but they chose not to, and the administration of their policy was incredibly ham-handed.

      What if there had been a pregnant person, or someone with mobility issues? I can think of so many reasons that these sorts of activities could be exclusive.

      I am a large woman, and I would have opted out early just fearing that there could be a problem. But then I would have missed out on the team-building.

      1. Caliente Papillon*

        But you could have also gone to either of the meals. Don’t know if that’s satisfactory, just pointing it out.

        1. Palliser7*

          I hear you but participating only in meals as a fat person is not the best-feeling option and definitely isn’t team-building.

      2. Olive*

        When I was a pregnant person, I got out of a team movie theater “reward” because I had to pee every 15 minutes.

      3. Gemstones*

        Yeah, but this was a recreational zipline activity, not an attempt to transport machinery. And you have no way of knowing what this company’s limits were.

        Also…what would the company have gotten out of purposefully turning away a paying customer? I doubt they did it just to be jerks.

        1. Palliser7*

          I don’t thing they were trying to be jerks. I was pointing out that zip lines can be built to handle all sorts of weights, but this one wasn’t.

          1. Gemstones*

            Yes, but…there’s a huge difference in those kinds of ziplines. Recreational ziplines aren’t the same as ziplines that transport machines.

      4. RagingADHD*

        Do you suppose the adventure venue itself designed and fabricated the zipline from scratch? And deliberately chose an arbitrarily low weight limit for funsies?

        Or is it perchance more likely that they purchased pre-manufactured equipment and took out insurance that was standardized and readily available?

    3. ampersand*

      When you state it that way (don’t pick activities with weight limits) it seems pretty obvious—and it circumvents the “but everyone loves it, for real!” argument.

  12. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t think LW did anything wrong at all – this is a tough situation and no answer would have been 100% right.

    I agree with talking to Chris 1-1 and trying something else next year.

    1. Jessica*

      The LW absolutely did do something wrong in letting a member of their team–at a purported “team-building” exercise!–be singled out in the most humiliating fashion possible (there were any number of things that the staff there could have done to handle it better, including pulling the LW or whoever looked in charge aside and saying, “hey, I’m concerned one of your party is above the weight limit for this activity–how would you like to handle this?”), then spend the next two hours sitting alone in their car.

      If you’re trying to build a team, you don’t allow the exclusion and humiliation of one of its members.

      Actual team-building would have involved modeling the behavior that the team has each other’s backs.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I agree the whole thing was awful for Chris, I just know that it’s tough because Chris may have sincerely wanted everyone to keep going on the ride, and maybe to him in the moment that was preferable, That’s what i meant by no answer would be 100% right

      2. Raida*

        How does the LW in the moment not ‘allow’ the staff to do that though?

        Other than state firmly “You will NOT be weighing anyone” or “You will weigh EVERYONE”

        Both of which fail to fix the core issue – they’ve already said “This one person needs weighing”

        It’s too late. By the time LW knows there’s an issue it’s too late to undo it.

        They could berate the staff, demand a manager, do plenty of things – but not one thing could be done to NOT have Chris be singled out for weighing.

        NOW LW knows, they can contact the management and discuss the processes and policies. But in the moment? Best case scenario they say “I’ve never been so offended by terrible staff! We’re leaving” and try (try not necessarily succeed) in diverting everyone’s attention from the judgement Chris is heavy by the staff over to the staff are awful and it’s awful and we shan’t be staying how awful they are, you simply don’t discuss weight, you simply can’t pick by looking, I can’t believe they don’t have scales for each rider to be checked, I can’t believe there’s no sign up with the weight weeks ago when we booked…

        1. DisgruntledPelican*

          Not to mention, all of these suggestions, even the best case scenario, cause a scene which just compounds the humiliation. Blaming the OP or pretending there was really anything they could have done better, is just nonsense.

  13. FrogFriend*

    I know this doesn’t help the LW now, but my first thought was related to what Allison said regarding the LW potentially choosing to sit out- it broke my heart a little bit that no one on the team said, let’s sit out together Chris! There was a chance there to minimize the damage and embarrassment if a group chose to sit out too.

    1. Monkey Princess*

      Right? That’s a problem.

      A long time ago, back before mocktails were a thing or there was any meaningful criticism of the “it’s wine-o’clock” narrative, I had a job that had frequent not-so-optional Happy Hours on Friday evenings at a bar downtown. A fellow employee who was Mormon confided in me how uncomfortable they felt at these things. From that week on, I ordered a coke in solidarity. It meant A LOT to him, and honestly, I could go have a drink with friends any time. And yeah, I got strange looks (again, this was before not drinking was socially acceptable! In retrospect, they probably thought I was pregnant, but I don’t think that occurred to me at the time), but it seemed like the right thing to do.

      Even if it meant skipping something they kinda wanted to do, I think there are group dynamic problems that everyone just stared at Chris, shrugged, and went on the zip line, and nobody suddenly remembered why they actually wanted to do some other activity, and why doesn’t Chris come do that? THAT is team solidarity.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        This is where OP could have demonstrated leadership. If none of the co-workers was showing this kind of empathy to Chris, OP should have. Leaving a credit card and moving on seems cold to me—even if it was unintentional.

        1. kiki*

          It certainly would have been a good show of leadership, but it sounds like LW is honestly reflecting on the situation and trying to do better in the future. I think we’ve all been in the position of getting thrown off by a sudden change of plans and not having thought of the best solution to the situation in the moment.

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, I know folks were caught off-guard, absorbed by pre-ziplining adrenaline, and just not thinking options through fully but this made me sad too. It would have been such a show of solidarity, especially at event that was supposed to be about team bonding.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Especially since the activity was 2 hours! I was picturing it as much shorter – which is still not great, but an opportunity for Chris to just go wait at the other side where those that went first would be waiting for everyone else.

      (I’m sure it was amazing and I now want to find zip-lining near me.)

    4. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Except, if I was Chris, I would hate that even worse. If someone offered to not do the activity and hang out with me instead, I would emphatically tell them no. I can even picture someone trying to be nice and keep insisting they did not want to do the ziplining anyway and would much rather do something else with me instead, I would probably start crying from embarrassment and then feel a million times worse than I already did because not only was I fat-shamed in front of everyone, but now I’m crying about it because I’m still be singled out for it and would much, much rather go sit by myself in my vehicle than talk or hang out with anyone.

      Maybe Chris would have appreciated the gesture, but maybe not. It’s hard to say what would have been better for Chris without being Chris in this situation. Based on how I know how I would feel in this situation, if I was on the team, I definitely would not have volunteered to sit out with Chris as I wouldn’t want to make them feel worse. So, to be upset with the team member’s for not stepping up isn’t fair, as maybe they knew Chris enough to assume they just wanted to be left alone.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        The way that I would do it: It wouldn’t be a huge, gallant scene. I would casually step out of line, indicate to the staff and maybe the manager that I don’t want my turn, and then I’d explain to Chris: “I was super anxious about going because _____.” Examples: Last year it felt too scary OR I experienced a very minor, but annoying injury from a similar activity OR I currently am healing from a minor injury OR my lunch isn’t sitting well in my stomach OR the helmet is bothering me. And then I’d recommend something else available either at the facility or nearby (a walking trail? a coffee shop? a bookstore?). I would text manager our plan.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Also, I would only do this if Chris was someone who I spoke to regularly and thought they would want to spend 2 hours with me.

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            This is a bit better than someone just volunteering to give up on the activity just to keep Chris company, when may not want the company. I personally would still probably want to be left alone, but your suggestion would make me feel less like it was about me, so it’s a good thought. And I also agree one should not do it if they’re not close with Chris. I can think of a couple people at my work that I only speak to if I absolutely have to and would dread spending 2 hours alone with them. But those same people would likely never volunteer to stay back from doing some activity to make someone else feel better about having to miss out because of their weight. Hence why I don’t talk to them if I don’t have to.

            1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

              Yes to all of this.

              A work colleague/almost-friend saying subtly “ooh, let’s go and have coffee together and catch up instead, I wasn’t keen on it anyway” is very different from the boss stepping behind.

              It makes me think of a teacher saying “don’t worry, you can partner with me” or something.

    5. sulky-anne*

      Yeah, it sounds like everyone felt bad about the situation but flailed a bit on how to handle it in the moment. I think ideally the letter writer should have looked for an alternate activity for the two of them plus anyone else who wanted to join. I’m sure if something like this comes up again, they will be better prepared (although hopefully they are able to avoid this kind of thing altogether).

  14. Pink Candyfloss*

    I have physical limitations (not weight related) and this type of adventure center activity looms in my awareness as a potential nightmare: I would not be able to participate in any of the activities so I would be excluded. Anyone with medical conditions, including pregnancy, asthma, etc, anyone with fears of heights, body size issues as you discovered – is excluded from something like this. It’s easy for someone to say “well just don’t go” but if the idea is really team building, then excluding any member of the team defeats the purpose and can end up being harmful to morale (as you sadly discovered with Chris).

    Do you have an EAP or access to counseling services that could help Chris? And by “help Chris” I do NOT MEAN “help Chris try to lose weight”. I mean help Chris navigate their complicated feelings around this issue in a way that is productive for them and doesn’t heap more stress or unhappiness on them.

    1. A (Former) Library Person*

      I understand the instinct to recommend the EAP here, and it is something I might also recommend if Chris was the original letter-writer, but I don’t think the OP should go this route. Suggesting that Chris go to the EAP after they had to deal with this brings with it the inication that Chris “should” be feeling bad about the situation and presumes a lot about their reaction.

      It reads a bit to me like twisting the knife: Hey, remember how humiliating it was that you were weighed in front of the whole group and unable to do the zipline? You should probably talk to someone about how bad that made you feel. Because obviously you feel bad.

      Again, it is perhaps a solid recommendation for Chris themself but maybe not one that the OP should be directly suggesting to them given the surrounding context.

    2. Observer*

      Do you have an EAP or access to counseling services that could help Chris? And by “help Chris” I do NOT MEAN “help Chris try to lose weight”. I mean help Chris navigate their complicated feelings around this issue in a way that is productive for them and doesn’t heap more stress or unhappiness on them.

      Uh, no. Do *not* even go there. Look, you don’t know how “complicated” Chris’ feelings are (or aren’t). And the implications of an EAP type referral is that it’s a *Chris* problem. But if they are feeling bad about what happened, that’s not a *Chris* problem necessarily, but a problem with the group. First they got singled out, then no one made any move of solidarity, and then when they made some comments about their weight everyone was just quiet and changed the subject. Of *course* they are going to feel bad and uncomfortable! That’s a very normal response and I can’t imagine anything helpful any sort of (competent) counseling could provide them at this point.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Counseling is not restricted to abnormal responses to events. Victims of violence have “normal” reactions that can be helped by counseling, there is grief counseling, etc. I don’t know if it is a good idea to mention the EAP but not for the reasons you’re saying.

        1. Observer*

          Counseling is not restricted to abnormal responses to events.

          True. But counseling is generally relevant to responses that are in some way problematic *and* that the person can actually do something about (other than finding a new job). Nothing that the OP says indicates that Chris is reacting in a way that’s keeping them from doing their job or is so intense that it’s harming them. And if Chris’ response is to find a better team, well they don’t need an EAP for that. It’s a perfectly functional response to a bad experience where the team showed that it’s not all that cohesive or even minimally supportive.

    3. Retired But Still Herding Cats*

      I am a very fat person myself.

      If I were in Chris’s position at this point in the saga, “helpfully” adding an EAP suggestion on top of the humiliation I would already be trying to put behind me would be astoundingly bad.

      If I weren’t already thinking that quitting might be the only way to put the humiliation behind me, that would quite possibly be the final straw.

  15. Nameless*

    I want to thank the LW for their thoughtful reflection on the situation and recognizing their mistakes. I’ve been “Chris” in team building activities where I couldn’t participate for a variety of reasons (health, non-drinker, etc) and when I have raised concerns to leadership I’ve been ignored, blamed and ostracized. Yes, there are things that could have been done differently but now you know. You may also want to create a checklist of questions/communication tips for other managers to help them plan inclusive team building activities.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      YES, I agree with this. Some people seem to be lecturing the LW for not handling this better in the moment. But I appreciate that LW has thought this through and reached out for advice on what to do now and how they could have better handled this in the moment. I’ve been that person that was caught off guard in a situation and did not handle it well. But I spent a lot of time reflecting and learning how I could have handled it better. No one is equipped to know what to do in every single situation. I’m always looking to learn and be a better version of myself. It certainly sounds like LW is doing the same. I’ve told people before, even if you think your great at [insert talent/ability/skill/knowledge], there’s always more to learn and that if you take the time to listen and learn, you can add “more tools to the toolbox” for future times you need it. So, LW might be a great manager and leader, but by reflecting on this particular situation and reading Alison’s (and other’s) suggestions, they might pick up on more “tools” to use for situations that may happen in the future. I know I certainly have from reading this letter and the response.

  16. I edit everything*

    I probably would have said, “Oh, thank goodness! I’m terrified of heights, and now I have someone to hang with,” shucked my harness and taken Chris off to something more fun than hurtling through the air higher than humans are supposed to get. I tried to go ziplining once, and I was shaking like a leaf before I even set foot on the stairs up to the first platform. I fled. Still embarrassed.

    1. cleo*

      I was thinking the same thing! I’m not exactly scared of heights, but I can totally see myself saying “oh thank goodness, I’m going to sit out too” because zip lining with co-workers doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy AT ALL but it’s not bad enough that I’d decline in the first place.

    2. sulky-anne*

      I have bad enough fear of heights that I probably would have sat it out from the beginning. I also have some physical limitations so I probably would have been part of the dinner only crowd, along with most of the others who would have been happy to give up their ziplining spot, I imagine.

    3. Hrodvitnir*

      Aw, don’t be embarrassed! No one is judging people for being afraid of heights! Well, no one who isn’t a complete jerk.

      The problem with this, is everyone there has done this before (including Chris.) No one’s in a position to bail like that.

      I genuinely think in the moment there isn’t much LW could have done differently. I feel most people would hate having people pity drop out.

      The issue is in the park and LW handwaving weight requirements, right up until they didn’t. :/ Eyeballing people and ousting them at the last second is horrendous, but not surprising to me at all. :(

    4. Pixx*

      I don’t think this would work, because this is already an opt in activity that others on the team chose not to go to in the first place. Why would someone (like my husband, for example) afraid of heights have opted in? They wouldn’t even be there. So, someone blurting out that you’re afraid of heights and opting out alongside Chris would just be transparently disingenuous and probably feel incredibly condescending. If I were Chris, it would make me feel even worse.

  17. Justin*

    LW seems to have made an honest mistake. The center did a really bad job! You sign a group up for that, it’s gotta be advertised before you sign everyone up.

    But yes, there’s always disabilities and other reasons why this place might not work, though it depends on the location I guess – some of them have, like, lazy rivers and other things, so I guess I don’t know for sure. But I’d try to find a place where there’s a lot of choices with both high and low activity options, which I know is pretty rare in a lot of the country unfortunately.

  18. Meow*

    I’ve gone ziplining more than once along with other activities with weight restrictions and every time they always weight everyone (no numbers given, just Go or No go, even for those obviously way within the limits). The adventure place should be weighing everyone rather than relying on their judgement as to someone being close to the max/min or not.

        1. Palliser7*

          I’m 48 and still remember and can feel the humiliation of being weighed in front of my peers in middle and high school. Is that serious enough for you? Yes, I was being hyperbolic, but shame has a real psychological impact.

          1. Usurper Cranberries*

            Everyone keeps talking about how humiliating this is – but it’s not for everyone. I’m fat and my reaction to finding out I was over a limit I thought I was under would be “damn it, I need to calibrate my bathroom scale. I’ll meet ya’ll at the bottom!

            1. Usurper Cranberries*

              Hit post too soon – yes, I recognize it would be humiliating for a lot of people. It might even be the worst experience of their life. But we can’t assume that will be true for everyone.

              1. Palliser*

                I’m personally pro not humiliating anyone at their place of business, especially when we are aware in advance of subjects that are likely to be sensitive for many people.

      1. Elsewise*

        I think the only thing that would be worse than that would be being singled out in front of your coworkers and having it loudly announced that you weigh more than everyone else. Honestly, I’d probably opt out of either one.

      2. Observer*

        I cannot imagine anything worse than being weighed for a work-related activity.

        It sounds like you have been lucky, then. But is it better to weigh only *some* people?

        1. Palliser7*

          I spent lots of years being psychologically tortured about my weight and would do quite a bit to avoid being in such humiliating circumstances again. Just because being weighed publicly doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, doesn’t mean that it isn’t for others.

          1. Observer*

            Just because being weighed publicly doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, doesn’t mean that it isn’t for others.

            Oh, it’s not that it’s not a big deal. It *is* a big deal. Which is one of the reasons so many of us are reacting so strongly to this whole mess.

    1. Observer*

      The adventure place should be weighing everyone rather than relying on their judgement as to someone being close to the max/min or not.

      Yes. 100%

      This was my first thought. It’s not just because it’s incredibly humiliating. It’s also because if they don’t they WILL make mistakes. And WILL have problems with someone who (justifiably or not) refuses to be weighed.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, 100%, the staff should not be estimating if it’s safe or not based on their feelings about how much they think someone weighs, and they should not be singling people out based on that. Weigh every single person, no matter how stick thin and obviously under they look, it’s just like confirming your height before you get on the rollercoaster. Get a scale that just displays ok or no and no numbers and have everyone step on the scale before you give them the safety equipment.

  19. WellRed*

    Zip lining?! Yikes. But please do call the center immediately. Horrible! And please rethink this whole plan. And please update us.

  20. Teekanne Aus Schokolade*

    I came up with the 2/3/2 rule for my team: two activity “shifts” where people can choose from one of two low energy activities and one high energy. This could look like:
    museum, lecture, hiking
    Low energy people do museum AM and lecture PM (or vice versa)
    high energy people choose one plus eithert
    the AM or PM hiking.

