laser tag for team-building, company insists on shipping wine to our homes, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Laser tag for team-building

I’m curious to get your take on laser tag as a team-building exercise. We all work from home at my small nonprofit and gather together in person for a few days several times a year. Earlier this year we did an afternoon of laser tag during one of our in-person meetings and there were at least a few of us who didn’t have that great of a time.

We were dismayed to discover last week that our org has scheduled another laser tag afternoon for our next in-person gathering. Aside from the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with our work (and I think it’s a waste of both our time and the org’s money) (and these kinds of team-building activities are a scourge upon the earth), I also really don’t like the idea of having to run around with guns and shoot at my coworkers. (And yes, I know they’re not real but the whole thing is still very war-like in my head.) I already raised this with my supervisor, who I get along great with, and felt confident that she would see my side of things but she said I should go anyway. I also plan to ask my fellow coworkers who hated it last time to bring it up to their supervisors as well so we can push back as a group, but won’t be able to until next week as most of them are away at a conference this week. Any thoughts on this? I’m already feeling kind of sick about the whole thing.

Laser tag is a horrible choice for team-building, especially if it’s mandatory. It’s not at all inclusive for anyone who has physical activity restrictions, has any kind of trauma associated with gun violence, or just plain doesn’t like guns or running around. That’s a lot of people. (Personally I can’t even enjoy movies with a lot of shooting right now; I’m definitely not going to run around with a fake gun. I’d be pissed off about being required to do this.)

How firm were you when you talked to your manager? If you downplayed your feelings at all, go back to her and say, “I’ve thought on this more and it’s not something I’m comfortable participating in — and given sensitivities around gun violence right now, I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way. I’ll attend if it’s mandatory, but it’s not something I’ll participate in. Is there a spot where I can wait for everyone else to be done?”

Read an update to this letter

2. Anonymous complaints about my department meeting

I am the sole member of a one-person communications department at a small firm where I’ve been employed for three years. I organize and run a biweekly (meaning once every two weeks) “touch-base” meeting attended by about 10 people from five other departments. If I don’t have any urgent updates or need input from any group members, I am happy to cancel the meeting out of respect for busy schedules. If we have the meeting, I keep an organized agenda and usually dismiss everyone within 10-15 minutes.

In the last three company-wide annual anonymous surveys, one person (based on the small number of complaints and wording) has been consistently complaining about my meeting — that we should cancel it more often, that we don’t have enough to discuss, that the deadlines are too far away, etc. I don’t want to cancel it more often because my job consists of managing long projects with strict deadlines that require input from a lot of other departments/people and awareness of deadlines.

Should I address the group about this since I can’t identify the complainant? Or just ignore it? It is possible that I’m just irritated that someone is whining about a very short, biweekly meeting.

Address it with the group head-on: “We’ve had complaints on the anonymous survey that we should cancel this meeting more often, so I wanted to get everyone’s input on how these meetings are working for you. They’re useful for me because of ___, but I’m open to hearing if there are changes you’d like to see.” If it’s just one person being a grump and everyone else thinks the meetings are fine, the open discussion may shame them into quitting with the anonymous complaints. But it could also be a valuable discussion, so go into it with an open mind and see what you learn!

Sometimes meetings are necessary even when people grumble about them, but sometimes they’re not or there are ways to streamline them that are worth hearing.

One note: I might be reading too much into your statement that you hold the meetings if you “need input from any group members” (emphasis mine), but if you’re making the whole group gather when you just need input from one or two people, they’ll probably be happier if you just meet with those people rather than making everyone assemble.

3. My company insists on shipping wine to our homes and I can’t opt out

I have been an employee at my mid-sized company for several years and I love my job. I have a supportive and knowledgeable boss and grandboss, and my peers are competent, respectful, and frankly the best at what we do. Our workforce is entirely remote across the world, and has been for the entire time that I have worked here. The only thing about my company that I dread is the holiday season.

Our CEO is passionate about wine. Every year as a holiday gift to the U.S.-based employees, our CEO sends a selection of one to three wines through the mail delivered directly to our homes. This delivery is accompanied by an invitation to a company-wide virtual wine tasting, led by an expert.

The first year this happened, I appreciated the thought but was disappointed that I wasn’t given an option to opt out. My closely held religious beliefs exclude me from being in the drinking crowd. Unusual in my industry, but not unheard of! I ended up gifting the wine to my parents and sent a message to my manager and HR letting them know that I would appreciate an alternative choice in the future.

The second year, I became slightly annoyed. Shipping notifications were sent with no warning or announcement beforehand. I planned on refusing the package, but my mail carrier left it without a signature. Again, I reached out to my supervisor and HR, and reiterated that having alcohol in my home was in discord with my religious beliefs, and that I was unhappy that my message from the previous year had been ignored. I was told to submit for reimbursement for a bottle of soda as an alternative.

Years three and four went similarly. No opt-out option was offered and my follow-up messages were brushed off with no meaningful change. I’m not the litigious type, but by this point I’m pretty upset that my beliefs are being so blatantly and knowingly disrespected.

Simultaneously, I truly appreciate the thought! I know our CEO means no harm, and is sharing their passion with us in an attempt to build community and camaraderie. I just wish that the leadership team would make a better attempt at imagining me and people like me as someone that they want to respect and hold space for within our community. I don’t need a gold star or a special gift — I simply want to be able to quietly opt out, without seeming ungrateful or judgmental. Am I off-base here? Or, is there some method of persuasion that I’m not thinking of?

No, you’re not off-base! It’s awfully disrespectful that they’ve continued to mail you alcohol year after year when you’ve told them it’s at odds with your religious beliefs. I don’t blame them for the first year — wine is a common enough gift and people who don’t drink will usually just give it away, even if they’re slightly annoyed — but after that there was no excuse, particularly after the second year when you clearly spelled out that it’s not just that you don’t drink, but that you cannot have it in your home.

If you want to give it one more shot, you could say this to your boss and HR: “I’m not sure if I haven’t been clear in past years, so I want to be very clear now: for religious reasons, I cannot have alcohol show up at my home. I have said this in past years and it has arrived anyway. So I am requesting a formal religious accommodation to opt out of the wine. How do I ensure the company respects my religious beliefs and does not ship me wine this year?”

Also, if you’ve been dealing with a low-level HR person on this, go higher. Make sure to use the words “formal religious accommodation.”

4. Participating in Secret Santa as a manager

I am an assistant manager of a government office of about 30 people. We normally do a gift exchange for the holidays, such as a Secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange. I realize holiday gifts from employees to managers are problematic, but should I participate in gift exchanges like the ones I described? Is it uncomfortable for people to draw my name and be my Secret Santa since I’m their boss? Is it awkward for them to steal a gift from me in a white elephant gift exchange? Or, am I overthinking this all-in-fun activity? If I decline to participate, do I then look like a Scrooge?

The rule against gifting up (or managers expecting gifts from people they manage) is because of the power dynamics in the relationship; people shouldn’t feel pressured to buy gifts for people with power over them. But something like a Secret Santa or white elephant exchange is different, because everyone is opting into participating and it’s more of a round robin / group activity than one with traditional gifting dynamics. It’s fine for you to participate if you want to.

This assumes you are behaving like a normal person and not, for example, making it clear you expect your Secret Santa to exceed the dollar limit or giving dirty looks to anyone who steals a gift from you in a white elephant exchange, etc.

5. Boss asked me to take on more supervision to “demonstrate to HR that I should be promoted”

My supervisor has recently asked me to start informally supervising a colleague (who is a peer on my team) to “demonstrate to HR” that I should be promoted. I’m not sure how to feel about this. On one hand, I know that there needs to be documentation that I have excelled at my current job to be promoted. On the other, I feel that I am taking on more work without any increase in pay. Is this reasonable?

What does “informally supervising” mean? You need real authority to supervise someone, and they need to be aware that you have that authority. If your boss just means she’d like you to start reviewing your coworker’s work and providing feedback, that’s one thing, as long as your coworker has been told you’ve been charged with that and there’s a clear limit on how long your boss envisions you doing this for. But if it’s anything more than that, she’s talking about a significant increase in responsibility, and that needs to be accompanied by the actual authority to do the job (and appropriate pay for doing it).

That said, some companies do operate like this and realistically in those organizations you’ve got to go along with it if you want the promotion. If yours is one of those, make sure you talk to your boss about the intended timeline for considering a promotion (it should be a few months at most, not a year) and get very clear about exactly what your company would need to see before you’re promoted. If they can’t tell you those two things in fairly concrete terms, be extremely wary.

can I refuse more work without a raise?

{ 691 comments… read them below }

  1. Rhymetime*

    What is it with employers who create these artificial team-building events? I work at a nonprofit and our team-building activities are events where we just get to hang out with each other and naturally connect. Things like a catered lunch in a nearby garden, a mellow walk in the park, visiting a historic site in the area, etc.

    1. Rhymetime*

      I meant to include that events are designed to be inclusive for dietary needs, physical activity, etc.

    2. Gingerbread Maiden*

      That sounds lovely! Those activities are all appealing to people with a wide range of physical abilities, faiths and interests, and really can help them connect with fellow employees. As for “team building exercises” that demand that the participants shoot paintball guns/laser “guns” etc., I suspect that those reflect the interests and hobbies of the company’s owner or event organizer who naively believes that “If I love it, everyone must love it!” I can’t think of a better way to tank morale and cause resentment than demanding that all employees participate in an activity that they dislike. Sigh….

        1. Just me*

          The most unified my company’s workforce ever became was right after we got a screamingly terrible top boss. Truly, he was on track to destroy the company. Petty interdepartmental squabbles vanished: We banded together and figured out how to get rid of the guy.

          So, hey, if a team-building exercise is odious enough, there’s a chance it might build the team after all!

          (My conclusion is slightly serious but mostly a joke.)

          1. WeirdChemist*

            Ha, at my old job everyone absolutely bonded over hating Former Boss after he made everyone go camping in the middle of a tropical storm for “team building”. So yes, that definitely can happen lol

              1. AnonORama*

                Yes, you win. I thought the mandatory all-day outdoor scavenger hunt in 5-degree wind chill that my old org had was the winner, but I’ll admit yours sounds worse!

            1. Laser Tag LW*

              WHOA. That’s absolutely BONKERS.

              I already brought up with my coworkers that we are definitely bonding over our hatred of mandatory laser tag.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                Could you and everyone who else who didn’t like it do a suicide/murder pact a la laser tag and take each other out in the first five minutes? Then retire to someplace out of the fighting area to relax and do some actual bonding!

          2. Me (I think)*

            Similar thing here. It took us several years and a lot of anti-anxiety meds (and the loss of some good people) but we finally arranged the defenestration. The anniversary is still celebrated as a minor feast day, many years later.

            1. MassMatt*

              To paraphrase Gore Vidal: Defenestration is a form of resignation which never caught on in Washington nearly as much as it should.

        2. the cat's pajamas*

          In addition to all the problems already mentioned, I still want to know how any activities like this that build false competition where you’re pitted against other groups of coworkers is team building. (eyeroll)

          1. Dulcinea47*

            so…. you think anything with a competitive aspect can’t be teambuilding? What about every athletic team ever? You certainly build relationships with the people on your same team, and you also should have respect for your competitors. If you don’t you’re doing it wrong.
            My old job would have us do things like “who can build the tallest tower in five minutes using these weird supplies” and it’d be like a few pieces of tape and some straws and pipe cleaners, one for each table of six. People got really into it but no one was angry at the other teams… that’s a weird result to expect.

            1. Justme, The OG*

              People who play sports do so willingly. Forcing people into athletic pursuits in the name of “team building” is not the same thing.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I think this is an important point–most of us got plenty of practice being on teams as children required to do this for gym class. And those of us who did not enjoy the activity opted out of team sports going forward. (My kids played team sports and got a lot out of it. But they had opted in.)

                It’s just another iteration of “Who could not enjoy a walking tour of a historic site?” or “Who could not enjoy being split into teams and told we must vie to be first to complete a mud course?” or “Who could not enjoy a wine tasting?”

                1. Orv*

                  I got so much abuse for “making our team lose” in competitive sports in high school that to this day, if forced to do a competitive team-building exercise, I would call in sick that day. It’s not fun for me. I won’t even play co-op team video games.

              2. Pescadero*

                Competitive doesn’t necessarily mean “athletic” though. The complaint seemed to be about competition.

              3. Uranus Wars*

                I get the sports thing, but the example of building a tower is not sports-related. I mean, I don’t enjoy sporting events at work but agree with Dulcinea47 that all competition isn’t bad as team building.

                1. the cat's pajamas*

                  Teambuilding means building the team. Competition pits people against each other, the opposite of working together. You are working within your subgroup but still against others in your company. That’s not team building to me, it’s animosity building, like that other comment about the person still rubbing it in years later that their group won some silly thing.

              4. Jessica*

                So, as a former game designer, I get pulled into conversations at my company about gamifying work all the time, and I regularly point them to research showing that mandatory gamified activities at work have negative effects on workers’ morale and mental health. (The very big entertainment company with the mouse logo famously gamified the laundries at their resorts–the workers there called the gamification program “the electronic whip.” There’s a whole journal article on it.)

                Even if an activity isn’t technically mandatory, workers can interpret it as tacitly mandatory because it’s their job asking them to do it. So the distinction between “mandatory” team-building and “optional” team-building is fuzzy at best and nonexistent in the minds of some workers.

                Reading a lot of that research has soured me pretty intensely on anything but the most general of official “fun” activities at work.

                Teams get built by working together on something they can be proud of, by building a culture of psychological safety among team members, by people having confidence that their work is meaningful and their teammates respect them, by transparency and honesty and mutual support.

                Laser tag doesn’t do any of that. Thoughtful design of workplace norms and procedures and culture does.

            2. Armchair Analyst*

              My memories from laser tag are an individual score, hardly a group effort in the sense of campwide capture the flag games

              Its dark in there you can barely tell who’s on your team much less conspire with them

              Team building activities can be competitive
              Competitive activities can be team building
              Laser tag is not a team building activity

            3. Czhorat*

              It is SO dependent on the group. We did axe throwing last year and it was fun; we did divide into teams and keep score, but nobody was so invested on winning to make it at all tense.

              Those things ARE delicate balances though; it only takes one try-hard with his heart set on the gold medal to bring the whole thing from “friendly competition” to “cutthroat battle”. I’d tend to shy away from that if I were making the plans.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                Axe throwing sounds like something that would be fun to do once. My poor aim would likely get me banned from the axes after a turn or two, but it would be fun for a short time. (Keep in mind, that athletics are not my thing and when forced to go bowling I do toddler bowling – bumpers out, pull out the ball ramp and I’m good to go.)

            4. Claire*

              The thing is, there are plenty of ways to build a team without diving the group into “winners” and “losers.” I played soccer in high school but the place were I learned the most about being on a team was the drama club, where we had to work together to create art that was shared with the community.