    Nobody needs to hike all day or even half if they don’t want.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Let us stipulate that this gives everyone a selection of activities they will enjoy (though frankly the lecture seems questionable as recreation). What then do we have? A bunch of people going off and doing different stuff. How exactly does this build the team?

      1. DashDash*

        I was also wondering how ziplining contributes to any sort of “group” dynamic. From my experience, only one person can go at a time, and there’s a limit to how many people can be waiting on the platform. The only “group” dynamic is waiting in line to get onto the platform to then participate as individuals? (And this is coming from someone who would love if my employer paid for me to go ziplining–it still seems weird to bill it as a “group” activity.)

        1. Allonge*

          It’s an exciting thing to do together that lets people be a bit scared silly and very brave and brag about it after.

          Also, based on what OP says it’s one of the activities they do, not all they do.

      2. Teekanne Aus Schokolade*

        My team has over 30 people so it’s much easier than any illusion of trying to bond with 29 others. Those activities were just an example. For us we’ve had group painting, learning to row a boat (a colleague is a dragon boat competitor), a lecture from a woman who is both a major contributor in our field and a world record holder in free diving on how to overcome blocks in life, a 5k walk, prepping meals for a homeless shelter, giving presentations at elementary schools, coffee/hot cocoa tasting, cheese making (with vegan options!), having a local historian teach us the context of the impact of our industry on the local area, helping a local individual by painting, gardening, and organizing fabrics in their home (a variety of energy tasks), a chili cook off, trivia…and “silent night” where nobody could speak but everyone assigned each other a costume via a secret Santa selection and had to match gifts to costumes without laughing. A toy cigar meant for Kramer went instead to Shirley Temple because Iron Man believed John Wayne was hanging out so much with Colonel Sanders that the two had acquired some bubble pipes from SpongeBob originally meant for Popeye.

      3. Myrin*

        I mean, depending on how big the team is, that’s always going to happen; even just going to (for example) a restaurant, you won’t be able to have in-depth discussions with literally every single person on your team unless it consist of, like, four people.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      That’s an amazing idea! One thing I would add is what constitutes a hike. For some, its just a walk on a paved path with little to no incline, for others it’s a hike up a mountain, with just a dirt “path”.

      I have personally dealt with this. In college, I took an environmental science class and we were having a field day, which consisted of a “hike in the marsh” and was told to “wear appropriate footwear.” That was it. I was new to the area (midwest) and my thought was marsh = river, we are going to get our feet wet. Like the marshes of Louisiana. So I borrowed some hiking boots. Only to find that the “Marsh” was a park in the back waters of the Mississippi River and that there is a paved bike trail that goes through the park. Most people had sandals or tennis shoes on. I felt really dumb.

      1. Teekanne Aus Schokolade*

        haha as someone from the South I appreciate your description. a hike for my team was a walk through a local national preserve on a mild day. completely flat but we had people opt out because of allergies, one who is avoiding sun after a cancer scare, knee OP, and one who’s face is on the ticket booth wall unable to enter after orchestrating a singularly large flashmob video there without permission

    3. yvve*

      that is a good idea! although it migh not have actually helped in this case, as it sounds like chris wanted to go ziplining and had reasonable history to believe they COULD go ziplining. So presumably they would have picked this activity anyway

  21. What’s in a Name?*

    This was a tough situation for Chris and your team, OP. You had good intentions with offering Chris your card and offering them an opportunity to do something of interest to them, but I can understand why they may have just needed to get away and be by themselves in the moment – I probably would have gone to sit in my car too. I agree with Alison about calling the adventure center and letting them know this was inappropriately handled.

  22. Lilo*

    I’m going to come out and say I absolutely hate these kinds of team-building events. I don’t like heights but I don’t want to be a stick in the mud so I’d be stuck doing this while feeling sick the whole time. You can also get hurt doing stuff like this.

    Please just stay away from this kind of stuff. even activities I like, like hiking, I don’t want to do with my work colleagues. It should also be during work hours, not weekends.

    1. Nia*

      Did you read the letter? The LW explicitly says people can and do only come to the meals before and after the adventure center.

      1. Lilo*

        Yes, but as many people pointed out there’s often a HUGE amount of pressure to participate, particularly if you’re new. All sponsored work events, especially those billed as being for “team building” should be inclusive.

        1. Nia*

          So take LW’s at their word unless it’s about team building activities in which case obviously they’re lying.

          1. Lilo*

            Yes, but LW isn’t a mind reader and isn’t going to know how a brand new team member is going to feel. I’m not saying LW isn’t reporting correctly, I’m asking LW and people in similar situations to consider the dynamic this creates.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Sure, but that’s why the LW has made it completely optional, and even states that some folks opt out of part of all of the activities. So a brand new team member can simply opt out if they want to. No mind reading necessary!

              1. AngryOctopus*

                And new people will see/hear older staff opting out! And they’ll know it’s truly opt out!

            2. DisgruntledPelican*

              Sometimes we have to take responsibility for our own selves. If you’re new to this org, hear the boss say this is completely optional and you are free to participate as much or as little as you like, see fellow coworkers participating to varying levels, and still feel so pressured that you would go ziplining even while you were scared sick…I don’t even know what to say to that.

        2. Green great dragon*

          No-one’s going to disagree that activities should be inclusive. The tricky part, of course, is finding an activity that is inclusive for everyone and enjoyable for most. Sometimes the best you can do is mix it up, and make each one truly optional.

          1. Clisby*

            And if they take place on a weekend when people don’t normally work, it should be paid (overtime, if that applies.)

            1. Lilo*

              Yes, if it’s outside work hours, remember people might have to arrange childcare or elder care, and it cuts into other activities. Don’t bill stuff as being for team cohesion and then have ot be on employees time. A party or dinner, ehatever. Saying it’s for the purpose of building the team, do it on work time.

      2. MissingOut*

        I would be annoyed that they picked an activity I couldn’t participate in, taking away my ability to do something fun on the company dime, especially when most of the rest of the office will be talking about it at work.

        It’s optional is not a good answer.

  23. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

    Speaking from experience having been the Chris in a similar situation, I agree with most of what Allison says here, except this part:

    “You shouldn’t single them out, but you could provide everyone with info on the activities ahead of time, including something like, “We’re signed up for X, Y, and Z. None of these activities limit participants by height, weight, or medical condition, but we’re cautioned that X does involve ____ (put any details here that you can imagine someone conceivably wanting a warning about; for example, being on your feet for an hour or something that could trigger a fear of heights). if you want to sit any of these out, we’ve arranged ____ as an option too (other stuff? cocoa in the cafe? put something here).” That way you’re not singling Chris out but still letting them know they’re safe participating this time. ”

    The thing is, given what happened with Chris, sending a message like that before the very next event IS going to make Chris feel singled out, because it will be a reminder that now things are changing for everyone because they couldn’t participate. Knowing that Chris was self-conscious about it, they’re almost certainly going to become more self-conscious about whether others are going to be upset with them for the change, and a general announcement is going to amplify that worry. Even though it’s a *good* change, it could still have the effect of singling Chris out.

    It’s a good message to send 99% of the time (and definitely anyone organizing an event should be doing this to begin with), but in this specific case, since it’s a change happening specifically because of what happened to Chris, I wouldn’t send that out as a blanket statement–communicate it to everyone, but not in a general announcement. Because frankly everyone IS going to know exactly why they’re now getting a general announcement with these concerns when they never did before.

    I would also definitely say a thousand times yes to everything Allison said about contacting the adventure center. There are ways of bringing up weight limits without shaming people, and whichever employee of theirs did that needs some new training at the very least.

    1. Silver Robin*

      I disagree, as the person who might be Chris in any number of situations. yes, I would be reminded that this is happening because of what happened to me, but I also would see the manager trying to make sure that I never get left to sit out again. And, since it talks about a wide variety of potential requirements, it is not *just* about weight, which dilutes the focus. Rather than future announcements being about whether fatties can join, the manager has used this situation to better address all sorts of things, which is actually reassuring and kind.

    2. HonorBox*

      Everyone will likely remember that Chris was singled out because of the weight issue, but if the rules and regs are sent out in advance, along with a specific description of activities, others can opt out for whatever their reasons are. If you clearly state that the zip line activity includes being at heights of up to 50 feet in the air, someone may opt out. If you state that the brunch restaurant is bacon-themed and all the dishes include bacon, someone may opt out. If dinner is 60 miles from my house, I might opt out. I think as long as there are specifics that aren’t just about the weight, you’re not singling Chris out.

  24. Delta Delta*

    I would not be surprised to find Chris’s resignation sometime soon. While I believe OP in her description of what happened, this is really hard to come back from for Chris. I think the advice here is spot-on, and if OP loses Chris as an employee, I think the right response is to be understanding, to wish them well, and to always give a very good reference.

      1. She who lurks*

        So did I. In fact, I set myself a year’s deadline to be gone before the next annual team “Away Day”. I wasn’t weighed or turned away from any activity but I did find a number of activities during the day difficult to the point of being unpleasant, and I felt the judgement of some of my fellow team members because of that.

        Before the away day I would have said without hesitation that I felt part of the team. Afterwards I felt equally sure that I didn’t belong.

        As my role had a two-month notice period (common in the UK for public sector jobs above a certain grade) it meant I had 10 months to find something else. I made it – just! I don’t regret going.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      This is a bit much, don’t you think? You think he is going to quit his job because a zip line enforced rules

      1. Observer*

        You think he is going to quit his job because a zip line enforced rules

        No. They might resign because they were humiliated and no one stepped up in any way to reduce the humiliation. And because there may be people like you are this workplace who refuse to recognize that this event *was* humiliating.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        If they weighed only him, they didn’t “enforce rules.” Enforcing the weigh rules would mean weighing everyone.

      3. Crunchy Granola*

        Not because they enforced rules, because the enforcement of those rules humiliated Chris and nobody stood up for them to make it stop.

        I wouldn’t want to work there and I certainly wouldn’t feel like part of the team.

        1. Monkey Princess*

          Three people above have already said that they left jobs in similar circumstances, though. So it happens. It’s hard to be completely humiliated at work.

      4. Retired But Still Herding Cats*

        There aren’t many groups of people whose public shaming and ridicule are still, in many circles, considered acceptable. So I guess it’s not surprising to encounter someone who has never personally experienced something like this and simply can’t grasp just how damaging it is to be thus humiliated in front of your boss and coworkers.

        In such a situation, though, it’s generally worth listening to those who have been there instead of pooh-poohing and minimizing.

  25. MPM*

    Omg to a Saturday team-building event. Even if it is “optional.” Your team hates these but are choosing not to spend their limited political capital to tell you. Or they’ve gone on for so long that they now feel powerless to stop it. Without even getting into the horribly insensitive and discriminatory practices of this particular event, I would honestly quit my job over a this type of nonsense. Do your employees a favor and stop this “tradition” now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For the record, there are teams that genuinely like these events. “Your team hates these or feels powerless to stop them” is absolutely not something we can know from outside the situation.

      I agree that it’s not a good practice for all the reasons that I’ve discussed here for years, but it’s just not true that there are no teams out there that genuinely like them and even proactively clamor for them. For all we know, Chris was genuinely looking forward to the event before this happened.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Yet you noted “I know you say your whole team loves it, but … not everyone will speak up if they don’t…” While there are teams that genuinely like these events, it is literally unknowable if any particular team does.

        1. MPM*

          Yes! And since the OP specified that this took place on a Saturday, I assume that means it was a day they are not usually scheduled to work. The type of place, the scheduling of the event, this type of physically demanding event – all of that put together hints at some very subtle discriminatory practices at this workplace. And as a manager, maybe OP should have a deep think about whether he wants to encourage that or try to enact some positive change to be a more inclusive employer.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, it’s unknowable — which is why I’m saying the person I’m replying to cannot say with certainty, “Your team hates these.” My issue is the certainty, not raising it as a possibility.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Fair enough. But how actionable is it that there is some unknowable possibility that any given team enjoys this stuff? It is Schroedinger’s team-building, except that there is no way even after the fact to open that box and see which way it went.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s actionable as a rule of this space, where — per the commenting rules — I do not want people asserting things as definite fact that they can’t possibly know (in part because it’s really irritating for a LW to come here and see strangers insisting they know their teams better than someone who’s actually on said team). It’s fine to say “you should consider X could be the case.” It is not fine to say “X is definitely the case” when X is speculation. That has always been a rule here.

        3. Silver Robin*

          And Alison addressed that and addressed the potential of new people with different preferences coming in and how to set it up to be better.

          But could we please, for the love of…idk, this blog? Just follow the rule about taking the LW at their word because they even explicitly spent time reassuring us that this was actually a thing their team likes and that the offerings are already pick and choose with a meal being the easy option for everyone to participate in. LW is clearly committed to being kind and responsive to their team, can we not spend time telling them their whole team is lying to them or that they actually cannot trust anything about what other adults say to them?

        4. Coyote River*

          “Literally unknowable” Richard, it’s not that difficult. LW could sit down with their team after the event and simply ask how they feel about team building exercises. They could even do it in the guise of asking for future suggestions, but as long as the team is invited to be open they’ll find out if anyone has a problem with then.

    2. ILikeBoundaries*

      Thank you! I’ll never understand how anyone enjoys these types of things or thinks they are okay. I have only have 48 hours of uninterrupted freedom a week – work should not impede on that.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah some people really like their colleagues. Some people sometimes have colleagues they want to spend time with. I’m not always one of those people as I don’t meet a lot of colleagues I want to spend leisure time with, but I accept people do. I’ve one friend who goes to the rugby with a group from work on a semi-regular basis because they are all into it.

          Some people really enjoy things like adventure centres and ziplining and are willing to spend weekend time with their colleagues in other to get work to pay for the leisure activity they want to do.

          1. LunaLena*

            Also some of us actually have work friends that we, like, hang out with voluntarily outside of work hours? I have work friends that I sometimes go out to dinner with, invite over to play board games, etc. So if I can do a cool, unusual activity with them on the company’s dime, why the hell wouldn’t I?

            And I’m not even some kind of super friendly extrovert! I’m actually very introverted and am more than happy to spend entire weekends at home with my cats. But I’m also a human being who sometimes enjoys the company of other human beings, some of whom I happen to have met through work. I never thought I was that unusual in that sense, but judging from some of the comments here, apparently I might as well be an alien from another planet.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. I’ve one former colleague I often meet up with for afternoon tea or manicures and prosecco and another I go to lunch with regularly because he and I both like a particular food and his husband really doesn’t so we enjoy gossiping about Strictly over that cuisine every few weeks.

              It’s perfectly possible to have work friends one wants to spend time with or activities one wants to do enough to spend time with colleagues to do them. Being a complete extrovert is not required for this as I’m certainly not.

            2. Myrin*

              Yeah, I spent the better part of last Saturday hanging out with a coworker and had an absolute blast.
              And it’s been literally 20 years since I last did ziplining but I did it super often as a kid and always really enjoyed it – if I had the opportunity to go now with no cost to me, and with my coworkers who I have a friendly relationship with? Sign me up!

          2. Pixx*

            I’d enjoy this, and I’m not even particularly outdoorsy or physically inclined. But I do like doing stuff like this once in a while, and it’s even better if someone else is paying for it. Lol. I wouldn’t mind giving up a Saturday once a year to play at an adventure park and eat lunch/dinner on the company dime.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        For free ziplining? Sign me up! I’ve looked into doing that but got turned off by the price tag. And a group to do it with, and chat about it afterwards, and have lunch with? Sounds like a delightful use of a Saturday.

        I think you can also tell the popularity of an event quite easily by one simple question: How many people actually show up? Yes, it’s suspicious if EVERYONE shows up. But if 75% of the group shows up they are probably interested, and if 40% of the group shows up, probably not.

        Also, may I point out that Chris wanted to zipline? They had the option to zipline or not to zipline, and willingly signed up to zipline?

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      In this particular case, Chris did the Zipline last year and was about to do it again this time, so I don’t think whether he or anyone likes team building events is a factor at all.

  26. Lizzle*

    Why are employees being asked to give up an entire Saturday??? This needs to be a work-hours activity.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Agreed! Work could be planning an event that is my most favorite thing in the entire world, I’m still going to be salty if it’s outside of work hours.

      Sacrificing my free time for work events when I was younger was worth it because it usually meant free food or an activity I couldn’t afford to do on my own/wouldn’t splurge for. Now that I’m older I can just get/do those things – my free time is worth so much more to me.

    2. HonorBox*

      It sounds like it is entirely optional. And it sounds like the people who participate WANT to be there. Saying this needs to happen during work doesn’t help the LW in this situation, and we don’t need to be critical of the plans someone has made.

    3. Merci Dee*

      I agree. And, frankly, if I were given a choice between coming in for a normal work day and spending it at an adventure center like this doing team building, I’d rather spend the day catching up on my work.

    4. Starbuck*

      As someone who’d be excited for this kind of event, it being on a work day would absolutely sweeten the deal for me. But, if it’s meant to be optional, I’d worry that it being during the work day would make it feel less optional and more mandatory. And harder to use the excuse of “oh I can’t make it, I’ve got weekend plans”.

  27. Critical Rolls*

    Commenters who would hate this, okay, you have made yourselves heard on that many times. Alison addressed reasons to consider moving on from this place, beyond the inexcusable way they conducted themselves on this particular day.

    But please let’s not get into speculation about the whole team secretly hating it all along. Managers have to go on the words people use, so we need to respect that generally people in workplaces are adults capable of expressing that they do not enjoy an activity*, especially when the LW has given every indication that they care about their teams’ preferences and are open to feedback.

    *Please feel free to insert whatever caveat about about a bad workplace or bad boss you want, obviously I am not attempting to speak for every single specific instance of a person who has an issue with a workplace activity.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Thank you. Aside from being purely speculative (and assuming one’s feelings are universally held) it doesn’t really help the LW, who probably has a better read on their team than random folks on the internet.