              1. RVA Cat*

                This. My theory is that the athletic kind of “team building” comes from the former high school jocks/bullies going into management.

                Laser tag though – did it even occur to them that employees might have served in Iraq/Afghanistan?

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Then there are the bubbly former cheerleaders whose only complaint about the workplace is that it doesn’t have enough pep rallies.

              2. MusicWithRocksIn*

                I always though escape rooms would be good team building. You are all working together towards one unified goal. They are non-athletic (the way most people play, I have been known to run around like a maniac). And there is actual problem solving that involves brain work instead of hand eye coordination or good balancing skills.

                1. La Triviata*

                  We did this once for my job. It was entertaining and somewhat competitive and we all got little plastic trophies. I was VERY proud that I was the only person who’d seen or read enough classic mysteries to know that the safe is always behind a picture.

            5. TX_Trucker*

              Maybe not angry at the other teams … but certainly angry at your teammates, if your team don’t win. I work with some ultra-competitive folks, and building the tallest spaghetti tower with office supplies was taken very seriously.

              1. House On The Rock*

                Yep – every “friendly competition” I’ve participated in for “team building” has had at least a few ugly undercurrents from the more competitive types. I’ve been yelled at for not taking things seriously enough in a similar build a tower exercise and I’ve seen people straight up refuse to participate because of how they’ve been treated in the past. I’ve also seen winners take bragging rights way too far to the point of mocking losers. Note that I work in a generally mellow, non profit, very “do gooder” space – this isn’t cut throat corporate shenanigans!

                1. Lydia*

                  Right, but that’s about crappy people, not that all forms of competition are bad. One place I worked did a very low-key mini golf thing for students. Each department/team would take found objects and make a golf hole. Students played through and voted on best hole. It was fun and there were probably some people who were crappy about it, but I never knew who they were because they knew better than to rage about losing or brag about winning.

            6. Baunilha*

              I’m with the cat’s pajamas on this one. We had trivia night at work back in March and things got so out of hand that some people are still holding grudges to this day.

              That’s not to say that companies shouldn’t do competition events ever, but they have to be carefully planned. (And hopefully people would be mature about it, but I guess that’s asking for too much)

              1. My Cabbages!*

                I admit I am still a little salty at losing my work’s trivia night because in response to the question “Where is Wonder Woman from?” I answered “Themyscira” instead of”Paradise Island”.

                We were in the woods so I had no Internet to prove I was right.

            7. Michelle Smith*

              Maybe it depends on the industry and/or workplace but some people (pointing at myself) get weirdly overcompetitive to the point that it’s a problem. I would struggle with mandatory competitions like this because I have zero chill. Thankfully, my office doesn’t do that.

            8. MassMatt*

              “so…. you think anything with a competitive aspect can’t be teambuilding? What about every athletic team ever? You certainly build relationships with the people on your same team, and you also should have respect for your competitors. If you don’t you’re doing it wrong.”

              Well, in that case many MANY teams are “doing it wrong”.

              True, in functional teams everyone works together and contributes as they can and builds relationships. In dysfunctional teams (far more common than you seem to think) the opposing team is vilified and dehumanized, and the less athletically gifted/experienced are bullied and very much targeted for the ritual Assigning Of The Blame which follows defeat.

              In addition, the specific skills things like laser tag (or softball, or building pyramids) require are not relevant to most job functions, AND putting a dysfunctional team into a laser tag arena is not going to magically transform it into a functional one.

              It sounds as though whomever is arranging the “team building” for the LW’s department has a real love for laser tag, or maybe their brother-in-law owns the arena? There are tons of possible team building activities, it’s odd that they are picking just this one.

            9. Workerbee*

              This isn’t about actual athletic teams, which are presumably full of & for people who opted in and understand all that being on an actual athletic team entails.

              And in thinking back over the variety of non-opt-out activities I’ve been in, all in the name of team-building – not a one of them helped me feel closer to my team, or anyone else. People bring their personalities with them on day 1, and building a tower lent no additional insight into them.

            10. Girasol*

              I think that’s true in many cases, all sports aside. In an office where there’s serious competition between employees in daily work – like who gets a promotion or who gets the only “exceeds expectations” in a ranked evaluation – a “team building” competition can be cutthroat. I’ve seen senior managers change games’ rules midway to assure that they didn’t lose. I’ve seen nastiness on teams where one or two very competitive employees intend to win but some of their team members lacked the skills and the team loses. If everyone were a good sport and in it for fun it would be different. But there are always people who are as snarky and mean as middle school adolescents and very serious about winning. Competitive team building in my experience is more often team-destructive.

            11. aebhel*

              I think that voluntary team sports are very different than forcibly re-creating high school gym class, in terms of teambuilding.

          2. metadata minion*

            For people who enjoy competition but don’t go overboard, it can totally be team-building. A few years ago we had a staff picnic with a cornhole (lawn game involving throwing beanbags at a target) tournament, and despite having the athletic ability of library paste I had a great time. People were assigned to teams randomly, which provided a good opportunity to interact with people you didn’t otherwise work with.
            But it was a) completely optional; I think maybe a third of the staff participated, and b) not even symbolically violent.

            1. nonprofit writer*

              That sounds fine because it was just one activity offered in the broader context of the picnic. At a laser tag place, there isn’t really anything else to do except laser tag. Plus, cornhole is a lot more chill!

              Signed, mom of boys who spent a full school year dropping one of them off and picking up from laser tag parties, which were all the rage around age 8-9

            2. Area Woman*

              Yeah we’re planning on bowling event with assigned teams to mix things up as a team building exercise. Just a chance to hang out, have an activity to do if wanted, and eat/drink if wanted. All during business hours!

          3. OnyxChimney*

            For starters it’s often a no stakes shared experience.

            I’ve participated in many competitive team building exercises that helped different teams work better together because you were no longer emailing Greg who’s late with my data but instead are emailing Greg, someone who was a boss at taping straws together and had a wicked sense of humor.

            1. münchner kindl*

              But that’s not because taping straws together is a good team building exercise – you’re confusing correlation and causation.

              Rather, because Greg has a good sense of humor, the taping straws together exercise didn’t go badly, which it just as easily can, and often has.

              If Greg is a nice person (non-jerk) with a great sense of humor, you can also do an actual team building – which Alison has described in the past: share a lunch together, and everybody describes their work in 15 minutes so that the people who work before or after you know what details can create problems, or ease them.

              That is far more useful than knowing that Greg is boss at taping straws together.

              And actually talking with each other about the actual real work instead of straws, means that you learn that Greg is forgetful, but grateful for a friendly reminder vs Greg is doing 2 jobs at once and your data is a rubber ball, so your manager needs to talk to his manager to reduce the workload.

              None of which will come out when taping straws together.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                I have to agree with this. Our team building exercises have been things like eating snacks (I bring my own because of dietary restrictions and no one is weird about it) and going around the room to share the status of our projects, flagging specific wins or things we need input on, having the occasional meal together when we travel for a conference or other work activity, and things like that. They are directly work-related and do not require me to do anything physical except show up. I’ve been on projects though where we work with other organizations and they joined with my team to do “team building” activities that I hated: things like going to noisy bars and going bowling. I cannot bowl (physical restrictions) and I cannot hear or process information in a noisy environment and find them extremely stressful (neuroatypical, but not out as such at work). I know it’s boring or whatever, but I’d rather you just stick me in a conference room with my coworkers for a couple of hours for us to talk about our projects and ways we can support each other than make me show up to a place where I can’t participate in the activity or have any meaningful conversations with the people around me.

              2. Workerbee*

                Yeah, I was thinking – if taping straws together makes Greg suddenly not be late with his data, then I’d want to hear about that. If it’s just that “Greg was a person before and now he’s a person with a sense of humor” and he’s still late all the time, well…

              3. Me...Just Me*

                How is talking about work projects with your coworkers any different than, say, working? Aren’t folks doing that every day and still not connecting with Greg? Maybe it’s the now seeing Greg as a person rather than as a “individual contributor” or “stakeholder” or “” that will be the thing that smooths edges and helps the team congeal. Obviously, if just discussing the work projects was going to do it, it would have, already.

                I have found team building exercises very helpful — primarily when they are NOT job related (at least directly). Not that we need competitions or terribly physical activities – but something to make people realize that their coworkers are, well, people, too.

                1. Holiday Party Time*

                  sorry – pressed the wrong button.

                  I think there is a different kind of team building that happens when a group is working together on a non-work task than when they’re either working normally, or purely socialising. Work lunches/ happy hours/ purely social time that is as inclusive as it can be is great, but doesn’t do the same job. Working together to achieve a goal that’s shared (ie not something half the group hate or think silly), short term (achievable within a half day team bonding exercise) and not to do with work (so putting everyone in a different headspace) means that relationships going forward are different, not because ‘i know Greg is great at taping straws together ‘ but because ‘greg and I achieved something together and while it was silly it was also real’.

                  escape room above would do this for me!

            2. bamcheeks*

              yeah, but sometimes it’s, “bamcheeks, who is perfectly nice and collegial person under normal circumstances, turns into a competitive monster in an escape room and elbows people out of the way in order to prove that she can decode the clue fastest”.

          4. Festively Dressed Earl*

            I can’t help but think of the “team building” paintball activity at the former nunnery in Good Omens. Personally, I’m not forming an alliance with Accounting against Marketing unless a fallen angel in a flaming Bentley tells me to.

          5. Ricama*

            I am pretty conflict adverse so this sort of event would fill me with anxiety and resentment, probably not conducive to team building.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Even without the Good Omens paintball sequences, anything that sets up additional conflict between factions seems problematic. If someone insists on doing competitions, *mix up the departments* so it doesn’t reenforce existing problems. The classic example is engineering against sales— put some of each on each team!

      1. kalli*

        Part of it is that laser tag is becoming a fairly common side activity at bowling alleys, with corporate packages that include one or both as team-building events for the $$, so it’s fairly simple to arrange and most people end up exposed to it somehow and are familiar with the concept.

        It’s not ‘I love guns so everyone must play laser tag with me’ it’s ‘there’s a laser tag room at my bowling club that would be cool’ or ‘it’s the first thing that came up when I searched [“team building”+area+corporate] and it was within our budget’. Thus it requires minimal thinking and planning.

        1. Sloanicota*

          To be fair, I think it’s fine to offer laser tag once. I think it should be optional, but it’s okay for not everyone to love every activity, and some people really (REALLY) thrive on these types of hyper-competitive team activities. The issue to me is that they’re now doing it again, with no other activity suggested. If companies are going to do team-building activities (and I don’t think it’s necessary, but I’m usually outvoted) they should mix it up, as well as making it easy to opt out.

          1. kalli*

            To be fair, that means your problem isn’t with the activity at all, just with the organiser’s lack of ability or time to invest in finding enough activities to rotate through.

            1. MassMatt*

              Anyone is well within their rights to scorn their organization’s thoughtlessness and paucity of imagination.

              How is it they have time to DO these laser tag events, yet not a moment to spare in coming up with what events to do?

              And note, I would love to try laser tag (though not for team building) and have never been able to get enough other people interested.

          2. OnyxChimney*

            I think when there are people who obviously hate any team building exercises, it’s difficult to summon the goodwill to take their advice on the matter.

            If OP and her few coworkers who hated laser tag made it clear they think this is a waste of time because it’s not work related, then why would management listen to anything they have to say about what the next team building activity should be? They will hate it anyway so the incentive is to focus on the rest of the team’s preferences for these events.

            1. münchner kindl*

              Because most “team building activities” are not useful at all, and many of them are badly-thought out, which makes them either exclusionary, a waste of time, or outright makes things worse.

              Alison has in the past adressed this several times: if employees are professionals, you don’t need special exercises, just the opportunity to talk to each other and get to know each other, which can be done in a low-stakes kind of way.

              If on the other hand work conditions are bad, and management jumps on team building exercises, people will activly hate wasting time instead of actually adressing the root causes (often management).
              Known as “new coat of paint when the car is rusting and the brakes are failing”.

              And while it’s true that it’s difficult to find an activity that everybody loves, that doesn’t mean that the company should just ignore real concerns.

              Brushing off real reasons – which LW did give – is another part of the dysfunction that makes management come up with an ill-thought out idea like this in the first place, and the attempt to cover this dysfunction with an exercise is why people hate it especially.

              1. OnyxChimney*

                People here at AAM hate team building exercises and find them useless. In part because I yroverys who want exclusive WFH are over represented here. That doesn’t make it so in the real world.

                In my experience over the decades even the most inane activities have helped grease social wheels. It’s rarely a disaster. We just read about disasters here because that’s exciting and generates engagement. No one would write to Alison to say “All my team building activities are well recieved and improve moral”. That doesn’t mean the majority of these events are terrible.

                1. aebhel*

                  I don’t think that’s actually true; I think that a lot of people who dislike these things just keep their mouths shut in the workplace because there’s no point in rocking the boat as long as it’s not an out and out disaster. Every workplace I’ve been at with mandatory team-building has had a handful of people who really loved them while the majority viewed them as, at best, an unavoidable annoyance.

                  Regardless, ‘you’ve expressed reservations about team-building events so we’re going to ignore your input and find something that’s fun for the people who are already super gung-ho about it’ is, ironically, not an attitude that’s particularly conducive to team-building

          3. CM*

            Same here! I don’t think every activity has to be 100% inclusive, but if some people are opting out, then switch up the activity so they can/want to participate next time. One-time laser tag, meh, but don’t do it twice.

            1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              Yep! Almost no activity is going to be something 100% of people can participate in and enjoy, but the solution is not “no activities ever”, it’s “change things up so it isn’t always the same people being excluded”.

    3. Annie*

      If I had to guess at a rationale other than someone wanting an excuse to engage in their own favorite activity with others, structured team-building activities may be beneficial to people who, due to social anxiety and/or neurodivergences, simply aren’t able to effectively connect just by hanging out. There are far fewer ambiguities and chances to unintentionally tick someone off by saying or doing something wrong in a structured activity than in a less formal hangout.

      1. Sally*

        this was my only quasi-negative thought about the described activities: hanging out, catered lunch, and nature walk – I’m shy, and I try to push myself past it and talk with people, but I don’t always succeed. I do like the idea of visiting a historical location or something like that because then you have a built-in thing to talk about with each other.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I think casual/semi-structured activities are a good idea. Somebody commented here one time that their organisation did jigsaws so a person who was shy or had social anxiety or was just new and didn’t know many people yet could focus on the jigsaws and there was something to encourage conversation – “where do you think this goes?”, “I’m really stuck on this part,” – but people who weren’t good at/weren’t interested in jigsaws could just circulate, chat, maybe eat some finger food and there’s no pressure as to who is good at jigsaws and who isn’t.