    2. MPM*

      Because it takes A LOT of capital at work to say “I don’t want to spend my Saturday going zip lining with my co-workers.” And many people will simply go along with it, especially if they are early career, or the only parent in the group, one of a few females or minorities in a predominantly male or white field, because rocking the boat can have wide-reaching career implications. It’s easier to just show up, fake fun, and gush over what a great job your manager did organizing it so that you seem like “one of the team.” It’s just so short-sighted for a manager to assume that a lack of complaints means your entire team loves these things. And being a good and inclusive manager means you should be thinking about the issues that your team may not be saying to you out loud.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In some workplaces, it would require zero to eensy capital to opt out of the optional activity, because it actually is optional. And over time the office has circled in on a specific optional thing this particular small subgroup of humans enjoys, whether that’s a Saturday outdoorsy thing or a Thursday evening brewery visit or a midday Wednesday opportunity to yell advice to the characters in a B monster movie.

        OP is already offering “Show up for just brunch, just dinner, just the last activity” as an accommodation to varied levels of interest, energy, etc.

      2. DisgruntledPelican*

        In my workplace, it would require zero capital.

        I know this blog likes to act like every employer is an unreasonable, corporate overlord we’re all enslaved to, but lots of us actually like our employers. And our coworkers.

    3. Justin*

      We’re in “there can’t possibly be anyone who genuinely wants to go to the office” internet territory again.

      Like, stop.

      1. Coyote River*

        Yes, I for one much prefer my office to working from home. It is set up the way I like, my secretary is there, I have access to all of my resources, and most importantly I can separate work from home much more easily. I am more productive at the office than at home.

        Yet for some reason when I say this people seem to become strangely defensive, like instead of saying that the office works better *for me* I am saying it works better *for everyone*.

    4. Sorry I was double muted*

      Yes so tired of hearing this – The most vocal people in the comments are the ones who think that everyone hates any kind of team building or activities. I’ve worked on teams that loved it – I have a really bad fear of heights. One of the activities during a team day involved something I knew I couldn’t do. But I went anyway and had a blast. During the fear of heights event I stood at the bottom with my boss who also had the fear and we cheered on our colleagues. I wasn’t all put out that they didn’t change the event because of me.

      1. Weight Limit*

        Exactly. The commentariat here definitely seem to be against team building activities as a whole, definitely if they are outside work time, definitely if they might exclude someone.

        I wouldn’t go ziplining because I would think my weight would be an issue, but limits should be spelled out. Just like you wouldn’t go ziplining because of your fear of heights. I think it’s fine for the most part if there are some activities that aren’t for everyone.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        With 20-20 hindsight, I’ll say that the problem with the zip-lining activity is that it doesn’t lend itself to a couple of people deciding to sit this one out and cheer from below. Whereas a rope course or an egg-and-spoon race, people can participate by cheering.

        (I freelance and so team building would be with my cats. On vacations my family flex what we do to accommodate the different physical abilities–some things I can join in on, some I cheer, some I go lie down in the hotel room and then at lunch we talk about the super athletic things my children did while my husband took photos. Sometimes people want to do stuff together! This is a normal human thing.)

        1. AngryOctopus*

          The ziplining is entirely optional though! So you could say “see you at brunch” and then after go home and team-build with your cats by letting them fight over who sits on your lap. That way you win no matter what :)

      3. Busy Middle Manager*

        “Yes so tired of hearing this” so much agree and it’s always stated in a way like everyone agrees. Well, you know what? I manage a small team and they like when the company pays for us to do stuff. It’s an excuse to go live and do something, anything, and they always use it as an excuse to go to a new bar afterwards, which I am fine with as a non-drinker. It’s just an excuse to go out.

        I notice some of the comments take these too seriously. For example, when “we” used to go to the zip line, most of the people didn’t actually do it. They just stood on the side and laughed at other people screaming on the way down. I’m actually surprised in this case that 100% of people intended to do it!

      4. Pescadero*

        “The most vocal people in the comments are the ones who think that everyone hates any kind of team building or activities.”

        I don’t think everyone hates any kind of team building or activities… but I will note that numerous surveys/polls have been done on this – and in almost all of them somewhere approaching 2/3 of all respondents don’t like them.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Yes, but they DO tend to be the most vocal, repeating it many times in separate comments in the same post.

    5. Turquoisecow*

      Thank you. OP says the team likes these activities and skips parts of them as they like. We should take LWs at their word.

      Yes, many of you would hate this activity or having on a Saturday but you’re not on OP’s team so it doesn’t matter. There’s never going to be a team building activity that makes everyone happy and there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t want to do any at all. We get it. That’s not what this letter is about.

    6. Raida*

      I mean, sure if you wanna vent about it being a Saturday, or any team building, or eating meals together, or activities, or for more than an hour, or anything else – fine.

      BUT make it clear it’s personal, not “your staff hate this”.

      And THEN get on with actually responding to the questions and situation!

    7. Ticotac*

      I would have totally loved free brunch, free interesting activity I’ve never done before, and free dinner. Yes, even on a Saturday. Yes, even with my colleagues. But then again, I never felt the insurmountable pressure of being a team player, so if the team building exercise was something I didn’t want I just didn’t go.

  28. Kiki*

    I’m surprised no one opted out to be with Chris. I get this happened with no notice, but not a single person stayed with her stinks. Do not go to that adventure center again, bad memories for Chris. If you want to do something fun do it during work hours, not the weekend.

    1. Melissa*

      I wonder if the rest of the team knew the details here– I have been in situations where there’s a big group of people, everyone is milling around waiting for it to start. You vaguely see some side discussion that seems to involve Chris, manager, and adventure staff. Then the staff goes “Okay, everybody ready? Let’s go!” and it’s not until later that you realize Chris isn’t with the group and sort of slowly piece together what happened. These events are often kind of chaotic, so I’m giving most of the team the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t consciously decide “Let’s leave poor Chris down there alone while we all go have fun.”

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I actually think listening to Chris saying to go on was the right choice. Staying behind runs the risk of making Chris feel patronized. It was just a sucky situation all around.

    3. Katara's side braids*

      As others have pointed out, LW explains that people opt into the particular activities they’re interested in. So the people who came to the ziplining event were there because they really did want to zipline. It would be difficult to cover up the decision to sit it out with “I didn’t really want to do this anyway,” because the people who didn’t want to zipline weren’t there.

    4. Raida*

      To play devil’s advocate…
      We don’t know Chris and we weren’t excited for a zipline ride. It’s easy to say that it’s odd nobody volunteered when we aren’t in the moment.

      They said everyone else should go, and they aren’t my best friend? I’m going. And apparently so is everyone else.


      Maybe Chris is a real downer and nobody wants to hang out for two hours exclusively. Maybe the zipline is just. that. good.
      Maybe everyone felt it was the manager’s responsibility.

      All we know is Chris was definitely left alone, and at dinner they expressed negative feelings about the event and nobody knew what to say. It doesn’t sound like Chris’ five BFFs were at the table does it

  29. Palliser*

    That is the answer. There should not be activities with weight/size/strength minimums or maximums. I was reading recently that zip lines are sometimes used to transport heavy machinery. The company could have accomodated larger clients if desired, but they chose not to, and the administration of their policy was incredibly ham-handed.

    What if there had been a pregnant person, or someone with mobility issues? I can think of so many reasons that these sorts of activities could be exclusive.

    I am a large woman, and I would have opted out early just fearing that there could be a problem. But then I would have missed out on the team-building.

    1. Weight Limit*

      That’s why I just think that limitations on the activity — weight limits — should be stated before-hand, and it shouldn’t be a problem. I would not have participated in zip-lining because I would think my weight would be a problem. I wouldn’t take the chance. I would just show up for dinner or plan some other event.

      As long as it’s clearly communicated beforehand, it shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I just checked the first three zipline places listed on trip advisor for my state and all three have weight limits listed. Always max, sometimes minimum, sometimes with height minimums as well.

        I’d bet the zipline place has weight limits listed on their website and probably again in the confirmation email where they also remind you not to wear flipflops.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I was reading recently that zip lines are sometimes used to transport heavy machinery.

      This isn’t, like, a generic thing that is true of any zip line. Obviously different set ups will support different uses. e.g. Some backyard zip lines can support a kid but not an average adult. (The adult would be zip lining along the ground.)

      1. Melissa*

        Yeah, this person’s comment makes no sense. I was at a park recently that had a kids’ zip line, which went up to like 75 pounds. It couldn’t have held a bulldozer (heavy machinery)…

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I think it’s not just the strength of the line and equipment, but like angles and friction and other engineering stuff too. If you weigh too little, you go too slow and get stuck, if you weigh too much you go too fast and smash into the end. If they made the slope more gradual, the heavier people could go, but they’d have to raise the bottom limit, and the medium weight people would have a boringly slow ride.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          When we went ziplining in Costa Rica, a guide went with our son because he was too light to reliably make it across the longer stretches. The guide was just there to add a bunch of mass.

    3. Student*

      The rope used for the physical zip line is only part of the equation for the weight limit. A major part of the weight consideration is the harness, the line between the harness and the zip line, and the braking mechanism.

      The harness has to fit a person correctly, and each harness covers a range of body weights and sizes. If your harness does not fit correctly, due to body size or weight, then you are at risk of falling out of it or breaking it. This is a problem for both under or over the designed weight range.

      The line between the harness and the zip line has to provide the right amount of support, and work in concert with the braking system to slow you down the right amount.

      If you brake too fast, for example, if you exceed the weight range of the system and have already used up all the dynamic rope slack before you stop, then you will stop too quickly. This can result in injuries or death; the g-forces get you, like in a car accident. If the rope has too much slack – for example, it’s meant for a person of a higher weight – then it may not constrain your movement sufficiently, meaning you are at risk of collisions, especially when you stop. This also results in injuries or death.

      When moving heavy equipment, you use a completely different harness and braking system than you do for a human. The overall system still has to be tuned for the industrial weight load, but it wouldn’t be safe for a human to use, because all the forces involved would be completely wrong for humans of any weight.

  30. Monkey Princess*

    A lot of wrong things happened here, but the most wrong is with the Adventure Center place, and you need to call and talk to the manager.

    If there was a safety issue around weight, it should have been handled discretely, not with the fool employee calling Chris out publicly for being too fat.

    That was a humiliating and completely unacceptable way to deal with the situation.

    (Also, you organize this on a Saturday? What? I assume this is a M-F job?)

  31. CommanderBanana*

    There’s no good way to handle this because there’s no good way to handle a team-building activity that is built around something that’s weight-exclusionary, FFS.

    1. Dust Bunny*


      The center handled it badly but it shouldn’t have been the chosen activity in the first place.

        1. Raida*

          Exactly! Nobody thought about any weight limits because they’d already learnt there wasn’t anything to think about

    2. Allonge*

      Nobody should ever do anything for teambuilding that is impossible for some of us to do? So, no pizza restaurants for anyone, ever, because I cannot eat gluten?

      1. CommanderBanana*

        That’s not what I said, and Alison has already called out other commenters for this sort of post. It’s not cute.

        There is a vast difference between going to a pizza place (I think every pizza place in my state has gluten-free crust at this point) and being publicly humiliated in front of your coworkers because of your weight.

  32. Weight Limit*

    First thing is, I disagree with the idea that you should cancel something just because one person can’t participate.
    I think the LW had a tough situation in this case, and I’m not sure how you could manage it differently. I don’t think you cancel it.
    I do think you have to have any specific requirements up-front, so yes, the weight limit should’ve been stated before-hand so anyone with concerns about those limits would have fore-knowledge and can avoid this situation. It’s not like the person didn’t know his general weight, and therefore wouldn’t know that he was not eligible for the zip-lining. I know I would avoid going zip-lining because of concerns about my weight.

    That would be the situation with height or physically strenuous activities as well. As long as everyone knows before-hand, then it shouldn’t be an issue.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      For a **team-building** activity? yes, you should cancel it. that is literally the opposite of team-building.

      1. LTR FTW*

        Hey as long as I still get to do what I want, it’s okay if somebody else sits in his car alone for two hours on a Saturday!

    2. Silver Robin*

      Chris was allowed on the Zipline previously. They had no reason to think this time would be different.

    3. Pam Poovey*

      You should cancel an activity that’s supposed to be team building when someone is being excluded from it.

    4. Risha*

      Normally, I would agree with not cancelling the activity due to one person. But for a work activity, I believe that it should be something everyone can participate in (or there should be alternatives that people can do instead of the main activity). For a social event, no, don’t cancel it if one person cannot do it.

      For the LW, when you’re planning the next team building activity, would you consider having the employees pick/vote on things to do? Or you coming up with a few activities and letting them pick which one they would want? Idk if that’s feasible for your group or not. I also think you, as the manager, should’ve sat that one out with Chris. I don’t agree with any of the other employees needing to do that though. I’m a MYOB type, I don’t focus on what’s going on with other people’s conversations unless it involves me directly. I probably wouldn’t have even known Chris was excluded, I just would’ve went on the zipline. But since you were aware of it, it would have been a good thing for you to show solidarity with them and not go on it.

  33. Pam Poovey*

    You should not have gone with the entire rest of the team. You excluded Chris because of his weight. I’m going to be frank — that was cruel and creates a hostile environment for Chris.

    When you apologize don’t put all of the blame on the center. They deserve some of it but you very much messed up by a) not making sure your event was accessible to everyone and b) ostracizing someone who couldn’t participate.

  34. Lacey*

    This is wretched.

    I don’t really have any good advice. I know people who would just start looking for a new job after something like that. It’s that upsetting.

    You do need to apologize, both for planning badly and for how you handled it in the moment.

    But after that, it’s tricky. I know some people who could pull off saying something that implies they didn’t think it would be a problem bc Chris doesn’t remotely look over weight. But a lot of people would just sound like condescending liars. So. Try to know which you are.

    1. Pam Poovey*

      Honestly how he looks doesn’t matter. People are SUPER bad at guessing weights because we’ve been indoctrinated to think of certain numbers as hard cutoffs between fat and not, when in reality everyone carries weight differently. You can look fat and still have people guessing you weigh far less than you actually do, plus privileged thin people don’t have to think about it.

      1. Anon for This*

        People are always surprised when I disclose my weight. I’m a short woman who packs muscle like a man. I wear a medium top, size 8 pants, and weigh in at 175 lbs…on a good day. I’m athletic and pack weight on rather than taking it off when I’m training hard. No one can guess my weight at a look. I’ve been much heavier (over 200, at one point), and no one believed my weight then, either.

    2. Observer*

      I know some people who could pull off saying something that implies they didn’t think it would be a problem bc Chris doesn’t remotely look over weight. But a lot of people would just sound like condescending liars

      Yes. But in this case, the OP has reason to have been surprised by how things went down. Keep in mind that Chris *has* done this before, with no problem. Why should they have expected this year to be different.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes, which is why I think this is an option. But, it can also feel differently even with those facts.

  35. Ex-prof*

    The adventure center’s handling of this absolutely sucks. In fact, it sounds like the invidual adventure center employee might have been acting out of personal hostility. Granted they had a genuine safety concern, who raises that in front of everybody?

    That said, it also sucks that Chris’s comments during dinner were met with silence. How much nicer if they would have been met with a general group rant about the adventure center employee’s inappropriate behavior. Chris clearly needed support and was met instead with silence.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Unfortunately it’s pretty common for these types of places to weigh people in front of everyone in line and is the standard policy a lot of the time. I don’t see any hint of particular malice or hostility here; just the run-of-the-mill background noise of fat shaming that runs through our culture more broadly.

      And I, too, was struck by an entire group of people not having one empathetic thing to say. In these situations, silence feels like agreement and I don’t know how Chris or any fat people observing could interpret it as anything other than “you deserve to feel bad because of the way of your body looks”.

      1. Ex-prof*

        I didn’t know that! Wow. They shouldn’t do that.

        When I used to fly on single engine planes frequently, we had to state our weight on check-in and if we weren’t sure, step onto the luggage scale, but there was no public shaming, except this one time when one pilot switched our seats around based on our weight, very publicly. But we all agreed he was a jerk.

        1. Retired But Still Herding Cats*

          There aren’t many groups of people whose public shaming and ridicule are still, in many circles, considered acceptable. So I guess it’s not surprising to encounter someone who has never personally experienced something like this and simply can’t grasp just how damaging it is to be thus humiliated in front of your boss and coworkers.

          In such a situation, though, it’s generally worth listening to those who have been there instead of pooh-poohing and minimizing.

          1. Retired But Still Herding Cats*

            Nesting fail. Meant to reply to the comment saying it was excessive to think Chris might change jobs as a result of being humiliated in front of boss and coworkers.

      2. Ex-prof*

        ^^^Btw, my 2nd paragraph is more within the OP’s control than my 1st paragraph. I mean, is the team generally supportive of each other? Genuine question to ponder.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t see any hint of particular malice or hostility here; just the run-of-the-mill background noise of fat shaming that runs through our culture more broadly.

        Except that it is not *just* that they weighed Chris in front of everyone. It’s that they *singled them out*. They could have said “we’ve had to tighten up our safety measures and we now weigh everyone before they get on the zip line.” But, no they chose to create a production of it for a *single person*. That’s just messed up.

        1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          It for sure is messed up! I’m just saying it’s a messed up thing that happens all the time and is, in fact, fairly standard practice. Singling out fat people for public weighing is extremely, extremely commonplace and that makes it even more messed up, not less.

          The comment at the top was wondering if it was one employee; my point is that one weirdly hostile employee would actually be an improvement to an overtly hostile industry, which is just part of an overtly hostile world.

          Sorry if I’m over-explaining; I just want to be clear that I think we’re on the same page.

      4. Pixx*

        I’m not very good at responding to negative, “I guess I don’t deserve food because of my weight”-type comments like this, not because I think the person should feel bad about themselves, but because no matter what I say, it never feels like I’ve said the right thing.

        This is probably partly because I’m ND and partly because when it comes to things like weight, I’m clearly thin, and a lot of people don’t want to hear anything comforting I might have to say on the topic of weight. I’ve tried to step in to comfort/validate when someone is making comments like this many times in the past, and I have frequently had my head bitten off for it, which makes me feel anxious and awkward and uncertain about how to address it.

        I also have my own very long struggles with weight, body image, and self-worth, and these kinds of comments make me feel uncomfortable on a personal level, too. They’re not always great for my own mental health around my eating difficulties, either.

        So just because someone doesn’t speak up or know what to say, doesn’t mean they’re silently agreeing, and it’s actually not really cool to suggest that’s the reason behind such a response.

        1. Observer*

          So just because someone doesn’t speak up or know what to say, doesn’t mean they’re silently agreeing, and it’s actually not really cool to suggest that’s the reason behind such a response.

          That’s true, but the thing is that when it’s a *group* that is being silent, it’s less likely that this is what’s going on. Even though it’s not the most likely thing that people think they “deserved” it and “shouldn’t” be eating “too much”, when it’s a group that are all being silent and changing the subject, the likelihood is that they simply don’t have the appropriate level of care and sympathy one would hope for, rather than everyone having had their own struggles so they simply don’t have the tools to deal with it.

          1. Properlike*

            Or, it’s that the group is shocked that Chris would say this about themselves and doesn’t know how to respond in the moment. Which is very human. Not judgmental. Maybe they feared doing more harm than good.

          2. Elsajeni*

            I don’t think this is true — it’s not like the group huddled up, conferred for a minute about whether and how to respond, and then said nothing. Each person in the group didn’t know what to say, so the group said nothing. I think it would be very understandable for Chris to *feel* that the silence means everyone secretly agrees with them, or that no one cares enough to speak up — but I also think that is almost certainly not the case (we are reading a letter from someone who was in the group, does seem to care about Chris and disagree with their negative self-talk, and yet didn’t speak up in the moment!) and saying that it’s the most likely case is both inaccurate and unhelpful.

    2. Lilo*

      Having worked at a theme park, the weight ins usually happen right as people are loaded because it’s the strictest control point. People jump lines and similar. Based on the nature of the ride I worked on, we more refused kids for being too short (there was a sign at the line but people brought kids through anyway. what was drilled into our heads was being “nice” could get someone hurt or killed.

      1. Ex-prof*

        Definitely true with a zip line, and I wouldn’t want to see safety rules broken. But in this case… they had a reservation, they were a group, the weigh-in was being done in front of people Chris knew… it seems different from an amusement park ride.

    3. Observer*

      it also sucks that Chris’s comments during dinner were met with silence.

      Yes. That is absolutely a problem. And it’s not a problem that is going to be solved by finding a different place for activities. It’s also a problem that tells me that the OP is likely to have a hard time making the necessary changes because no one seems to have been cognizant of how messed up the situation was or willing to come out an acknowledge it.

      Chris clearly needed support and was met instead with silence.

      Yes. OP, please think about this. Think about this long and hard. Because you need to think about what it says about the culture of your team.

  36. Richard Hershberger*

    A heartwarming story about a team building event that results in unhappiness, with any attempt to remediate the situation likely to make things worse. Let this be a salutary cautionary tale.

  37. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    Hey LW! I’m a fat person and I appreciate you noticing that this was messed up and wanting to make it right.

    You should definitely talk to Chris privately as suggested and make it clear that the Adventure Center handled it poorly and that you were paralyzed by shock and also handled it poorly. If you don’t explicitly say what went down was wrong, Chris will likely assume that like most people, you feel they deserve a bit of shame and suffering for having the body they do. And once you’ve owned it, verbally commit to making sure all work activities are safe and inclusive for Chris.

    Also make sure to ask Chris how they want you to handle it if this comes up again in the future. Fat people face these small crises all the time, from conference chairs with arms that bruise you to toilet stalls you can’t fit in, from plane and train seats too small for you to mandatory organizational swag not available in your size. A personal favorite is thin coworkers talking about how fat and disgusting they are when I am standing next to them in an obviously larger body.

    Chris knows their own preferences best and will be able to tell you how to address potentially excluding and hurtful in a way that’s considerate of their particular needs. But I would also encourage you to dig a little deeper into why everyone else on your team was silent, too. It’s unfathomable to me that a coworker would be excluded from a team building activity and I would be okay with them staying behind on their own. Even if it was a coworker I disliked. It may be that they were just following your lead, LW, but you should look closely at your team’s culture and where empathy fits in, especially concerning Chris.

    1. so very tired*

      Oh man the swag that doesn’t fit me is such a pain in the you know what. One place I worked actually started offering women’s sizes up to 2XL which actually fit me! And they mixed in other gifts like blankets and stuff that everyone could use. My cats immediately usurped the blanket lol.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          Would have to depend on the 2XL. Brands cut sizes off in all different places, and with vanity sizing now, it feels like there are no standards anymore in the US.

          1. virago*

            … it feels like there are no standards anymore in the US.

            Right. Because a fat person might be able to fit into a 2XL T-shirt.

  38. New Senior Mgr*

    I don’t think team physical activity has any place in the work world outside of PE class. Along with Alison’s thoughtful advice, I’d consider a 2-hour PTO gift for Chris. I cant begin to imagine his full thoughts that day while sitting in his car for 2 hours. Surely you owe him that.

  39. Zzzzzz*

    Given that no one, incl the LW, thought to stay aside with Chris, seems clear to me that all this “team building” at an adventure center has not actually built a team that knows how to care for one another. Perhaps actual team building and events DURING WORK DAYS AND HOURS, NOT THE WEEKEND (like how to support each other when deadlines are heavy, ppl have diff work styles, clients are demanding–you know, things that actually happen during the work day), would be a much better use of time and money.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Would it have been caring for Chris to say “I hear you telling us to go ahead, but I’m going to ignore you and stay anyway?” I generally prefer that people do me the very simple honor of believing me.

    2. ClaireW*

      ‘Blowing off steam” type activities are still team-building. I can’t imagine many people appreciating if they were told they’d have a team building day and then it turned out to be some workshop on ‘how to support each other’ or whatever. And I say this as a larger person with health issues who can’t do that many high-physical-activity things, I’d still rather go along and watch than sit in some session on clients being demanding or some such boring thing.

  40. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Speaking as someone who (A) was never athletic to begin with and (B) is now even more physically limited due to a medical condition, PLEASE, LW1 – pay close attention to Alison’s warning that “There’s also a question about whether this is a good place to do team-building at all. I’d argue no! I know you say your whole team loves it, but (a) not everyone will speak up if they don’t, although of course it’s also possible all the enthusiasm is genuine, and (b) at some point someone won’t be able to participate (a new person joins your team / someone develops a condition they didn’t used to have / etc.) and you don’t want them to be the “reason” the rest of the team has to stop.”

    LW1, you’re clearly a thoughtful, considerate person and this would be a good time to re-evaluate your “team building” activities. Because Alison is right: at some point, someone will very likely have a medical issue that forces them to forego the day’s athletic activities and will not want to disclose that issue to others or feel as if they’ve suddenly been put on the spot when they decline to participate.

    See if you can come up with some activities that everyone, regardless of their physical condition, can enjoy. And always remember that team-building exercises can indeed be fun, but they do NOT actually build a team. That’s done little by little, over the course of every working day.

    1. Raida*

      lemme tell you right now – there is no such activity.

      Something everyone can enjoy + no limitations = a list of non physical activities.
      Which are not enjoyable for some people.

      It’s a lose-lose situation trying to find something good for everyone by adding more and more parameters, every time cutting out potential activities that are interesting or fun for some staff.

      Lord protect me from another Lunch + Lawn Bowls day because it’s a gentle activity. I’m not even sporty – I’m weak, uncoordinated, short, asthmatic. But goddamn, I’ll do laser tag, or go karts, or shoot pool – I’ll suck at them but it’s not bloody lawn bowls. Or Putt-Putt.

      Certainly the best approaches I’ve seen have been a range of activities and staff opt-in for what they are interested in, and then managers plan accordingly to cover all staff.

  41. Sevenrider*

    I just see this whole exercise as a bad idea from the start. First, having an entire Saturday devoted to teambuilding seems excessive. I am sure there are members who are not able to attend due to commitments to family, other job, volunteer work, etc. that have nothing to do with physical ability to participate. This needs to be a work day activity. Second, anything physical should be avoided. Brunch, dinner, okay. But any kind of sports activity, even bowling, should be ruled out. Third, as far as how to handle a situation like the one described by the OP? Don’t put yourself there in the first place. I too am appalled that NO ONE stayed with Chris, not even OP. I would have let the rest of the team go and sat with Chris or found another activity to do with Chris. I certainly would not have let them sit in their car for two hours. I would also not plan future events at this facility. The fact that OP did not even consider others’ physical limitations when planning a physical teambuilding activity speaks volumes. I would say OP also needs to attend sensitivity training.

  42. Bog Witch*

    Oh noooo, I’ve been Chris! A few jobs ago, my team went to a go-kart racing place and since I couldn’t fit into the required racing jumpsuit (while the staff made sure to let me know that this was the “biggest size they had”), I couldn’t participate. It was quite embarrassing at the time, the team continued without me*, and I just left. I wrote a blog post about it, trying to keep the tone humorous, and figured that was that.

    The following Monday, my skip-level boss personally apologized to me for the incident and said they would make sure all team-building events would be fully inclusive going forward. He kept his word and nothing like that has happened since.

    Chalk this up to a big (sorry) learning experience, LW. I think Alison’s advice is good here and it’s great that you are actively seeking out ways to best move forward, which is really all you can do. A lot of people in the comments are doing some Monday-morning quarterbacking, which I don’t think is very fair — but I hope you can glean some helpful things to keep in mind for the future from them.

    *This was totally fine by me, btw. The LAST thing I wanted was for the whole team to have to give up the activity because I couldn’t do it. Yes, this defeats the purpose of team-building, but this was one missed opportunity out of plenty and I still had a great working relationship with all of them during my time at that job.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, this. It’s easy after the fact to say, “Oh, you should have done X.”

      But at the time it’s hard to know what to do and a sincere apology and genuine desire to do better (and act on that desire) is really important.

    2. Starbuck*

      Yeah, there’s still a chance for the LW to make it up to Chris and improve things. I think the comments going “Chris will definitely leave over this” are a bit unhelpful – they might not leave, LW there is hope to make things better! I hope LW can take advantage of the constructive advice here.

  43. MensaCW*

    Every manager insists that their team loves team-building. Really! They can’t get enough of it! They truly look forward to the annual three day goat-herding event!

    I don’t believe this is true as much as it is represented here.

    1. Melissa*

      Did you read Alison’s comment at the top? Some people love literally any event. Some people hate literally any event. People who hate everything are over-represented on this board. I don’t want to do a zipline either but that doesn’t mean this person’s entire team has been seething in resentment for literal years and dreading it.

    2. Pita Chips*

      I remember reading comments from a follow-up survey after a team building day and one stuck in my head, “As an introvert, I am not comfortable in this type of situation at all, so I didn’t enjoy myself.”

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      Maybe they do secretly hate it, but considering the LW has stated that some folks freely opt out of parts they don’t want to do it sounds like the people showing up are people who want to do it.

      1. Jessica*

        It seems to me, that if we can’t insist that people secretly hate it, we also shouldn’t be insisting that they love it just because they’re showing up for it.

        I wouldn’t show up for a work activity on Saturday because my culture forbids it, but I’d go to one on Sunday so as to look like I’m An Enthusiastic Worker, resent having to spend my Sunday doing something work-related, and opt for the activities I found most bearable.

        Compliance, and even feigned enthusiasm, for work activities isn’t automatically genuine enthusiasm. Not when a company can fire you at will.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I’m not insisting they love it, though. However, the fact that the people who don’t want to do it are already freely opting out, it would indicate that those opting in do in fact want to take part. If I don’t want to do something and see other people opting out, I’m going to opt out as well.

  44. BH*

    OMG, poor Chris! Also, your team building exercises are a complete fail. Everyone left him?! Way to show him he’s not part of the team.

    1. Starbuck*

      I find these responses that are jumping in to defend Chris while also repeatedly misgendering them kind of sad to read.

      1. city deer*

        I agree, it is sad and frustrating. What I keep telling myself is that technically we don’t know Chris actually goes by they/them, it could also just be that the LW was trying to talk about the employee as neutrally/nondescriptly as possible since gender is basically irrelevant to the issue at hand. But still. I’ve noticed this happens every. single. time. there is a letter that refers to an employee with the singular they…and it’s not even the worst of this commentariat’s transphobic tendencies.

        1. Starbuck*

          Yeah, I just don’t see any good reason in this case for commenters to not use they/them when the LW clearly uses it over and over. At best it’s ignorant and/or careless. But it’s something I’ve noticed before with letters here where someone is specifically referred to with they/them pronouns and it’s ignored by (some, not all, usually just a few) commenters substituting in whatever pronouns seem to best match the perceived gendering of the name given… or worse, the behavior described.

          1. Starbuck*

            But I should say that I’ve definitely also seen TERFery and transphobia called out by other commenters and deleted by Allison, which I appreciate.

  45. Sunny*

    OP, I think you need to seriously examine the team dynamics at play here. You’re doing a team-building activity, and yet no one, including yourself, actually showed any team-like solidarity or empathy for Chris? What’s going on the rest of the year with your team? Maybe you need to focus on building up a better sense of “team-ness” throughout the year, instead of tossing all your eggs into an adventure centre basket. I’m not convinced that some of activities truly develop team-spirit, so much as competitiveness and nerves.

  46. HonorBox*

    OP, I think you’re giving it the proper thought and I’d encourage you to remind yourself that the staff was at fault for how they handled the situation. If Chris had participated before without weight being considered, it sounds like the staff erred in that situation before too. Management of the adventure center needs to be aware of how it was handled, how it was different than past experiences, and they clearly need to be more proactive in letting people know about any types of limits so people aren’t being put in a really awkward spot.

    I’d agree that an apology to Chris is necessary. Let them know that you feel bad about the situation, and that you’re addressing how poorly it was handled. And then you may need to look at different options for this type of team building in the future. It doesn’t mean you must run away from the adventure center. It might just mean that you need to look at alternatives for activities at the adventure center, especially if your team really enjoys this. But if you hire someone who isn’t a heights person, or whose mobility precludes them from another activity, having a solid option for a different, but equally interesting, activity during the zip lining would be great.

    I’m not going to say that you need to skip the whole place, as it does sound like your team generally likes it and it is optional. But if there is something else you can offer as a fun alternative to zip lining, that might make some more folks happy, too.

  47. Whale I Never*

    I’m sure everyone here has good intentions in saying they would have stayed behind with Chris but honestly, LW, I don’t think you should beat yourself up for not doing so. I’ve been excluded from weight-related things and I 1000% prefer to have time to sit alone in a private space and handle my emotions rather than be surrounded by people I then need to entertain while trying not to cry. Dealing with the adventure center is a separate issue, and it would be one thing if you had PLANNED to have Chris sit out, but being put on the spot sucks and having time to process that can be better than having to be “on” immediately.

    1. HonorBox*

      I agree. Trying to put myself in Chris’s shoes, I think I’d have preferred being by myself during that time since there wasn’t a great alternative. If LW (or someone else) had said, let’s go watch the game or play putt putt (or something… that was the first thing that came to mind) instead, I could see that as a reasonable alternative. But if there wasn’t anything specific to do, and the choice was sitting one-on-one with the boss or another coworker just shooting the breeze, that’s putting Chris in a potentially awkward position, too.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Yeh. In Chris’s place I would definitely prefer to sit it out in my own space with my phone than have to make polite conversation with my boss for 2 hours. Sure, it would have been good for LW to suggest another activity they could do together, but this might still have been Chris’s preference.

    3. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

      I also really want to emphasize that this was an activity that people self-selected in for. They had the option to not, which means that they were probably geared up for/excited for this event, and while yes, it would have shown empathy if they had stepped aside with Chris…it’s not hugely unreasonable that they decided not to.

    4. Bog Witch*

      YES, thank you! I was Chris at a previous job and would’ve been mortified if the whole team had to quit the activity. So now on top of not being able to participate myself, I have to deal with real or perceived resentment from my teammates because they can’t do the activity now either? Hard pass.

      We don’t know if this is something Chris would have wanted themselves or not, and as such, I think a lot of commenters are being really unfair towards the LW about this.

    5. Hrodvitnir*

      Yes yes yes. When everybody knows everyone was there enthusiastically, there is no way for someone to drop out that’s not just pity (or sympathy, but when you’re humiliated it feels like pity.)

      The situation sucked, but people saying Chris has been shown no one cares… no. Not by that.

      God, what an awful situation.

    6. DisgruntledPelican*

      Not to mention, Chris told them to go without them. When a person is in a stressful or humiliating situation, LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY. Don’t decide you know better than them.

  48. Someone Else's Boss*

    This is an excellent example of how you can try really hard to do the right thing and still fall short. The interesting thing about privilege is that it’s hard to see when you have it, and easy to see when you don’t. LW, you have thin privilege. I bet you that Chris thinks about their weight all the time. They probably worry if chairs at an outdoor wedding will be sturdy enough, if airplane seats will be wide enough, and hundreds of other little things that you don’t have to think about. Imagine how many people struggle with other, similar insecurities, and have to overcome those struggles not only at work itself, but at work events, no matter how pleasant.

    How can you be expected to know everything that might make an employee uncomfortable? How can you avoid working with vendors who will be insensitive? You can do your best, but you won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. Making it right for Chris now is the best thing you can do. As a fellow person who worries about weight limits, I would not have wanted you to cancel the event or step aside to hang out with me. I would have wanted to be left alone in my car, exactly as Chris was. I’m not sure if that’s reassuring or not, but trust me – being singled out is bad enough, being the reason other people can’t have fun is something from which I would not recover.

    1. Properlike*

      I am not anywhere near society’s definition of “thin,” so the idea that one could could have this privilege while not having it is interesting. One can be overweight, spend doctors’ visits getting lectured about it, have trouble finding clothes that fit, and still not grok that there’s a brand-new requirement at the activity park and suddenly one person who always participated, can’t.

      Let’s not assume the LW has “opposite privilege,” especially when the LW is doing their best to remedy the error.

  49. Total*

    The adventure center sucks. Humanity has the technology to carry massive loads along rope lines. Build the zip line to carry *everyone* not just some artificially created range. Yeesh.