          I think something like board games would work well too.

          1. Mister_L*

            Last week was a strike in the company I work at.
            I’ve heard some people brought cards and even board games to spend the time.

          2. Harper the Other One*

            My department just announced a (non-mandatory) curling social event to be held in January, but the best part was that you can choose to be on the ice getting instruction as a new/novice curler, playing a game if you have some degree of experience, or just hang out watching/cheering folks on/enjoying a drink if you don’t want to play. I know the location and it’s even accessible, with ramps and proper accessible washrooms!

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              Shameless curling plug! Obviously, nothing works for everybody, but it’s a very accommodating sport. If you don’t have the flexibility to get down and throw the rock, you can stick curl (walk along the ice and release the rock from the end of your stick). Balance issues? Wheelchair curling. You also need surprisingly limited upper body strength to send the rock flying (which you don’t usually want to do anyway!).
              If none of those appeal, relaxing in the viewing area with snacks and a drink and letting a half dozen curling enthusiasts try to explain what the heck is going on can be fun too.

              1. Khatul Madame*

                And there is a tabletop curling game, that can be set up for those who prefer a smaller scale.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Interesting point — now I’m thinking a guided walk would be cool especially for anyone who is new to the region. That could be international transfers, interstate moves, or just people who commute OUT of an urban center.

          (I’ve had the joy of identifying American birds for visitors from other continents—even the common ones are exciting again.)

          1. Laser Tag LW*

            You know what, SSC, I think I will suggest this! I am a hiker and moderately into birds (thanks, Wingspan!) and maybe I can offer a walk for anyone who’s interested. The meeting is not far from a famous historic pond (which I suppose gives away my location, because how many famous historic ponds even are there?) and last time we had an event I mentioned to an out-of-towner that I go there a lot and she wanted to go there. Perhaps some people would prefer a walk around the pond instead. Although tbh, I would much rather just go home and do my daily tasks that I won’t be able to get done in the morning.

        3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yeah, I’ve almost always worked on teams that are made up of introverts, and while we’re friendly and enjoy each others’ company, if we didn’t have some focus for the activity, I would definitely worry that after 30 minutes or an hour, we’d just find ourselves talking about work because we’d run out of social topics.

          Board games can work really well, if you have a smallish group that likes games. My boss felt weird about making the team compete against each other, so we mostly did collaborative games — which actually require you to work as a team.

        4. Office Lobster DJ*

          Yes, I think a good team building activity gives people something to engage over, rather than putting everyone on the spot making small talk. On the other hand, leaving space for organic chatting is also important.

          How about a paint night (or, you know, the same thing but during work hours)? No one has to be particularly creative or good at painting to take part in it.

        5. Orange_Erin*

          I am also very shy and introverted and while sometimes I struggle to connect with people in social situations, a structured activity like laser tag would be terrible for me. At least in a casual hang-out situation, I can listen to what others are saying even if I don’t have much to add. In a laser tag activity, the pressure would be on me to perform. I’m not athletic and would feel I was letting my team down.

          All of my team’s “team building” activities are things like lunch or a museum so we can casually talk and each person can participate as much or as little as they prefer.

          1. But what to call me?*

            I don’t think laser tag counts as a structured activity for connecting with people, at least not based on my one experience with laser tag. Maybe it works for laser tag enthusiasts, but I just found it 1) stressful and 2) not a good chance to talk to anyone because everyone was too busy running around trying to play laser tag.

            As far as I’m concerned, a good structured activity for connecting with coworkers is one that’s low pressure, gives people plenty of time to talk, but does actually have some activity going on that people can choose to focus on as much or as little as they want. Without any structured activity at all, I usually end up feeling excluded because I’d like to join the group conversation and that’s clearly all we’re there for but I am just not good at it.

      2. Rhymetime*

        Interesting points. I’m realizing some assumptions I’m making here because the nature of my team’s work is external relationships. People on our team are comfortable in that context. Annie and Sally, I appreciate your broadening my perspective.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        My guess is it is something like “At work, we are striving to meet a goal. So to build the team, the format must be a challenging goal we are all striving to achieve, like who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes, or drive their go cart fastest, or shoot the most coworkers in paintball.”

        1. Stuckincrazyjob*

          Or we all work together, so let’s juggle balls all together, making us all start over if someone drops one! I think I still have nightmares about that

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I would like to point out with all honesty that I have negative interest in knowing how many hotdogs my coworkers (or anyone else for that matter) can eat in 10 minutes.

          Competitive eating squicks me out.

      4. münchner kindl*

        Laser tag is not the only structured activity, by far.

        But for many people it is problematic to fake-shoot people you’re supposed to work with, for many reasons.

      5. sofar*

        Yep! As a quiet, 40-something woman who HATES small talk (especially with people I work with), I’d actually be OVERJOYED at laser tag (I LOVE laser tag, and I am very good at parking myself in a strategic overlook and just shooting people while they run around like dummies). Also, laser tag tech is getting very advanced — you can do team challenges, capture the flag, etc.

        I DO agree with others laser tag is problematic, though, because it does require some mobility and would exclude a lot of folks and possibly exacerbate “feuds” that are already happening within the team.

        A “chill hang-walk-and-chat” (unless a guided tour) would be my worst nightmare. That’s second only to the karaoke happy hours my previous company did, as far as worst nightmares go.

        I think the best team-building thing my team ever did was an escape room. The project managers excelled and anyone who could care less could be like, “OK I’m going to sit over here and look for clues in the bookshelf.”

        We also had success with a tour of a nature center, and everyone got the chance to hold some of the animals. Walking Shelter Dogs (people with mobility issues were put to work on low-key enrichment activities).

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, I actually really like laser tag and would enjoy it way more than a lot of the other potential team-building activities, but that doesn’t actually make it a good choice.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Often (and I suspect in this case) it’s a way for the organiser to get their hobby funded by the conpany/org. I do think – without wanting to become Guacamole Bob – that this is suspect in a non-profit or somewhere that relies on donations.

      1. CheckinCheckout*

        Golfing and curling were always our team building activities because the grand boss liked to golf and curl. At least it wasn’t whitewater rafting which is also a thing here.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          “Guacamole Bob” references a past letter where someone in an accounting m department took it on himself to reduce the money spent on travel meals. He was rejecting individual components of a meal on the submitted receipts.

          There’s also a commenter who picked it up as their userid.

          1. Gray Lady*

            Specifically he denied the upcharge for guacamole at Chipotle or some similar place on expense reports, citing “poor use of our members’ dues” as the rationale.

    5. philmar*

      Things like laser tag and paintball are explicitly more team-building in the sense that you literally have to work together as a team to reach a goal under artificially induced stress. I know we get a ton of complaints here that team-building is pointless and unnecessary, but if your work has already decided you need team-building, a lunch or a walk are not going to help. I would say the most sedate substitute would be an escape room (and I have never experienced one in which you are actually prevented from leaving the room).

      I personally think team-building is good and useful, but I realize that is a minority opinion in the comments.

      1. Mister_L*

        Cannot quite agree with you, also in addition to all the other points about physical abilities and dislike of weapons already mentioned, there is one point I’d like to add.

        While “Good Omens” by Pratchett and Gaiman was mostly a comedy, I think the “paintball scene” isn’t really that far off. People who might not like each other to begin with (your work has already decided you need team-building), the last thing you want is a direct competition that further winds up people. At best such practices will be mostly worthless, at worst there will be more bad blood between the coworkers.