    1. Mayor of Llamatown*

      Totally! Every zip line I’ve ever been on has involved cables that can carry thousands of pounds, harnesses made with super high durability webbing, etc. My sister ran one zip line and started each course with a talk about all of the equipment and how many pounds it can handle, to demonstrate how safe it was for anyone who might be nervous. The adventure center sucks.

      1. Jessica*


        Given both the fact that their equipment couldn’t handle the weight AND that the staff clearly hadn’t received training in how to discreetly handle customer concerns, the adventure center sounds janky af and I’d be worried about the safety of their activities in general.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I’ve been doing some reading about ziplines, and apparently the problem isn’t that the equipment isn’t strong enough to carry anybody’s weight, but that the more you weigh, the faster you go. Which means you crash at the downhill end instead of doing a smooth landing.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          But surely that’s just poor design that could be solved. I mean, when heavier-than-any-human equipment is moved, I’m sure they don’t let it crash at the end.

          I’d phrase this more like: zipline companies know what the problem is and instead of fixing it are shrugging and saying too bad to fat people.

          1. Katie Impact*

            Any given zipline is going to be designed to carry a specific weight, so the stuff that moves heavy equipment isn’t suitable for people and vice versa. On the other hand, setting up a couple of different ziplines side-by-side for people of different weights might not be the worst thing in the world.

          2. Sleve*

            If they can let it crash without damaging something, they will. If they can’t, it gets moved by vehicle using the same path that was used during the building of the zipline. ‘Oh you can walk over on the path’ isn’t an option for people though, since the journey is the goal, not the destination.

            That said, the speed problem isn’t poor design, and the companies don’t need to wrack their poor engineers’ brains for a fix. The answer is simply to weigh everyone and use different trolleys for different people. That way teenagers don’t get stuck midway and bodybuilders don’t crash at the end. Buying multiple trolleys costs money, though. The idea that inclusivity equates to profits, not losses, is slow to trickle through to a disappointing number of businesses.

  50. so very tired*

    Zip lining for a work event just sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’d be too concerned about risk of injury or lingering soreness, plus I have a fear of heights. Anxiety and bodily injury, name a more iconic duo.

    Aside from the whole being too fat to do the activity thing, which I def empathize with as I am also fat, there are really no winners here. I hope OP connects with Chris and makes things right.

  51. Little My*

    As a fat person for whom this would have been a nightmare, here is what I would have wanted you to do:
    – Step in and stop it before your employee was PUBLICLY WEIGHED. (This is the most important part!!!) That is seriously traumatizing.
    – Tell the adventure park staff in the moment that, as a customer, you are unhappy that they haven’t set up their zipline to be accessible. It’s messed up that so many physical activity companies don’t feel an obligation to rate their equipment for a large variety of human bodies.
    – Everyone should do a different activity. It’s not just about including Chris, it’s about that activity being inherently exclusive and therefore not worth doing.

    You didn’t know what to do in the moment, and that’s understandable. To try to address the harm caused, you need to apologize to Chris and ask them whether they’d like to engage in a process with the adventure center to see if they can promise an inclusive day next year, or whether they’d like to do something different. Whatever Chris decides, you should make it clear to both Chris and to the rest of your team that this is not about one person, but about your company’s values. You shouldn’t be giving your business to a company that discriminates and humiliates!

    1. Saberise*

      As a fat person those are the last things I would have wanted. I would be embarrassed enough without step 1 and 2 taking place right there in front of everyone. And I would want them to still do the activity. I would not want to be my fault they could not do it. See, not everyone feels the same way you do.

      1. Nedder*

        Agree, I would feel worse about it since everyone was there. Also, yelling at the facility for “not making it inclusive” There are some things that are just downright dangerous at a certain weight. I couldn’t go horseback riding…the poor horse has a weight limit.

        Not to mention, these things are generally online – weight restrictions, etc, safety, If you are the one planning an event, especially for work, you read all of that first.

        1. Antilles*

          Yelling at the facility “in the moment” is also useless from a practical standpoint because on a Saturday afternoon, you’re definitely not talking to someone with any responsibility for the decision.
          In my experience with ziplines/adventure tours, the tour guides and even the manager-in-charge are usually some local college-aged kids who have nothing to do with decisions about accessibility; that’s an ownership concern way above the head of anybody who’d be on site Saturday afternoon.

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        I am so sad to read so many comments from fat people who have internalized the idea that it would be their “fault” if other people couldn’t go/couldn’t have fun.

        I would absolutely have insisted on all or nobody and I’d have the expectation that my team would feel the same way. Otherwise, how is it team building? But also, not doing ziplining wouldn’t mean we all just sit and stare at a wall. We’d obviously have done a different fun activity, so you wouldn’t be “making” people not have fun.

        I see how far we have to go as a society to be inclusive and also stop victim blaming.

        1. Raida*

          Mate, don’t expect other people to feel how you do.

          Because if you do, then they fail to meet those expectations – and they are now ‘a bad person’ to your mind.

          How’s that helpful? Or would you prefer they lie and pretend to feel like you do?

          Better to set yourself expectations and meet those.

        2. ClaireW*

          As someone with social anxiety, in general I do not want people thinking about me as an exception or different from the group at all. You can’t avoid the basic fact that if the entire group didn’t do ziplining it would be *because of* Chris’s weight. That’s not saying that there’s any value attached to weight or that Chris is a bad person or did something wrong, I am at least Chris’s size based on the description and I’d still not want to be the cause of other people missing an activity they specifically signed up to do. How would that help me at all?

    2. bamcheeks*

      ask them whether they’d like to engage in a process with the adventure center

      This is something I was thinking as well. I think I would drop a line to Chris to say that I wanted to apologise for what happened on Saturday, both for not having handled it better personally, and also for the way the centre handled it. I would tell them that I was planning to give them some feedback about ensuring that any accessibility issues are communicated more sensitively in the future, and if Chris had any suggestions for how it could have been handled or preferences, I’d happily take his comments on board. But equally, if he doesn’t want to give it another second’s thought that’s fine. Either way, I’m going to give my feedback.

      Mainly I would be aiming to communicate that the problem was not Chris, the problem was the way the centre handled it and the fact that I was totally unprepared myself.

    3. Beth*

      As a fat person, this is unrealistic.

      1) In Chris’s shoes, I would not want my manager intervening in how or whether I get weighed. I’m perfectly capable of insisting on privacy or declining a public weighing. Being singled out to be weighed is inherently embarrassing; my manager making a scene about it, when they can’t know what I want because this scenario has only just come up and they’re not in my head to hear what I want, would not help.

      2) Yes, the park should be accommodating a wider range of bodies. Almost everywhere should. No, complaining to the attendee running it–who almost definitely has zero say on equipment purchases, zipline design, or anything else relevant to the topic–is not going to make that happen. And once again, making a scene is unhelpful to Chris. This is great feedback to send to the adventure company later, and probably a reason to reconsider activities there, but there’s nothing to be done about it in the moment.

      3) No activity is fully inclusive; if an activity potentially excluding someone makes it not worth doing, then nothing is worth doing. Activities for large groups are booked in advance for good reason; there’s almost definitely not a replacement activity available. Chris straight up told everyone to go ahead; yes, that doesn’t mean what happened was fine or acceptable, maybe it just meant he wanted to minimize impact or that he wanted some alone time, but OP was still right to take a grown adult at his word. Once again, making an even bigger deal out of this by making a scene is not a helpful impulse.

      OP should absolutely be taking a lesson-learned here: they should look at future activities more closely, note any limitations up front when asking if people want to do the activity, and not trust that something will work without problems just because it did in the past. But they didn’t do that badly in the moment here, either, given the curveball that was thrown at Chris.

  52. Ex-prof*

    Btw, a lot of managers would have gone blithely on without worrying about what happened, so kudos to LW for noticing and caring.

    1. Doc McCracken*

      Yes, we should give the LW credit for recognizing this and wanting to make it right as much as they can!

  53. Southern Girl*

    With zip lines in the US, the equipment is usually far stronger than it needs to be. The issue is that the harness will be too tight and therefore very uncomfortable on people over a certain size.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      But a given weight doesn’t mean you have specific dimensions. People are all kinds of shapes and sizes! Someone could be tall and not that bulky and be over the weight max.

  54. ReallyBadPerson*

    It is questions like these that confirm my strong (minority) opinion that team-building should be done at work, by, you know, working together as a team. I’m a fit enough person, but super uncoordinated. Athletic humiliation would not bond me to my colleagues.

    1. Nedder*

      Agree, Team building is all about everyone helping eachother, being willing to train others, having a culture of respect, etc. THAT is actually how you build a team.

  55. another big girl*

    I think the big takeaway here is: Don’t use this type of activity as “team building” if you are trying to encourage diversity and inclusion in your team.

    I think any activity that relies on physical fitness and physical ability serves more as a team-splitting activity. (Trust me, been fighting this fight since the 1990s.)

    It’s just too fraught, and there are so many other things you can do! Puzzle/trivia/game days, escape rooms (you can check ahead re: physical and mobility needs – there are escape rooms where you don’t have to crawl through tight spaces), places like Dave & Busters… the activity doesn’t have to be all Outward Bound to be fun.

    1. so very tired*

      TBH I hate escape rooms because they trigger my PTSD badly. That’s something to be aware of for sure.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I cannot do trivia at all. My brain just doesn’t work like that, and I have moderate face blindness. I’d just be sitting there watching.

      Which doesn’t mean no-one should ever do a trivia night. It means you should make everything optional and have a mix of things (as LW did). Clearly there are lessons to be learnt, but I don’t think ‘never do anything that requires a base level of physical ability in any office’ is one.

      1. another big girl*

        I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

        The world is already so full of microaggressions toward the non-physically-abled (as other posters have stated much more eloquently), it really doesn’t seem like too big of an ask that team-building activities be inclusive.

        1. Bog Witch*

          The point is that no team-building activity is going to be inclusive to every single member of the team, unless your team is like, three people. Therefore, it’s best to have a wide variety of activities, schedule them regularly enough so that people have ample opportunities to spend time with teammates outside of work, and make every single one optional, which no repercussions whatsoever if you can’t participate for any reason (even if the reason is “nope, don’t wanna).

        2. Starbuck*

          Yes team building should be inclusive… but also, not everyone works in an office doing a purely sedentary job! Where I work, the physical requirements of the job duties would mean that you’d assume people could handle a certain caliber of activity. I don’t disagree that there should be a selection process that lets people express preferences, needs, etc and opt in. But saying as a default that physical activities should be off the table doesn’t always make sense. I know this forum as a strong white-collar office bias, but there are other workplaces.

        3. Colette*

          But the point is that nothing includes everyone, because people are different. Physical activities are good for some people, while others prefer art or puzzles or a happy hour. The key is to have a mix of activities, so the same people aren’t excluded (or excluding themselves) every time.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Exactly. Everything another big girl suggested may be inclusive for her, but could be problematic for those with neuro-atypicality, for example. Even within conditions – I know ADHD people who love games, and those for whom a games day would be a nightmare.

            1. another big girl*

              Interesting that you assume I am neurotypical. I can assure you that that is not the case. :)

              The “we are not a monolith” speech is unnecessary here, so I’ll simply say: The percentage of people overall who cannot participate in these physically-abled activities is much higher than the percentage of people who, say, can’t eat sandwiches. Therefore, logically, an event that is exclusionary to so many different types of people shouldn’t go on the list.

              I think we are very much on the same page, in that the list of activities should be varied and the activity types should rotate. I just think this Outward Bound-type stuff should be eliminated wholesale because of the sheer number of different types of people it excludes.

              But then, if we didn’t have different opinions on all this stuff, the internet would be a pretty dull place, so, there you go. :)

  56. Post Go-Live Smoke Test*

    There’s also a question about whether this is a good place to do team-building at all. I’d argue no!

    This many times over. Assuming the team is into team building events (and many people are not, but get dinged for “not being a team player” if they dare express that), I don’t think anything athletic is generally a good idea. There are illnesses and disabilities that aren’t visible and some people may not be obviously up to the activities. Yes, I know LW’s team has gone before, I’m speaking in general now.

      1. Raida*

        It’s having a shared, enjoyable, experience.

        Like going to the movies – you aren’t expected to chat during the film, but you can talk about it afterwards, have pleasant memories that involve the other people that attended with you, etc.

        “Team Building” is a catch-all for any team event, that’s all

  57. Lainey L. L-C*

    A part of my soul died a little bit hearing it was basically an all-day Saturday event. Personally, I’d be opting out right there – after spending 40 hours during the week with my coworkers, I don’t want to turn around and spend another 8(ish) with them on my day off, I do have other friends/family members I’d like to spend time with!

    But now that you know there is the weight-limit, I think you need to figure something else to do, as now you know some members of your team will be limited in participation.

    1. so very tired*

      We had two office parties every year at my old job. They were half-day events on a Friday. One was a big picnic in a park or other outdoor area with BBQ, organized activities like soccer and cornhole etc, plus we could bring any games and sports stuff we wanted to do and self organize. All our families were invited to the picnic and we had stuff for the kiddos like a piñata and face painting, plus a raffle for gift baskets. The other was the holiday party at a nice restaurant or event space that was just for staff, and we had a nice catered lunch with open bar, music and dancing, prize raffle, ugly sweater contest, etc.

      It was a full paid day for everyone, and the only rules were you had to attend the event for at least 3 hours or take a PTO day if you couldn’t make it – no one was allowed to work those days. So those days definitely felt special because we got paid and we got a nice day out to boot. And the best thing about those outings was nobody was required to do anything. Just show up and eat, drink, hang, whatever.

      There’s no way in heck I’d go to any work thing on the weekends. I rarely even went to office happy hours during the week and I haven’t been to one since I got sober (20 months now!). I think what sets off a lot of people around “team building” is when the events blatantly exclude people like in Chris’ case, and/or when they’re not actually focused on the team building. Let’s be honest about what the events are about.

      1. Lainey L. L-C*

        See those sound fun!

        We do a lot of Lunch and Learns and sometimes just team lunches (no learning lol) and those are great.

        1. Colette*

          And I hate lunch and learns – my lunch is my time (and supplying food doesn’t make it more appealing because I can’t eat peppers, so unless the food is adequately labeled, I probably won’t eat it.)

          1. Lainey L. L-C*

            Give me free food, I’ll listen to someone talk, lol. Have the team all meet at a restaurant for lunch, sure, sounds fun. Ask me to meet outside of regular work hours…and it’s gonna depend on what else is going on. If my family wants to do X thing, it’s likely taking priority over meeting the coworkers for the optional team-building activity.

            I’d be joining the OP for the brunch or the dinner, and skipping the other stuff.

      2. TimeOffByChoiceOnly*

        seriously? they made you use PTO? that’s awful. If I wasn’t able to go to the event being forced to use my time off instead would add serious insult to injury

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yup. I work on the weekends and that means that if I’m skipping an entire day of work to go be humiliated in front of my coworkers, I’m also losing out on a day’s pay. Crappy all the way around.

      I don’t think that putting together good team-building activities is that hard, either. The whole “well I guess NO ONE CAN PARTICIPATE THEN HUHHHHHHHN” attitude from some posters is incredibly crappy. Ask what your coworkers want to do! Give people options! Have a variety of activities throughout the year! Keep them within working hours if at all possible! In the past year, places I’ve worked have done:

      – bowling
      – museum visits
      – making sandwiches for a shelter
      – a charity auction
      – holiday cookie decorating

      Surely a group of adults can come up with a rotating list of activities that let all teammates participate at least once in something that doesn’t involve actively humiliating people.

  58. Nedder*

    Besides the obvious, team building should not be held on Saturdays and there are many ways this becomes even more exclusionary because of that. It’s a work event, have it during work.

  59. Observer*

    I want to comment on something that I have not seen mentioned (although I could have missed it.) That is that having the activity all day on Saturday, and having 2/3 of the activity be food related could wind up excluding a lot of people for religious reasons.

    As an Orthodox Jew, the whole thing would be totally off limits. For Jews who are not Orthodox but are religious, you’ve probably created a schedule that conflicts with their worship (which is generally Friday night and Saturday morning.) As for the food portion – it’s obviously not kosher (Kosher restaurants generally cannot be open on Saturday) but are you checking that someone who keeps Halal can eat there? What about people who are vegetarian? (Yes, vegetarianism is a religious requirement for some religions.)

    Also, the food issue also can hit hard for people with all sorts of medical issues, such as allergy and other types of food sensitivities.

    I’m not saying that you can never have activities on Saturday nor food related events. But you do need to start thinking about this stuff and doing a wider variety of things so that people have a chance to actually participate some of the time, even if they have issues that keep them from *this* set of issues.

    1. Jessica*

      Hell, I’m Reconstructionist and still would not do a *work activity* on a Saturday.

      A lot of the whole “well, we can’t think of every edge case!” protests about thinking about inclusivity *at all* ignore that you can kill a lot of inclusivity birds with one stone just by providing variety.

      1. Observer*

        Good point!

        I’d also be willing to bet that there are other religious traditions that would be shut out by one or the other of these issues, along with all of the physical and medical potential issues.

        I think it’s worth pointing out to people who complain about not being able to thing about “every edge case” that it’s not just “edge cases”. Yes, many of these issues are edge cases individually. But by the time you are done aggregating all the “edge cases” you’re often dealing with a significant proportion of the population.

        I don’t think that any one activity will be able to accommodate *everyone*. But some variety really makes all the difference. Because then you can find activities that wind up accommodating everyone over time.

        1. Jessica*

          I mean, when 2/3 of adult Americans are overweight, we’re DEFINITELY not talking about an edge case here.

    2. Raida*

      I think that simply comes down to the same planning that needs to go into lunch at work – get information from staff on requirements/limitations.
      Plan accordingly.

  60. spiff*

    I’ve been Chris – and while it sucks, I would absolutely *not* expect everyone else to change plans at the last minute to accommodate an unforeseen issue where I couldn’t participate?

    The key here is “unforeseen” – since Chris has participated in the past, obviously they were not concerned about possibly not being able to participate, and had no reason to bring up *ahead* of time, that they would not be able to participate and give you the chance to make alternate plans.

    Personally, if I was invited to an activity like this, I would have been reading the FAQs on the company’s website and figuring out if this was something I could participate in, and I would have probably just let the organizer know that I wouldn’t be participating – ahead of time.

    The zipline staff are the ones in the wrong here – they should be set up to handle this kind of thing far more discreetly – weighing someone in public is ridiculous.

    Ziplining may not be the best group activity for a large team – aside from weight limits, many people have a fear of heights, or may have back issues that mean that it’s not the best idea to be flinging yourself off of platforms and hanging off a line?

    Going forward – it may feel like you should cancel ziplining and never do that again – but if I were Chris, that would honestly make me feel *worse* if it was something that had been a tradition, was now cancelled due to me not being able to participate?

    If the majority of the team continue to want to do the zipline option, I think that’s fine, just in future, offer a planned alternative activity for the same time – you may be surprised how many people choose that option, given an alternative.

    Mostly OP, I don’t think you should beat yourself up too much on this – it was an awkward situation, but dwelling on it, won’t make anyone feel better!

  61. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    Honestly, I don’t think you did anything wrong. Your team likes this event. Chris had done the zip line before. You had no reason so suspect this was going to happen.

    About all you could do is ask to speak to who was in charge and explain that Chris had done the zip line before and you felt he was being singled out. If they wouldn’t budge then ask for a refund.

    Going forward consider any events and make sure everyone is comfortable with them. That is all you can do at this point.

  62. Procedure Publisher*

    For the future, ask if there are restrictions on the activities. It might bring up other restrictions that may impact other members of your team that you would not have though of.

  63. Picky Picky!*

    Yikes! With how many perfect planners and forward-thinkers on this site, you would think this site would be obsolete because businesses have y’all as the greatest managers.

    Y’all want the absolute perfect, non-offensive to anyone team building activity, yet be able to opt out, but then complain when not everyone is involved because then it isn’t team building. Like, what? Make it make sense!

    This LW seems to have done everything reasonable. They got interest and feedback from the group, they planned it in parts so that people could opt in or out, and it sounds like people could opt out of the whole thing! Chris has previously participated in these events, and clearly signed up to participate in this optional portion. Even Chris didn’t expect to be harangued about their weight, as this hasn’t been an issue before. If Chris didn’t expect it, how can you expect the LW to expect it in these given circumstances?

    LW then did the best that they could in a very quick and awkward moment. Offering the card to do something else, listening to Chris when they said “go ahead”, and also in general, just honoring what grown adults say. Who among us hasn’t gone back after making a decision and rehashed how any other choice would have been better? As a coworker, I would have gone on with the planned activity because that’s what I signed up to do. As a manager, I would have listened to this grown adult’s “go ahead” and assumed that they are also telling their truth in that moment.

    I think the LW is doing the next best thing now, which is reflecting, seeking advice, taking the new information, and figuring out how to mitigate this in the future.

      1. Picky Picky!*

        In my experience with these types of activities, the weighing happens so fast that I can imagine not having the perfect thing to say and do in that moment.

        And while I am not trying to not believe the LW, and also still understand how horrifying it is, when one is weighed at these adventure parks, it’s in a different room, behind a curtain, etc, and they don’t announce the number. They may have crassly said “you’re over the limit”, which is horrifying. The park f-ed up by not going through the whole weighing of EVERYONE, as parks should do.

        The singling out is horrifying, but again, it may have happened so fast that no one knows what to do in that moment, and then the moment is over.

        I’m glad to hear you’re a perfect manager and would never react like this in the moment!

      2. DisgruntledPelican*

        People keep saying this, but I have yet to see anyone articulate what they think OP actually should have done. Make a scene? Physically stop Chris from stepping on the scale? Demand Chris be let on the zipline even if it was unsafe?

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      Please take a moment to reconsider your assertion that a manager should take their subordinate’s answer as if there’s no context here. Grown adults are still subject to social pressures and negative social consequences from rocking the boat. We don’t know what context Chris has here for feeling compelled to tell the team to go ahead, beyond how larger people are generally shamed for taking up more space. There could have been significant negative consequences/fall out at work from his coworkers if he’d said anything else. One of the benefits of AAM is reflecting on the nuances of human interaction at work.

      1. Picky Picky!*

        I took my moment, thank you. I thought about it, and I this is what I think:

        It’s not surprising that a manager took a grown person’s word in an awkward moment. I don’t think it’s better for the manager to harp on that person with 100 “are you sure? Please, tell me your deep and honest feelings in front of everyone in this moment where you were embarrassed. Wait, are you sure? No, I don’t believe you. Are you sure?”

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          I agree with you, Picky Picky!

          I would *loathe* if a manager just kept asking me if I was sure and not believing my initial response of “no”. I gave the simple, quick answer of “no” to try and take the spotlight off of me and my embarrassment. So please, Ms. Murchison, if you are ever my manager, don’t question my initial reaction and think you should do something more. But I don’t speak for Chris, maybe they preferred the manager to do something more. But if Chris is anything like me, they’re happier the manager took them at their word and went ahead without me.

        2. bamcheeks*

          Yes, I agree with this. There are good times to take other context and power relationships into account and check in to see whether people‘s first answer is their true answer. But it’s also reasonable to think that if an adult in a public work context says, “I feel X and I want Y to happen” then regardless of whether X is what they truly feel, then Y is what should happen.

        3. Starbuck*

          Yeah, going against Chris’s wishes and assuming you know better than them what they need in the moment sounds like a patronizing response, not a compassionate one.

        4. RagingADHD*

          Agreed. This could be intensely infantilizing. It could also go the other way, into forcing the embarrassed person to repeatedly reassure the manager and make them feel better.

          Neither is good.

    2. so very tired*

      I think the consensus is that we’re giving the LW a break; they know they screwed the pooch and how they’d do better going forward and they’re all about making it right.

      And I don’t think anyone’s asking for the “perfect event” where everyone’s included and involved, because such a thing doesn’t exist. Looks like most of us are sharing war stories from bad events past, and asking for more compassion in general when planning events. Because while LW is actively trying to do better, most bosses and event organizers would never consider this a learning experience.

      It’s weird that this response reads like a comment on AITA on Reddit because that’s not what any of this is about.

    3. ActualTeacher*

      Absolutely agree. The LW was in a tough spot, made the best decisions at the time, and is now checking in on their employee, and is now trying to reflect on what that means. I think you’ve hit this spot on here.

    4. Gemstones*

      Agreed. OP did their best. It’s very easy to criticize.

      Honestly, if I were a manager reading all of these comments, I think my takeaway would be, “OK…I guess we’re just not doing team-building exercises, because by definition someone’s going to be upset or left out.”

    5. L-squared*

      Totally agree.

      Its also interesting how people act like these adults are children who need to be coddled and can’t postrysibly say what they want.

      The thing is, there isn’t a perfect solution here. People saying the manager shouldn’t have let the employee be weighed? I mean, ok, but then what, you make an even bigger deal about it, putting more attention on the situation.

      This is a safety issue. Its not like they were trying to publicly shame them, but they were trying to be sure everyone doing this potentially dangerous activity was safe. Should they weigh everyone? Maybe. But they know their weight limit. A quick google seems like the limit is around 275. You can pretty easily tell who is definitley not that weight. That isn’t shaming someone who may be close. I’m guessing there wasn’t some kind of alarm that went off saying “too fat to zipline”. That is trying to make sure they are within the regulations. If there was a height requirement, would people be upset that someone had to publicly stand next to the ruler to measure?

      1. Beth*

        Trying to guess people’s weight by looking at them 1) is pretty faulty, most people are much worse at it than they think, and 2) involves a lot of body judgment that just really isn’t socially appropriate. When a weight limit is involved for safety reasons, the default policy should be to weigh everyone participating. Yes, it might seem silly to weigh someone who’s very short and thin and obviously weighs much less than that. But that’s better than making it a staff judgment call who gets weighed–that will 1) single out anyone who they decide needs weighing, and 2) risk problems when they inevitably misjudge and miss someone who’s technically over the limit. (This is a note for the adventure center, though–it’s not like OP had any control over this.)

      2. Colette*

        I’d be willing to bet you can’t tell the difference between someone who is 273 vs. 279. I’ll also bet that you would guess wildly different weights for someone who is 5’2″ and 275 vs. someone who is 6’2″ and 275. It’s not that easy to “easily tell”.

        1. L-squared*

          My point is that you can tell if someone is significantly far away from the weight limit, so there is no practical reason to weigh everyone. I’m no weight expert, but I’m pretty certain I can tell if someone is closer to 150 than 275, even if I can’t tell 273 from 277. Its like carding a person who is clearly in their 40s while at dinner and they are ordering wine. Can you make the argument that its better to card everyone instead of singling out one person? I suppose. But its really a waste of time.

          Someone who looks like they are in their early 20s shouldn’t be offended by it. Nor should someone who is over the safe limit be offended by it.

          I say this as someone who, myself, is closer to 275 than to 150. So I’m not some tiny person making this argument.

          1. Colette*

            Except that if everyone is weighed, you aren’t singling out people based on the way their body looks.

          2. Beth*

            Most places that card, the official policy is to card everyone (or to card everyone who looks younger than [age that’s much older than 21]), because people are generally very bad at looking at other people and correctly guessing age. Some people have serious baby face and look like a teen until they’re 40, some are balding or going gray at 18, it’s just not that easy to guess.

            Weight is also harder to guess than you’re suggesting. A 5’0″ person, a 5’6″ person, and a 6’0″ person who weigh the same amount will have completely different frames and appearances. If the weight limit is 275, there are a lot of tall people who will be close to that and but don’t look fat–which, let’s be real, is what people are looking for when they’re thinking “is this person maybe too heavy for the weight limit?” It’s safer to just weigh everyone.

            1. Bad Batch*

              Some places will also just card everyone, even if they look like the Cryptkeeper because they’ve been burned before for selling restricted items to underage customers (maybe even in a sting operation).

    6. June*

      Thank you for this perspective – I agree completely! Hindsight is 20/20 and we can pick apart everyone’s reactions, but it’s very likely for folks to freeze in situations like this. I don’t think there’s a 100% right answer for what happened at the zip line except to be more careful in the future.

  64. Ms. Murchison*

    The trickiest thing, in my opinion, is that to have handled this right, in the moment, the manager would have needed to make it absolutely clear to their team that they were switching activities because the venue was in the wrong, the venue created a non-inclusive activity that shames some of their visitors instead of having adaptations at hand. And our culture is so comfortable making large people uncomfortable that I doubt that would occur to most people to do so. But to make it clear to the team that they want to do these activities as a complete team, and that any pouting about wanting to go zip-lining anyway wouldn’t be tolerated, the manager would need to proactively set the tone.

    1. Raida*

      Oh yeah that’s how you build a team – “You will ALL be not-unhappy about the ziplining because I decided that you will not express such emotions!”

      And I think it’s a stretch to say “We’re not doing it and it’s the venue’s fault for not proactively offering an alternative for people who can’t do this activity” I’ll *bet* there’s weight limits on the FAQs, meaning it’s the customers’ responsibility to not attempt to ride.

      The issue is that the weighing is so poorly defined, checked, and enforced that the customers were trained that there was in fact no concerns for any riders.

      I think that any manager trying to palm off responsibility to the venue because every activity *should* be accessible for everyone, and be modifiable, and have a backup if it’s not possible… is a manager that the staff wish would just take responsibility for planning better.

    2. Gemstones*

      I’m not sure how the venue was exactly in the wrong. I mean, folks are pointing out they should have weighed everyone rather than just Chris, but the result was going to be that Chris couldn’t do the activity either way. I don’t think that it’s because of a lack of inclusivity; it’s a safety issue at this point.

  65. Pizza Rat*

    A few other options for team building activities that might be better, assuming everyone is able

    –Take a cooking class (obviously check on dietary restrictioms first!)
    –Volunteer for an afternoon
    –Lunch & learn, with the Learn being something business-related
    –Scavenger hunts–these can be done with remote people as well

    If people are into gathering in the evenings, a trivia night could be a thing too.

    1. Ashley*

      I feel like good team building activities would be a good ask the readers…. or funny stories about terrible team building days for what not to do.

      1. Bog Witch*

        I would agree if this commentariat didn’t skew so misanthropic when it comes to interacting with their coworkers in any capacity that isn’t strictly job-related.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I consider team-building exercises to be an important part of work and even if it’s not something I’m thrilled about doing, I go with the purpose of building relationships with my coworkers. That being said, I think not being publicly humiliated in front of your coworkers is pretty much the the lowest bar there is.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        There was a question on inclusive team-building exercises! Not an ask the reader, though. The question was #3 on the “my boss wants me to be her assistant, what to wear in a casual office, and more” short answer post from May 20, 2019.

        As for bad team-building exercises, there are many posts but “the 10 most horrifying team-building exercises” from July 6, 2012 is a good round-up.

    2. Not my coffee*

      There are always offers of activities that are not what was included in the letter. And there are still objections to those! Looking at your comments:

      –Take a cooking class (obviously check on dietary restrictions first!) – Some people don’t like cooking, diet restrictions are irrelevant.
      –Volunteer for an afternoon – Some people don’t want to volunteer for anything, let alone with their co-workers.
      –Lunch & learn, with the Learn being something business-related – Some people don’t what their lunches disturb with a “work” activity. (What about hourly employees, are they paid for this?)
      –Scavenger hunts–these can be done with remote people as well. Some people don’t like this type of game, if they don’t do it well other employees will think they are dumb.

      If people are into gathering in the evenings, a trivia night could be a thing too. – Some people don’t like this type of game, if they don’t do it well other employees will think they are dumb.

      It is never taken at the LW’s word that people like this in the comment section.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      How is taking a cooking class fun? Legitimately asking. Cooking is household chore. I do it so I have food to eat and can eat exactly what I want, but the fun/enjoyment comes from the eating, not the cooking and cleaning.

      1. al*

        Not everyone is you, who cooks so you have food to eat and can eat exactly what your want. Some people find enjoyment in the cooking (cleaning tbd) itself. Some people enjoy it to the point that it becomes a hobby, and they get really into improving skills and technique, or sourcing uncommon/rare tools and equipment or ingredients. Maybe even they cultivate that rare ingredient themselves if availability is that bad. Some people (many people, I’d wager) are different from you. Some of them would really enjoy a cooking class.

        1. Variation*

          Right, but how is this different from “some people enjoy outdoor activities”? I hate cooking, and am comically bad at it. If cooking were an activity, I might opt out. That’s really not any different than saying “hey we have a company slot to go zip lining/hiking/to this nature center; here are the details; let me know if you want in.” I’d be all over that. So would some others. So if cooking (and making art- ugh – and board games – double ugh) are all options, I really don’t see why occasional outdoor activities aren’t. It’s a legitimate interest that some people have, that others can opt out of, and that can be a part (not all of!) of the menu for team activities. And honestly I’d find it more discriminatory to preemptively take it off the list because someone looks at their team and judges them not outdoorsy- there’s plenty of people in this world who don’t fit the stereotype of athletic but enjoy physical activities. Let people make that call by themselves. What happened here sucks all the way around, but I don’t think the answer is never have outdoor activities again.

    4. Coyote River*

      It seems to be a bit of a catch 22. The activities I would consider fun and worthwhile are perceived here as inaccessible, the activities suggested as accessible I would find boring and a waste of my time. I guess you just need to communicate thoroughly with your team, and find activities that strike the best balance possible.

  66. Magdalena*

    My advice is to start thinking NOW about planning a fun inclusive whole-team event about two to three months from now (not next year). Not instead of zip-lining but something extra and unrelated, and obviously not at the adventure park. The idea is that people shouldn’t think of it as something happening instead of but rather in addition to.

    Also, I’d look for ways to help Chris be visible at work, in a good way. Help him strengthen relationships with others. The way I see it you kinda owe him now.

  67. Ashley*

    As you consider new activities, honestly doing a variety of things and not doing the same activity year after year might be helpful. There are teams that are 95% physical and will love the adventure course, but you don’t want to exclude the same people all the time… although there are people that won’t want to do any event you plan. By mixing up the type of the event you will be able to skip the same people from missing the activities year after year. Depending on your team and hidden limitations / medical conditions, finding an event for all can be a bit of a challenge but if you vary the type you will at least over years you will be more inclusive. Plus if you do get someone one your team who is visibly physically limited it, by having variety of the years it will be easy to permanently skip some actives instead of the new team member taking the heat for not being able to zip line anymore.

  68. Magdalena*

    Also, at some point you’re guaranteed to have someone join your team who just won’t be able to participate.
    This is one more reason to proactively plan inclusive events now. You wouldn’t want to make it obvious to everyone that the sole team building activity has to be scrapped because of new coworker. Make it more varied *before* you need to.

  69. Lenora Rose*

    My question is for the event staff; 2 hours in an adventure centre sounds like a lot more than just one zipline, even for a team. Was there no way to skip Chris around the one unsafe activity and let him participate in, oh, everything else? It’s awkward, sure, but a lot less awkward than “Sit in the cafe for 2 hours” or “everyone quits out of solidarity (that the person singled out did not ask for)” but it maintains the team atmosphere.

    But that was outside the OP’s control, so maybe not helpful.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Based on LW’s letter, it sounds like ziplining was one of many activities throughout the day and that the team could participate/opt out of any of the activities. LW even mentioned they can opt out of the entire event or just come for the food portion, both before or after the day’s activities. LW also offered Chris the company CC to go do something else instead for those 2 hours, but Chris declined. So yes, there were other options for Chris, but unfortunately this happened in the moment and it sounded like Chris just wanted to spend the 2 hours alone.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      When I’ve ziplined, it was on a course that had about 8 ziplines that take you back to the start.

      Depending on the size of the group it takes an hour or two because at each zipline each individual has to be put on line, zip, taken off the line, wait for everyone else, then hooked into the next line.