        It’s been a while so I might not remember all the details, but I remember a LW who complained that her coworker would constantly bring up having won some competition 2 years ago to the point where the LW couldn’t stand her anymore.

        1. Roland*

          I mean, that coworker just sucked. It doesn’t inherently mean the activity was bad. We get a ton of letters about food-policing coworkers, but that doesn’t mean having lunch is a bad activity. Same applies to a gloating coworker.

          Overall I am on the side that structured activities (that do not have the specific issues like Alison outlined with laser tag) can be fun and useful for a team. In fact, I have found that having fun with coworkers in and of itself is useful.

          1. Tau*

            Personally, I’m with you but I think there are some important rules here that need to be kept in mind:

            * the exercise should chosen from within the team, and everyone has to be on board with it,
            * the activity needs to be truly optional, ideally there should also be a more sedate event like a dinner later where people can join either, both or none, and
            * team-building is not going to fix bad relationships or toxic dynamics on a team, if your team is dysfunctional address that first

            I’ve done escape rooms, go-karting, minigolf, canoeing, karaoke and probably a couple I’m forgetting like this. Apart from the go-karting they were all fun breaks from work, and for the go-karting I learned that it wasn’t for me and vetoed the suggestion anytime it was brought up again. I could imagine a different team doing laser tag, provided all members were up for it. It’s really dependent on the people, and I hate that OP’s company has just picked an activity and is now imposing it on them.

            1. amoeba*

              Yup. I’ve even been on teams where stuff like climbing and rafting went well – because people were genuinely enthusiastic about it, we were a pretty healthy and fit group (PhD candidates and postdocs, so all on the young side as well), and also because we all liked each other and nobody was afraid to be made fun of if they performed badly. Also, for the climbing, you could just sit and have cake and coffee and watch other people fall out of trees, which was apparently also a lot of fun.

              That does not mean those would be suitable for any or even most teams – know your audience and listen to what they say! The worst thing in this story for me is the fact that they already tried it last year, several people didn’t like it and yet they insist on doing it again. Honestly, while I see that there are more pitfalls with laser tag than with other activities, this should be universal – if a significant portion of the group hated the museum visit/walk/escape room, don’t force them to do the same thing next year! Listen to their suggestions and make sure that even if not everybody will love every activity, it’s not the same people every year who have to suck it up!

                1. But what to call me?*

                  Depending how I was feeling that day, I could happily either be the one falling out of trees or the one watching others fall out of trees. I call this activity a win either way.

              1. wordswords*

                Totally agreed! Despite the opinion of a loud faction of commenters here, team-building activities are not inherently bad, and even team-building activities involving physical activity are not inherently bad — IF the team isn’t starting off dysfunctional (in which case team-building is likely to magnify rather than address those issues, unless very carefully handled), and IF the people planning it are shaping it to fit the actual team in question and listening to their feedback at all stages.

                I agree that for me the worst part of this isn’t laser tag (which is particularly fraught these days, but could still be fun for the right group) but the fact that some people didn’t like it last year and they’re doubling down on repeating it instead of trying something else instead or in addition.

      2. Nebula*

        The best team-building activity I’ve done is when we went to a local zoo, and got split up into teams with a set of activities to do. There was a photo competition with a set of quirky categories and we had to present our images at the end, and coming up with a quiz question based on something at the zoo. We had tasks to do – and the presentation aspect made it vaguely work-related – but it wasn’t stressful and basically was just a trip to the zoo. That’s the kind of thing I think is actually helpful for team-building, I don’t think “artificially-induced stress” is necessary.

        1. user12345*


          I think this 100% illustrates how team building can be inclusive and exclude everyone.
          I would be horrified if we were told me had to go and stress out some poor caged animals at a zoo! I literally cannot think of many things more triggering to me. Unless this was an animal sanctuary run very carefully by a charity then I would absolutely object to this.

          I would much rather go to laser tag and if it wasn’t my cup of tea to play then I’d sit happily waiting in the waiting room with a book for everyone to get their jollies shooting each other with lasers.

          1. Flower*

            if it’s a real, accredited, certified, licensed zoo–not a roadside exhibit–it will be about conservation and animal welfare, often with rehab/release and environmental research aspects included. As well as programs to expand endangered populations and potentially eventually reintroduce to the wild. If it isn’t that, then it’s doing its job wrong. that’s pretty much universal, but especially in the US, where the AZA governs zoo (and aquarium ) accreditations.

            1. Nebula*

              Yes, this was at the biggest zoo in the UK which is extremely well-respected internationally. It is conservation-focused, and is one of those zoos where often you won’t even see certain animals because they have plenty of space and don’t hang around near where the humans are. Anyway, my point was more that you can do structured activities that help with team-building that don’t involve stress or extreme physical activity, rather than the merits or otherwise of zoos.

          2. Dulcinea47*

            If you think that’s what zoos consist of, you really ought to go to a zoo, b/c it’s not that. The majority of accredited zoos are non profit and have a lot to do with animal conservation.

            1. kalli*

              I read an interesting article the other day about how zookeepers observed animals being less stimulated and less mobile during the early period of the pandemic where zoos were closed, with the conclusion than some of the animals (at least, some more so than others, with one species likely neutral) relied on visitor interaction for their wellbeing.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Lots of the animals definitely enjoyed having people to look at in their day to day. It gives them more novel things to interact with.
                Even the tamarin monkeys in the museum (also an AZA accredited zoo) I used to work at loved the people, and if I showed up after being gone for a few weeks, they’d come down to the glass and chitter at me. They were mesmerized when my fellow volunteers daughter came in dressed as a tamarin for Halloween, complete with a stuffed tamarin baby.

          3. ThatGirl*

            Who said anything about stressing out the animals?

            I know you can’t please everyone but I can think of a zillion zoo-related activities that do not involve tormenting the animals in any way??

        2. StarTrek Nutcase*

          I have never bought into the need for team-building activities & found no value in the dozens over 40+ yrs. And every one was problematic in some way for someone. Your zoo trip seems innocuous except for someone like me that abhor zoos as much as LW does gun-related stuff. Fortunately I’m retired and never have to participate or be called out for objecting again.

          I admit bias as I have never had a desire to socialize with coworkers at or outside work & prefer professional work-related interactions only. In a perfect world, no TB would be mandatory and nonparticipation wouldn’t be seen as a bad employee trait.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I think there’s a difference between “problematic for someone” and “problematic.” There is no one activity that everyone will enjoy, but there are activities that most people (a) can physically do and (b) probably won’t object to. Lasertag fails on both.

            1. Roland*

              This feels like it should be an autoreply in every comment thread where activities get brought up! Just another example of “not everyone can eat sandwiches”.

      3. DJ Abbott*

        I don’t have to try it to know an escape room would trigger my PTSD. Suspense generally does. If I was required to participate in one I would stand back in the corner and keep quiet, and start looking for a new job.
        I have never worked in a place that does this sort of thing. I once worked in a place that did little games within the office, and where I work now we do a white elephant because the director likes it. At my old job my boss liked to have social lunches. Always in the office during work hours.

        1. cptsd here*

          Been there, done that, had a panic attack and hid in the bathroom until I could leave. Do not recommend, zero stars!!!!

            1. cptsd here*

              Thank you, not being able to leave a situation is very triggering for me.

              I did end up leaving that job.

        2. Merrie*

          I have felt under time pressure and stressed out enough at work. My job involves a lot of turning around small tasks quickly, and having them sometimes be more complicated than thought and increasing the time pressure accordingly. Escape room sounds like more of the same. I’ll pass, unless it’s not timed.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Same! Add to that the fact that whenever I’m in a situation like this, I start thinking about the work I have that’s not getting done. (I have a role that means an all-day event just adds to my workload, as I still need to complete my regular tasks.)