  70. Jessica*

    >Responding to Chris’s comments about not wanting to eat when you went to dinner afterwards: That’s tougher. In normal circumstances (not these), comments like that put an unfair burden on the rest of the group to manage the person’s emotions about diet/weight/food, which isn’t reasonable to ask of colleagues. But in this situation, it’s pretty understandable that Chris was looking for some emotional support after being embarrassed in front of their work team.

    I’m… really not jazzed about this framing of what Chris was doing.

    There’s a *lot* of pressure on fat people to perform shame/penance for being fat, especially around food. Strangers comment all the time on what fat people eat (last weekend I met a friend for coffee at a donut shop, and an older woman told the girl in front of us in line that she should go somewhere else where she could eat healthy), and a lot of fat people feel obligated to eat only a salad, skip dessert, etc. when eating out to demonstrate that they’re properly depriving themselves of food-as-pleasure.

    Hell, we live in a society where talking heads regularly argue that it’s a problem that we’re not sufficiently mean to fat people, where the cultural narrative is that fat people are just too ignorant or stupid to eat and exercise properly and need thin people to teach them how to do that, where doctors insist that they have to bring up weight every time a fat person comes in for treatment for an unrelated condition because maybe fat people in America, in year 2023 of the Common Era, are somehow unaware that they don’t match our society’s physical ideal.

    I’m not sure Chris was “looking for emotional support” from their teammates so much as they were engaging in what society demands of fat people around food in public, especially when their fatness has just been publicly called out:

    Getting ahead of someone else calling them out by 1) acknowledging themselves that they’ve failed to be thin, 2) performing the implicitly demanded penance for that failure (depriving themselves of food).

    Framing fat people doing that as putting an “unfair burden” on the thin people around them to “manage their emotions” ignores that a lot of fat people do similar things because *thin people constantly insist on intruding into fat people’s business.*

    Trying to preemptively head off further humiliation isn’t “unfairly burdening” anyone but the marginalized group that has to do it.

    1. Observer*

      I’m not sure Chris was “looking for emotional support” from their teammates so much as they were engaging in what society demands of fat people around food in public, especially when their fatness has just been publicly called out:

      That’s all the more reason people should have responded, though. Chris had been unfairly humiliated, and whether they were looking for some support afterwards or they were performing what they thought would be the expected “contrition”, people should have responded by making it clear that *they* DO NOT believe that Chris needs to be “contrite” nor that the event space had acted appropriately.

  71. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — I’m going to take another approach: What goal do you want to achieve via this team-building day out? You need a business reason, not just “we’ve done this for several years and everybody enjoys it.” That is not the goal of team building. Why are you doing this? What’s the return on the time invested?

    As a result of your latest team-building day, you now have a team member who feels humiliated and excluded. If your goal was to build a cohesive, mutually-supportive work team — well, it didn’t work. (I was appalled that nobody on your team was willing to sit out with Chris when the staff excluded him from participation.)

    Follow Alison’s advice. Apologize to Chris ASAP. Call the adventure center, get hold of the manager, and have a frank discussion. But please think about why you’re doing this in the first place.

    1. Garlic Microwaver*

      I agree the team building can and should be reimagined. Team building should encourage collaboration, camaraderie and culture from a “business” perspective. I would suggest that OP builds into their apology a plan to propose a newer variety of activities next year. Put physical challenges/adventures aside, the activity should be hands on. For example, my team went to a cooking school and did a Chopped competition a few years back. We voted on this, though, and 100 percent of the team voted on this option. 3 other activity ideas were presented. We casted our vote anonymously through a form.

        1. Garlic Microwaver*

          Yeah it was pretty audited… Before even voting on options, we were all asked about allergies, restrictions (physical, emotional and allergy-wise). Surprisingly, a lot of my team hated to cook but the activity itself (being creative, beating the clock, friendly competition) was the point- with the food as the vehicle.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yeah cooking is always popular even with people who don’t actually like cooking. I used to work in a castle as a guide and we had a lot of team building days hosted there. Cooking or baking was always extremely popular even for people who didn’t otherwise cook. Some of the participants would get really competitive about who made the best creme brulee.

            I mean obviously we adjusted for allergies but people seemed to quite enjoy playing British Bake Off even if you’d never normally see them cooking.

  72. Fleur-de-Lis*

    Speaking as a fat lady who once tried to go ziplining with her family and then was denied for being 30 pounds over the (low) weight limit, then had to watch all of them do it while she slogged down the steep hill by herself…. just don’t ever go there again. Never book that activity again. Talk to Chris and reassure him that there will be no future team-building events that have anything to do with bodily shape, size, or function. And deal with your team’s disappointment away from them.

    If someone on your team regularly uses a mobility assistance device, would you have booked this event? Probably not. Take this as a lesson learned to not assume that people can do physically-challenging activities. Hidden disabilities also exist that make it difficult for people to do ziplining or other demanding sports.

    1. Raida*

      I say this as a short, uncoordinated, weak, asthmatic – Ziplining isn’t a sport, or physically demanding.

      And we’ve got a dude at work in a wheelchair who *planned* a half-day that included ziplining, which he participated in.
      Y’know who else participated? The directed with MS who doesn’t know day to day if she’ll need her walking stick.

      We did the simple thing – plan a range of activities and events – and people attend the ones they can and want to. Anyone who attends nothing for months is asked what they’d like to see as an event or activity and that’s catered for – some of them aren’t going to come no matter what but they appreciate being asked

      1. UKDancer*

        I think the key thing to do is to ask and not assume what people can and can’t do or what they’d want to do. I also worked with a colleague in a wheelchair once in a previous company and when we had an activity day she was asked (along with everyone else) which activities she wanted to do from a list of several options. She was clear she wanted to do axe throwing, shooting tin cans, the treasure hunt and a few other things. I hadn’t expected her to do axe throwing but she was really good at that and had a really good eye and it taught me not to make assumptions about what wheelchair users could and couldn’t do.

        Your approach sounds excellent, giving people a choice and running a variety of events.

  73. CLC*

    I don’t like work related events that have a physical aspect to them. Even if they are optional it still makes people feel excluded. You don’t know what everyone weighs, you don’t know who has a disability, you don’t know who is pregnant, etc. There’s also a lot privilege involved in hearing that there is a weight limit and assuming it wouldn’t affect anyone on the team. People of a certain weight are always thinking about this sort of thing whether it’s getting on a ladder to change a lightbulb, getting on a bicycle, etc.

    1. I Have RBF*

      I am disabled with a mobility impairment, as well as being fat. This type of thing is always fraught for me. Some things I can just shrug and fake it, at laugh at the fact that I can’t do them well, but at least can try. Other things I just can’t do, like ride a bicycle (I used to love biking, now I can’t.)

      IMO, team building stuff needs to have options for people who can’t do stuff for whatever reason.

    2. Raida*

      Yeah, the privilege is… Chris’? They never had a problem before, so nobody thought about or maybe even knew there was a weight limit.

      Then it came and slapped ’em in the face.

  74. John*

    Hey, I *was* Chris! My team went to “Go Ape” and I wasn’t able to participate because I couldn’t get into the harness.

    It sucked. I got over it but it sucked. It helped that one of the guys who went had a massive fear of heights so I followed him around shouting encouragement and tried to participate.

    …but it still sucked.

    Can’t really add any advice to the good words on here from others – but yeah, it sucked a lot.

  75. Garlic Microwaver*

    I am surprised at the comments that insinuate Chris should get a new job. The adventure center handled this in poor taste. OP is going to address regardless of whether or not OP should have “done something” in the moment.

    1. another big girl*

      I don’t think anyone is insinuating Chris should get a new job.

      A lot of people are reflecting on their own experiences, though, and predicting that Chris might be unhappy/uncomfortable enough with the public humiliation that looking for a new job may be less painful than facing people every day who witnessed that humiliation.

      It’s sort of the career equivalent of wishing the ground would open up and swallow you.

      And trust me, a lot of us big people are socially conditioned to punish ourselves ruthlessly in situations like this – witness Chris’ actions at dinner. Personally, I would have gone home, buried myself in my blankets, and called in sick on Monday.

      1. Jessica*

        I absolutely hope Chris gets a new job with teammates that would never go ahead and do an activity that publicly humiliated them and then let them sit alone in the car for two hours while the rest of the team had fun.

        I absolutely hope Chris gets a new job with a manager that wouldn’t stand by while one of their reports is publicly humiliated. (Frankly, I hope Chris gets a new job with a manager that understands that physically strenuous activities (!) on a weekend (!) are an exclusionary exercise for many people for many reasons.)

        Get a new job, Chris. You deserve better.

        1. Bro George*

          Chris would absolutely be within their rights to decide this is not something they can forgive, but the OP doesn’t sound like a horrible person. They sound like someone who didn’t foresee this, feels awful about it, and won’t let it happen in the future. I think that now they know better they will do better.

          1. Jessica*

            You don’t have to be a horrible person to horribly fail someone.

            The whole framing of “good/bad people” when discussing a specific instance of behavior is an accountability dodge. Either someone’s a bad person who can’t be expected to act better because they’re a Bad Person, or they’re a Good Person so the harm can be waved away because intent is magic.

            I have no idea if LW is a good person or a bad person, and I am uninterested in attempting to categorize them as such.

            They are a person who, in this instance, failed another human being to whom they had a responsibility.

            1. Garlic Microwaver*

              “They are a person who, in this instance, failed another human being to whom they had a responsibility.”

              That’s a bit of a stretch. The letter writer had no idea this would or could occur, seeing as they all, Chris included, had participated in the same activity for years without issue.

              Chris and LW were both backed into corners. Had LW acted in the moment (e.g. insisted the entire group do another activity, in front of Chris and the situation), they would have contributed to the public embarrassment. Could they have pulled Chris aside at dinner or tried to find an opportunity for a quiet side-bar conversation after Chris was clearly trying to send a message through those comments? Yes. But to say they failed another human being is incredibly uncharitable. Clearly, LW cares and has a plan to remedy the situation. I mean- what’s the message? LW should be punished? We are all human.

        2. Nia*

          Chris told them to go on ahead. Would you prefer Chris work with a team of people who think they know what Chris wants more than Chris does? I know I prefer people to treat me as an adult capable of speaking for myself but hey you do you.

          1. Pam Poovey*

            Often people say to go in ahead because we’ve been so conditioned to think we are the problem and should protect everyone else’s feelings above our own.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          I absolutely hope Chris gets a new job with teammates that would never go ahead and do an activity that publicly humiliated them and then let them sit alone in the car for two hours while the rest of the team had fun.

          So they should have ignored Chris telling them to go on ahead and insisted they knew better, that Chris secretly wanted them all to stay behind? That’s incredibly patronizing. I’m not saying Chris wasn’t hoping that, but it’s always better to take someone at their word than assume you know what they’re really thinking. Some people really would want to have some alone time after that.

          The LW was put on the spot and reacted the best they could given the situation. This was an activity Chris had taken part in previously, so there was no reason to think it would be any different this time. Should the LW seek out more inclusive activities going forward and be more mindful? Absolutely, but I think you’re being incredibly uncharitable to them.

        4. DisgruntledPelican*

          I absolutely hope I never work with coworkers like you who would infantilize me by not listening to the words I say and assuming they knew better than me how I feel or what I want to happen in a situation like this.

      2. Overit*

        And it is also about the fact that no one spoke up or apparently commiserated with them later. I think Chris made the self deprecatory comment in part hoping someone woukd speak up.
        Chris was excluded by venue staff BUT then what did their work team do to draw Chris back into the group later?

  76. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    At least the team-building is optional. (Because we all know that “Mandatory Fun” is a nice album by Weird Al Yankovic but an awful way to run an office.)

  77. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    Stuff like this has happened to me literally all my life (first involving my height and shoe size, then my weight) and honestly if anyone had done what Alison suggests it would have made a big difference to me. I’m proud of you for wanting to do better, OP. <3

    1. Luna*

      I recall a time where I couldn’t do an activity in a center because I was *under* the minimum weight limit. But I was a teen at the time, and I’m sure minimum weight limits are just as important as maximum weight limits. And it was fun to watch other people do the activity! (Ah, back in the days when I weighed below 60kg, haha!)

  78. CupcakeCounter*

    Could you set up 2 activities at the adventure center and split into 2 teams? Have one that is maybe a bit more adventurous, high thrill with a fairly rigorous set of restrictions so a lot of people are “excluded” (i.e. heights, motion sickness, etc…) and then another one that is still a lot of fun but has no restrictions? The center should work with you on identifying several options and then the fun can continue for another year or two then fade it out. Then it won’t look like a Chris thing.
    My team votes on activities. Completely optional, but we (management) selects 5 activities and then post a poll in our team cat. Most votes wins. We do 4 a year and make sure 2 are very low key, within office hours, and close to the office to allow for car pooling. We’ve had people sit out the activities but attend the lunch or vice versa. This summer we did mini-golf and it ended up being more fun than expected. We had 3 teams due to size and played a couple rounds mixing up the teams each time. Little competitions arose each time and we knew 3 people on the team were actual golfers so they became the “team captains” for round 1 so as not to give anyone an unfair advantage. Second round, the 3 members of the management team were captains (and we purposely didn’t put those 3 golfers together either). 3rd round we had the 3 newest team members be captains. That ended up being the best as they kind of had to pick people they didn’t know well.

  79. Misty*

    I wonder what would happen with people afraid of heights? I am very scared of heights. No way would I zip line. Would I sit in the car and wait?

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      The LW said any and all activities were optional and people could opt out altogether or just do what activities they wanted, so it sounds like there were options. Plus LW offered the company CC to Chris to do something else instead for those 2 hours, so it sounds like anyone who didn’t want to zipline would have had other options during that time.

      1. Overit*

        I wonder where Chris would have gone for 2 hours? I have never seen one of those adventure places in an area close to anything else.

    2. DisgruntledPelican*

      Since this was a completely voluntary event that others opted out of, I would assume you would have not been there.

  80. Goosey*

    I would also call around to other centers in the area. Most events like this have the capacity for really varying weight limits depending on the quality of materials used, the engineers’ skill at understanding how various weight elements work together to actually inform limits, etc. It’s entirely possible there’s an adventure place within a reasonably comparable distance with more generous weight limits.

    It may also be worth checking in with your team the next time you schedule something to ask if there are any limits they’d like you to check in about – an anonymous form would be great for this. Then you know what disclosures they need.

  81. Luna*

    Oh, dear. What a situation.
    Go ahead and apologize to Chris regarding this thing, though I am surprised why the weight question came out when it never came out at that activity previously… but that’s a thing with the activity center itself.

    Though I will say that the awkward pauses after Chris’ comments at the dinner, I can’t fault them. One or two I could see as awkwardly trying yourself to make fun of the situation, but beyond that, it feels very off.

    But thumbs up for you overall in knowing how to make this team-building thing optional and no pressure, LW. This was a bad fluke, but it seems to be something that you had no idea of it becoming a thing. Keep doing the good work.

  82. Kingshighway*

    Well, at the very least, the manager should have stayed with Chris; it’s too bad no one else volunteered, too. Letting Chris sit in his/her vehicle for two hours was a terrible decision.

    In general, team-building events that require physical activity aren’t a good idea. You never know about anyone’s hidden disabilities or other issues. It’s just “being last picked for the team in gym class” all over again.

    1. Kapers*

      Yea this is where OP should have acted differently. No one else on the team offered to hang out with their teammate either? That sucks. I bet if OP had set the example at least one other person would have joined as well. I’m a manager and while I can’t say I’d react perfectly in the moment I would never send off a teammate alone on team building day.

      1. DisgruntledPelican*

        Chris said to go on without them. You want Chris’ boss and coworkers to ignore Chris’ expressed wishes and decide for Chris that they know better?

  83. FattyMPH*

    I just want to applaud LW for their thoughtful letter and Alison for her well articulated and reasoned response. One of the things this story illustrates incredibly clearly is how anti-fat bias can entirely structure a fat person’s life and create barriers at every turn, while thinner people are literally entirely oblivious to these barriers. If LW or anyone wants to go above and beyond on this: one thing you might consider doing is touching base with your HR or DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) type team about whether weight stigma/sizeism/anti-fat bias is included in their purview and if not, whether it could be. You could also think about whether you could be considering body size as a difference to be accommodated within the office/workplace (are your chairs/equipment robust & rated for the size of people who use them, is there enough room to move about freely, etc).

  84. LCH*

    ugh. we used to get periodically weighed in gym class in elementary school. in front of the rest of the class. it was horrible. this place definitely could have done better, and LW definitely needs to call to tell them so.

    for future events, maybe set up at least two choices that run concurrently so people can choose their own adventure. i have no clue how to do this (since it is supposed to be team building, therefore you need to participate with other work people on whatever you choose?) but it seems like if you have a few things, it is more likely everyone will be able to participate. run a poll with your coworkers to get ideas!

  85. Happy*

    Oh yes, please provide details of the activities planned in advance; I like the idea one poster had of a schedule. For me, participation in these events gets mixed reviews; depends on what it is and who my co-workers are.

    However, zip-lining would have had been incredibly upset, panicked and near tears. Heights scare me and I would have been searching for a way out and not wanting to ruin it for others — but no way could I have participated. Pure and simple fear.

    Please give people options and info in advance.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      It sounds like the LW does give people options and info in advance. Folks opt in to the things that they want to do (so people who wanted to zip line opted in, and those who didn’t want to opted out).

  86. Kevin Sours*

    “There’s also a question about whether this is a good place to do team-building at all. I’d argue no! … at some point someone won’t be able to participate”

    I don’t think there exists a plausible team building event that some hypothetical future employee won’t be able to participate in. It does speak to the need to change up activities so that people don’t get fixated on specific events and perhaps ziplining too likely to have people unable to participate but excluding event based on possibilities will greatly limit you options and still not eliminate the potential for having to change.

    1. Raida*

      Yes – there’s no magic activity or event that everyone *can* participate in that *also* is enjoyable or looked forward to.

      Better to have options and really gather feedback and ideas to plan

    2. Overit*

      And that is just one reason why we should not do any off site “team building/bonding” at all. Total waste.

  87. Common Sense Not Common*

    I have an invisible health condition that I have not yet disclosed to my manager, only because it has not yet affected my ability to do my job. Having to disclose it because of an off site team building exercise I would not be able to participate in would be horrible.

    Furthermore, I am overweight, though I don’t look like I weigh as much as I do. Again, having to disclose this information because of an off site team building exercise is not something I would want to do.

    Better to assume one or more of your staff have something invisible that would prevent them from this adventure team building exercise and plan something else than inadvertently causing someone to have to sit out or disclose a condition that does not affect their daily work.

  88. Mill Miker*

    Something I’ve not seen addressed here, is that aside from the whole “weighed in front of everyone” fiasco, this was a “you can’t do something you enjoy that you could do before” situation for Chris.

    I know for some of the people in my life who struggle with body positivity stuff, that kind of thing is pretty devastating. A bit of a “I thought I was doing well, but I just crossed a threshold so maybe I’m not” breakdown spiral thing, and even if they’re not struggling from that point of view, I know personally that it sucks from an “I’m becoming less able” point-of-view.

    It’s very likely that Chris would have still gone off to be alone even if the whole group had cancelled the zip-lining.

    Of course, you can’t know, so I’m joining the chorus of “In the moment, the best you could do was what Chris asked you to do.”

  89. Jade*

    Poor Chris. Singled/out and WEIGHED. It’s only OP to research restrictions. It’s common with zip lining. Give Chris a PAID life balance day.

    1. Raida*

      and it’s on the staff to actually act on processes and policies – and management to create reasonable processes and policies.

      Chris has done the exact activity at the exact venue before.

      It’s not LW’s fault they didn’t think about weight, because they’d all been trained by past experience it’s not an issue.

      The venue needs to be checking all weights, before getting started with the activity, and not eyeballing people to get on the scales. That’s the minimum, logical, approach.

  90. Mango Freak*

    First, I think OP did their best in the moment. What an awful situation!

    As for the platonic ideal of what to do, hmm…

    For the dinner comments, I think I would maybe respond by b*tching about the adventure center a little bit–like, acting as though his self-criticism was ironic (whether or not it was) and agreeing it was such a jerk move to do that when it obviously wasn’t necessary. Send the message of, “any sane person thinks you were treated poorly, THEY’RE the ones who should be embarrassed.”

    For the zip lining, I do think the perfect thing to do probably would’ve been move everyone towards a different activity. Chris would’ve felt bad in the moment, but then if you’d all done something fun together, that feeling might have been temporary, right? It’s still a really tough call though, and depends on the individuals and the options.

  91. Teapot Unionist*

    My team had a laser tag event pre-COVID. It was optional after day one of a two day staff meeting where we all had hotel rooms. It triggered very visceral reactions in me related to mass shootings and police shootings, and not wanting to point a gun-shaped item at anyone or see anyone point them at my black and brown colleagues. There were a couple of us who had that reaction and a few more who had mobility issues related to bad knees/hips/backs, but most people were really looking forward to it. I’m glad the folks who went had a great time and enjoyed themselves and I did not feel at all excluded. the other non-participants and I went out for a nice meal and quiet conversation. I felt more excluded as a vegetarian when the majority of the team wanted to go to a Japanese steakhouse during another staff meeting and I knew the price wasn’t worth it for a plate full of fried broccoli.

  92. Doc McCracken*

    LW I think you did your best in the shock of the moment although asking for a manager at the center to help figure out an alternative would’ve been ideal. I would’ve been so shocked in the moment my problem solving side would not have kicked in. As someone forced to go to a place like this as part of a graduate school internship while 6 months pregnant, I hated it. It was Texas, hot, and I was bored almost the entire day. Standing around all day made my ankles swell and my back ache for days afterward. It’s not just weight or height that limits participation in these activities. Pregnancy is an absolute no on most of these types of activities which means your female staff can be penalized.

  93. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Years ago I worked in a male dominated office and I was the only woman and younger than everyone else by at least 20 years. The team building event was always a golf tournament. I don’t know how to golf. After just 3 rounds, I quit in frustration and walked back to the clubhouse to wait for everyone else to finish so we could have our dinner. My boss did apologize because he assumed that everyone liked to golf or at least knew how. The next year’s activity was bowling which I never learned to do. It was agreed that I could have the day off and just attend the dinners. My point is perhaps give everyone a heads up on what the activities are going to be and the fitness level required for them. People with fear of heights, hidden disabilities or simply lack of skillsets should be able to opt out before the event begins.

  94. LucyGoosy*

    100% agree that it’s mostly the fault of the adventure center for being so rude/unprofessional when dealing with Chris. SURELY this comes up regularly, right? Why are they acting like this is some bizarre thing they’ve never seen before? If you do decide to continue with this team building activity (and as others mentioned, there are some good reasons not to), I think there’s an argument to be made for finding a new company to work with.

  95. Pdxla*

    I agree with Alison’s advice to call ahead and ensure there are not height, weight, or other restrictions when scheduling future events, and I agree with the advice to say “we’re advised that this will include x hours of standing” or “and hour of hiking at an incline” or whatever might be appropriate. However, I absolutely would not say in an invite that there are no height or weight restrictions. If Chris is still on your team, he or she will absolutely be reminded of this incident (and so will everyone else). Even if not, if you have one person who is noticeably heavy (or short or whatever) they will see this as subtext for them. IMO it’s your job to find activities where these aren’t issues at all, no need to advertise then that it indeed won’t be an issue.

  96. pcake*

    Team building at an adventure center? That sounds… not optimal. I’ve had a torn rotator cuff that will never fully heal as well as ankle issues, so I’d either have to go and pretend to have fun while avoiding most activities or I’d have to be the person who is there without participating
    or who doesn’t show up.

    I’ve never worked with a group of people who would have loved this, but they would have told their bosses they did so they wouldn’t stand out negatively. Also it will exclude future employees who have vision issues, physical limitations or who grew up feeling like clutzes when it came to sports and adventure.

  97. SB*

    I would have walked out on that place so fast & demanded an apology & a refund. I would absolutely end up on one of those “Karens of the internet” pages. You have to be a special kind of stupid to think weighing someone in front of their colleagues is in any way acceptable. I understand safety protocols, but there are ways to minimise harm when enforcing these rules & the manager at that adventure park is a grade A moron for allowing this to occur.

    I don’t think OP did anything wrong as this would not even have been on their radar, but the adventure park staff & management need a good kick in the bum.

  98. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    These are always so tricky. At one job we had a bowling tournament/poker party (for raffle tickets). If you couldn’t bowl because of a limitation, were bad at it, never did it before, whatever the reason, you could sit at a card table – we hired a company that had dealers that would teach you if you didn’t know how to play, etc. The prizes were fun and it was a fun day, but it was not optional because, “the company is paying for this.” For some painfully shy people, and some who weren’t physically able to do it, they felt cornered in some form. It’s hard to have fun when someone says “you HAVE to.”

    As for this, it’s definitely a bad situation all around. I fear that if LW calls this adventure park – which she absolutely should do – to let them know they handled Chris badly, the best they’ll get is a “sorry you feel that way.” LW owes it to Chris though, to try. And yes, find out about restrictions before the next one. The park should have weighed everyone, if liability and diligence is such an issue. I ziplined once. I remember a lot of screaming…

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I feel like bowling is usually a pretty safe activity. I went bowling with some coworkers a few weeks ago – I don’t bowl, but I do enjoy scarfing up fries and cheering when other people have a good game.

      1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        Which is what half of us did. I love to bowl, but I love the alley’s fries better.
        And they had good beer on tap back in the day.
        Save for the cranky supervisor who kept telling me everything I did wrong for it (which was nothing) it was fun.

  99. CAinUK*

    The adventure center staff were insensitive AF and that was an awful way to handle it. They should be off the list for that alone.

    That said, I see why LW now feels stuck. How do you create a bonding activity when there is always an exception? Even in this thread, people have commented on how laser tag or anything with heights can be triggering. Food events meet dietary/religious restrictions. Physical events meet physical restrictions. And so on.

    So then we end up saying never mind, just give everyone PTO or cash. Fine? But then, as Alison mentions, there actually ARE ppl who enjoy work outings that actually makes their work life feel more enriching.

    Sure, events on a Saturday are icky–if it’s important enough for work to fund it, then do it on a workday (and offer that day off for those who don’t want to come so there is a real benefit for everyone). But if we want every event to fit every person’s needs, then we are signing up for no events, ever. Which is fine for some and disappointing for others.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This exactly. I honestly feel like, based on the description above, the OP was trying to be as inclusive as possible, allowing people to opt in/out of any and/or all events. This was something they hadn’t anticipated.

      As for people speaking up in the moment when Chris was making comments at dinner? Sure, in a perfect world, people would have chimed in that what happened to him sucked and shouldn’t be a barometer of self worth, but it is REALLY easy for us to armchair-quarterback a response when no doubt his coworkers were all feeling awkward and guilty about how everything went down.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      By having a variety of events throughout the year so everyone gets to do at least one team-building activity? By not having every.single.event. be an all-day sweatathon on a Saturday?

      1. CAinUK*

        I agree about the event being on a Saturday! But what if the budget doesn’t allow for a plethora of diverse events throughout the entire year? And this didn’t sound like an “all-day-sweatathon” — it seems like an opt-in day with two meals and a facility with multiple activities…and one particular activity that was handled badly, largely by the staff of the facility (for the first time, it seems).

        The LW is trying to be conscientious, and the thread reveals the real dilemma of trying to do anything at all.

        1. Observer*

          The LW is trying to be conscientious, and the thread reveals the real dilemma of trying to do anything at all.

          And sometimes that’s the correct answer. But there generally are other options. Instead ONE even each year use that budget for a few smaller items. What the OP is describing sound like it costs a pretty penny so I imagine that doing that multiple times a year might be a problem, but I’d be willing to bet that if they scaled back they could come up with a wider variety.

          And at the very least, if you feel like you HAVE to have one big blowout even each year, change it up from year to year! And one some years make sure that it’s NOT on Saturday.

        2. CAinUK*

          And not in direct response to your (actually reasonable) points CommanderBanana, but I’m also reacting to the overall sentiment on this thread of “just stick XYZ activity, I hate forced fun” because it seems to play out like this:

          “Let’s go to a staff meal!” But I am triggered by carrots, and my anxiety is specific to restaurants, and (more realistically) the chairs or environment do not work with my disability or weight and I have XYZ dietary restrictions.

          “What if we just had a quick drink after work on the company tab?” Nope, I am in recovery or my religion doesn’t endorse alcohol and also remember Bob on staff gets sloppy after his third beer and is an HR nightmare–and besides, activities should only be during work hours because I don’t want to give you any more of my time.

          “Okay, fair, so let’s all go see a movie during work hours?” Nope, bright lights or the movie content also trigger me, and also here we are with the chairs that might not fit again and also now we have to navigate snacks and dietary issues AGAIN.

          So let’s do nothing. And then the people who had legitimate reason to NOT opt IN won’t get the extra PTO day (to do what they want instead), and the people who do enjoy these things also get nothing and everyone “wins”.

      2. yvve*

        maybe they do, though. chris voluntarily joined this particular outing and had every reason to think they could participate — there’s no information here about whether or not the group also does other activities at other times of the year

    3. Overit*

      How about we just do not do “bonding” activities at all? They are absolutely unnecessary and usually do more harm than good.

      1. CAinUK*

        That’s your opinion, but it isn’t everyone’s opinion and as Alison says at the top of this post: don’t assume your opinion is the norm and somehow superior. We can strip out everything that has an ounce of complication or fun in the workplace and then wonder why we have soulless corporate cubicle farms…or we can try to allow for this thing called nuance and different needs. So…take the PTO day and don’t come? My feeling is that everyone who hates bonding activities THIS MUCH and would rather just go home can, you know, DO that. As much as you feel burdened by the attempts for ppl to bond, perhaps we feel burdened by trying to accommodate someone who is likely going to find criticism and fault with…everything.

    4. Striped Sandwiches*

      Oh man you just reminded me of the time we did laser tag as a team activity. Everyone got bruised knees from ducking and hiding

  100. Ash*

    I can’t believe they think this is an acceptable work activity. What about people who are not in good enough health, fat people, disabled people, people with fear of heights, people with anxiety, pregnant with a history of miscarriage, and anyone else who may feel pressured to join in because their job is pressuring them into doing a physical activity. Just keep it to meals and don’t force it with the team activities.

  101. Raida*

    Well that sucks for everyone.
    – I don’t think you did anything wrong in the planning – you said it’s never happened before, and Chris himself has been able to participate.
    – Chris I think did the right thing in telling everyone else to go ahead – because nobody was volunteering to do another activity with him, they were all keen to zipline.
    – Chris being unhappy = sitting alone for two hours not wanting to find anything to do alone while he feels bad about his size/weight. Not that there wasn’t anything else to do.

    – In the moment, a good balance would have been for *you* to volunteer to hang out with Chris, using the company card trying out other activities. Then nobody is asked to give up their zipline tour, he isn’t alone, and you have a measure of control over how the day is spent by everyone.

    For now… if there’s an EAP direct Chris to that. Personally apologise for what happened, and tell him the truth – it’s never come up before, he knows that, and you don’t even look at staff and wonder what they weigh so it wasn’t something you knew needed to be considered. You’re sorry he didn’t get to participate. You’re sorry the staff aren’t trained how you’d have trained them to check weights – without singling out people. You’re sorry his day was ruined. You’re sorry his meal was ruined. You’re sorry he was unable to enjoy the day – unless Chris you were having a great time in the car for two hours? No? Yeah you didn’t look like someone who’d been happy to have two hours to himself mate.

    Tell him your plans separate from the apology – so it’s not “I’m so sorry I’ll make sure it never happens again” but rather “I am sorry for a, b, c.” “Going forward I plan to…”
    State that you’re not going to ask staff to cough up their heights and weights, but you’ll just exclude weight limit activities. Now that we know it *can* happen we’re going to make sure it’s just not on the cards.

    You can’t make him feel better about himself. That’s the truth of it – you can only express support for his emotional state due to the weight limit. You can gently show that you’re available to listen if he wants to vent about exercising or teasing or something, but you can’t *make* anyone feel a certain way and you can’t *make* anyone change their life.
    He is going to be more self-conscious at work. He is going to feel like people are looking at him, judging him. His manager can’t change that – they *can* come down hard on anyone *actually* being a judgy *****, and they *can* say “Hey great shirt Chris”.

    Hence, if there is an EAP you direct him to it.

    1. Raida*

      Oh, and don’t listen to people saying REMOVE ALL PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES!
      Because you’ve already stated you have a balance where staff are actually comfortable opting in and out, and enjoying the activities, and there’s a range of activities.

      If you react to this by saying “We just won’t go to the activity centre again, there will be food and nothing else” then you’re telling all the people that *did* like the activities that their opinions don’t count. And, what, you’re gonna do brunch – big gap in the day – dinner? Or will it drop down to one meal? Limiting options for everyone – not the right solution

    2. I Have RBF*

      Why does Chris need to be directed to the EAP? He didn’t do anything wrong, he doesn’t need counseling or weight loss advice.

      The problem wasn’t Chris, it was the way the venue treated him.

  102. Kapers*

    OP I doubt you’ll get through all these responses, but hindsight being 20/20, here was your opportunity to step up as a manager and teammate: you and at least one other person should have done something else with Chris. No drama, no biggie, just “oh good I was looking forward to X instead, let’s go check it out.”

    Of course they sat in their car and have been down ever since—you sent them off ALONE on team building day!

    I’m actually a little surprised not a single teammate felt enough empathy in that moment to keep Chris company. You might want to look at your team culture. Ziplining is cool but come on.

  103. Carrie*

    So sick of forced fun in general. “Team-building” events like this are only made for the benefit of managers. I don’t need to be constantly forced to build fake emotional bonds with my team in order to do my job well. I want to have fun with my actual friends, not my boss or my coworkers. Sometimes my coworkers are my friends! Which means I can hang out with them at my own discretion and without work hanging over our heads.

    More than that, I DON’T want to carve out my personal time to be around my coworkers for even longer than I have to! “Optional” in this case won’t feel truly “optional” for anyone who wants to be seen as a team player or feels the perception of their performance hinges on doing these activities, which at best create more opportunities for awkwardness and/or inappropriate situations to arise. Hard pass.

  104. Despachito*

    A place where I worked used to organize events in a large stadium with several activities you could join if you wanted, and didn’t have to if you didn’t. These included some very physical activities (such as krav-maga lessons, scooters, running) , some less so (like arrow shooting) and some sedentary (crafting). There were several stands with food as well and you were absolutely free to choose any of the activities or none, and still mingle with people.

    Perhaps this would be the way to go next time if you didn’t want to exclude anyone?

  105. Mialana*

    I can’t do ziplining because I’m overweight but I’d love for my teammates to be able to do that as a team event (and they did while I went on a hike with other coworkers)! I think such activities are best to do in large teams where you offer 3 or 4 different activities so everyone who can’t do one of them has another option. When I was in a smaller team where you could only do one activity that had to suit everyone on the team, I was responsible for organizing team events. At the end of the day we just went for a walk three years in a row because that was one of the few things everyone could do…

  106. Meghan*

    Absolutely in the moment I would have said “Of course not, this is team building, we’re not leaving Chris out. Is there anything else we can do?” (Or better yet; “Can we do X instead?” Or “Let’s all get more time doing Y instead! Since we’ll have extra time we’re going to turn this into a competition! Everybody count off!” Or something.)

    Anecdote: Of course this is different but: I went to a water park with a friend. They had a scale at the top of the slides and she realized their weight limit could hinder her, but we went on all the rides without question… almost. One of the last rides we were so excited for they asked her to get on a scale. She said no, she knew she was over the limit, no worries, and told me to go ahead. She really genuinely meant it. She knows we’ve both struggled with weight in the past and I just wasn’t over the limit. I said obviously I’m not going without you! We can find something else to do of course! The attendant DID fortunately let us know the OTHER slide up there was a raft ride with no weight limit so we didn’t need to do any walk of shame type thing. We had a blast and neither of us has any regrets that we skipped out on a fun activity *together*.