        3. Helen B*

          Same; I’m so sorry. I ended up telling my boss that I really didn’t recommend mandatory, no-warning escape rooms again (up till 2am with a self-help book that night).

          1. Orv*

            Surprise team building exercises are the worst. Even ones I’ve enjoyed, I’ve been a little annoyed no one told me what I’d be in for.

      4. Also-ADHD*

        What does “needs team building” mean? You don’t really work together in laser tag, but if the issue was the team wasn’t already working together, I guess I don’t think having them shoot at other teams together really would work as bonding. If the team isn’t working together well, a workshop targeting the reasons why might be useful, or other interventions. But it sounds like it would make any high adrenaline, physical activity way way way worse to do.

        I think companies just pick places that fit their budget and they think is fun, but they don’t think through accessibility and often see things from a white male cis middle class perspective (or outside of like Fortune 500 and common startups where that’s the center of privileged demographics, they select things that fit whatever perspective is privileged at the company—even things like the nonprofit in quiet gardens might be “guilty” of this but perhaps their privilege centers slightly differently). Laser tag these days fits a male Millennial (reaching middle age) or Gen X (peak professional age) white middle class all American demographic the same way bowling used to, and it’s even attached to bowling alleys in some cases as someone noted, and is relatively cost effective, so it’s selected. But one of the biggest issues with team building is they’re usually not thoughtfully selected to be inclusive and challenge the center of privilege. Another big issue is making them mandatory or giving any pressure to them inevitably is going to cause harm to some even with options and thought, so they need to be voluntary if not clearly and directly work related (like a day team comes together to make norms for project workflow is the kind of “team building” that should be mandatory—and you can add activities and let people opt in or out in some cases).

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          What does “needs team building” mean?
          In the book Falling Free, an engineer discovers that his company has created a race of free-fall dwellers (who are of course company property). At one point he watches a class of adorable children work together to form a complicated geometric shape. And it’s great! And living on a space station, your society needs to be focused on pulling together and not engaging in free-spirited high-jinks that might puncture the habitat–he gets that. But the complete lack of competition worries him, in that they never practice “fighting” for something.

          Sometimes a team already works well together and likes each other, and the chance to do something everyone considers fun (whether that’s cheese tasting or rappelling) is a nice perk that does in fact build team feeling.
          For mild levels of friction that come down to knowing someone as a function rather than a person, the chance to chat more casually, perhaps while working together on a goal like assembling a jigsaw, might help sand off some edges. Some orgs might need to build in some facet of talking to people other than your existing team members.
          For serious dysfunction I think there can be a feeling that if they can just throw a sufficiently stressful situation at these people they will somehow be forged into a fighting unit. This is a real thing that happens. But your employees are not like soldiers in basic training, or 10 year olds at sleepaway camp, or the survivors of a shipwreck–they can see the artificiality of the construct, and will resent having fake stress on top of their plentiful real stress.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Yeah and there’s rarely a chance to do something everyone considers fun (and you will never know if people do if it’s mandatory or there’s any pressure to participate) and that certainly doesn’t apply to cases like LW1. So “a chance to do something everyone considers fun” is pretty rare since fun varies (and often corporate fun centers around a particular point of privilege). I think we just need to accept that in an inclusive work space, to some degree. If team building is deemed “necessary,” it’s best to problem solve the reason why it’s needed and address it directly. That’s not to say fun activities can’t be offered, but it’s misguided to think they will bring people together in any meaningful way towards the work. If they do, it’s incidental, not systematic. And any that do seem to work that way systematically are likely contributing to less diverse, less inclusive environments with more conformity.

            1. Laser Tag LW*

              If team building is deemed “necessary,” it’s best to problem solve the reason why it’s needed and address it directly.

              This!! We have had some communication issues recently and while they’re not a huge deal, IMO (if you ask my grandboss she’ll say that they’re a disaster but they really aren’t), it actually would be helpful for the two teams with the issues to have a meeting about it since we will actually be in the same physical location. And that is yet another reason why “mandatory ‘fun'” is so often reviled by us corporate underlings. It has the opposite effect that the bosses think it will have. By not addressing issues – in fact, actively avoiding addressing them – and instead scheduling an activity completely unrelated to what we do as an org, it tanks morale rather than improves it.

          2. Sloanicota*

            These things are so rarely carefully thought through. For a team that doesn’t know each other and needs to build trust, any simple “fun” excursion might build good feelings, including something as simple as a pizza party, building up some weak ties between individuals. For a team with an actual problem, like sales versus warehouse, the solution would be different and would need to be handled carefully, perhaps mixing up departments into teams for some kind of challenge. But it would be different solution again for a team that, say, has a bullying problem (I’m reminded of the caveat that you can’t go to couples therapy if one partner is abusive – it doesn’t work that way). However, nobody ever puts any thought into this. “Laser tag could be fun” is the extent of it.

      5. Ellis Bell*

        I say this as someone who has played (opt-in) laser tag with colleagues and had fun doing so – it didn’t do squat towards building actual teamworking skills. Those who were good at working in teams remained good at it, and those who were bad, remained bad at it. Those job skills were completely unrelated to who ended up being good at lasertag. Generally the phrase “team building” means just having fun and building goodwill towards each other. No one really expects the magical transfer of non-work skills to work skills; it doesn’t really happen, any more than the old ‘fall backwards so a colleague can catch you’ builds trust.

      6. Antilles*

        I think team building does provide benefits and help people bond, but it’s mostly a reflection of your team as a whole.
        If people already get along nicely and like each other, then most options will work pretty well (presuming the activity is appropriately inclusive for your team of course); it’s basically just hanging out with acquaintances/friends on the company’s dime. And the team will get closer because of it.
        However, if the team already has tension amongst themselves or management, then the team building is going to flop. People won’t relax and have a good time, some people will be searching for ways to opt out, and there won’t be much in the way of team bonding.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This is akin to my observation about team happy hours. A group of coworkers who enjoy one another’s company is likely to spontaneously spend time together outside of work. Managers who therefore conclude that the way to make a group of coworkers bond is to hold quasi-mandatory happy hours don’t understand the direction of causation.

      7. RussianInTexas*

        I think team building is useful, but I abhor team competition. I truly do not care about winning, I have zero qualms about sabotaging my own team so I could get out of this thing, and I will not do any kind of physical team building, and I will lie to get out of it. I am sorry, I twisted my ankle on the way, too bad, so sad.
        I grew up as a non athletic kid who was always made feel to be the reason her PE team lost. I am not doing this at work.
        Also, I have finally done the escape room, and hated every second of it, because I am terrible at puzzles, and being timed makes me flustered and stressed.
        Give me trivia or board games.

      8. münchner kindl*

        Because useful team-building doesn’t need artificially induced stress with an activity that has no practical relation to the actual work.

        We know this because in addition to the many many testimonies of people annoyed and frustrated (injured and excluded) by poorly thought out team building exercises, people have done studies on team building, so we have hard data.

        And that’s also why your opinion that it’s good and useful is a minority, because most people either have personal experience of it going badly, or have read the studies.

        That doesn’t mean that all team building exercises end badly – some work, especially if you are not in the excluded group. Often when they work it’s because the group is already homogenous, already professional, there are no big management problems the exercise is meant to band-aid, so even a badly-applicable exercise works.

        That doesn’t make it a good choice in the majority of cases, though.

      9. sofar*

        I recently did a tactical laser tag thing (not with work, but with friends) that was very team-buildy. Ie, you had to collect “money” from drop points by shooting the drop point and transport it back to base by shooting a panel on the base. You could also rob each other’s bases. Yes, you could shoot people, but it was way more strategic than that. A few laser tag places here focus on specialized activities like that, for corporate groups. It’s physically demanding, so I get how it wouldn’t work for all teams. But I agree that the idea that “laser tag is just about shooting each other in a dark room” isn’t always the case.

        We also did an escape room, and it was great — requires less movement, and there’s a literal timer that ends the game, so worst case, you’re out of there in an hour.

      10. Life Outside of Work*

        At the job I just left, the hyper-social extroverts (true extroverts who get their batteries recharged by being around people) damned near peed themselves when COVID restrictions were lifted and they could return to the office and PLAN ALL THE THINGS.

        We had monthly happy hours, monthly team lunches, quarterly team outings (all of the things other people here have listed: laser tag, escape room, ice skating, board games, etc.), catered team breakfasts, and “game” lunches where the games were of the “get to know your co-worker” variety (horrid things like “Guess whose baby picture is whom!”).

        In a department of 15 people, only 3 faithfully participated in All The Things. So they had to branch out and start inviting other teams to the breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, and team-building activity.

        When I left, it was pretty much a group of work friends doing activities they enjoyed on the company dime during work hours.

        Also? The Three Faithful Participants were a Sr Manager and two staff. Guess who got promoted off-cycle in a shorter timeframe than had ever happened in the department before?

        If you said, “The two staff who went to All The Things with the Sr Manager,” move to the head of the line.

      11. But what to call me?*

        I’m not a bit opposed to team building, including more active team building events (if optional) and even some competitive ones, but laser tag and paintball sound like my nightmare. A competition where someone’s goal is to sneak up and get me? Where I’m letting my team down when someone inevitably succeeds at sneaking up and getting me, because I’m terrible at that kind of thing? No thank you.

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Most of my team camaraderie has come from the shared trauma of the work that comes down the pike. The artificial trauma is a bit redundant.

    7. That Coworker's Coworker*

      My company did axe-throwing as a team building activity last year!
      I guess I can look at the bright side: at least it was at targets, and not each other… unless maybe that was practice for this year…

    8. kiki*

      I think there are a lot of people who learned a lot about teamwork and group dynamics from sports. Because that’s how they learned so much, a lot of those individuals carry over into the workplace that athletic or competitive team events will be valuable for everyone. Some people like this have privileges that make them less likely to be aware of the reasons somebody would not like to participate. If you and all your friends love playing kickball and its super easy and fun to you, it might be hard to imagine that there are people who would absolutely dread that event (or have a barrier to playing, even if they wanted to).

    9. Quill*

      And what’s with people who decide we shall all do ONE highly structured activity, instead of “hey there’s some food and you can either do an activity or hang around and talk”

    10. NaoNao*

      I just watched Season 3 of “Halt and Catch Fire” and the young San Fran team building a brand new computer application in the late 80s had an absolute blast doing paintball, and the tv show makes it look like tons of fun and an unbeatable team building opportunity. Notably the team is 9/10 male and young. So…there’s that. And the show depicts the much-older accountant snapping angrily that he is not interested after being pressured to do so by the hyped-up 20 something’s. That part was accurate!

    11. Allura Vysoren*

      One of the only things my last company did well was a yearly volleyball tournament. Playing was totally optional. Around lunchtime there was a cookout. Everyone not playing was allowed to go outside and watch the tournament for an hour or two (scheduled for departments where coverage was essential). No travel necessary because it was on the lawn outside the office. Someone would usually bring another low-key game like cornhole.

  2. Daria Grace*

    #1, you are right to push back on lasertag. It’s a niche interest, not a thing most adults will enjoy. Even as someone with no health issues or violence related trauma, its just not a good time for me and I don’t want coworkers to see how that brings out my clumsiness

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. I would’ve loved laser tag if it had been a thing when I was a kid. In spite of being very clumsy, I loved playing cops & robbers and James Bond -spying games. I was a tomboy and didn’t enjoy playing with dolls or other things that the girls in my friend circle typically enjoyed, so until I was about 11 years old I mostly hung out with boys who were a year or two younger (we lived in a village where all adults kept an eye on all kids, and kids as young as 5 went outside without direct parental supervision, which was unusual then and would be unthinkable now). Indoors I usually built stuff out of Legos, or played with my dad’s Meccano set from the 1950s. Sure there were games that all of us played, like hide & seek or tag. I guess I was lucky in that the boys accepted me as a friend.

      Now I’m fat and clumsier than ever. I really don’t want to show my physical limitations at work any more than I can help.

      That said, I don’t think that team building always has to be directly related to work tasks. Last week we had a two-day offsite, and the last item on the agenda was paint pouring. It’s very liberating because when you pour the paint, you have very limited control of the end result, and even those who’re self-conscious about their lack of artistic skills seemed to enjoy it. I certainly did.

      1. Hohumdrum*

        Oh pour paint sounds fun!

        Laser tag is def a bad idea for work, but if it helps at all for you personally it’s not actually all that athletic or requiring fitness. Or at least when I’ve played they didn’t allow you to run or climb anything, and the way the game is designed is when you get hit you’re only out for a brief time and then can play again. Also it’s good for your team is just spend the whole game hanging out guarding your base. So you could spend the whole game (usually like 10 minutes) just hanging out and be quite useful actually. That’s what I do because I have 0 aim or athletic ability.

        Again, not advocating for this is a good work activity, but since I see a few people in the comments being like “oh looks fun but I could never” I just wanted to clarify that the actual game is waaaay not athletic and what you see on tv is a lie/or is paintball lol, so if you genuinely wanted to play with friends sometime it may not be as intense as you think.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Laser tag may not be as inclusive as you think. Often participants wear vests and since these businesses often cater to kid parties they may not have enough extended sizes for adults.(And remember extended sizes would need to include your company’s buff former NBA player as well as standard-issue XXL desk jockeys like me.)

          Then check if climbing is required — if the target being defended is in the rafters, or if there’s no way to hide at ground level— because stairs & heights are themselves an issue.

          And that’s all on top of the gun violence issues Alison discussed.

        2. Sloanicota*

          But it’s not as if anyone is going to sit down with this team and analyze why the challenge did or didn’t relate to the work tasks or an appreciation for diversity of styles/approaches/strengths etc. It’s just “toss people into this activity and go for drinks when it’s over.”

        3. Minimal Pear*

          Yes I’m physically disabled and enjoy laser tag! I just hang out somewhere with some cover and snipe the other team.

    2. Kristen K*

      OP should plop down on a corner and pew-pew the ceiling. Bonus if she can get others to do it too.

    3. High Score!*

      In addition to the reasons listed, The low lights and flashing neon crap everywhere gives me headaches. I like playing, but the headaches are so bad that I don’t.

    4. The Original K.*

      A former employer had laser tag as the holiday activity. It was not well-received. You could opt out, but there wasn’t much to do if you did. It was kind of a dud. We just kind of sat around eating bad pizza.

    5. Antilles*

      My last company did a holiday party at an arcade which had laser tag. If you wanted to play laser tag, we had a couple slots reserved where it was just us. If you didn’t want to play laser tag, you just kept right on playing another arcade game or drinking beer for those 15 minutes instead. Seemed to work just fine.

      1. Antilles*

        As for being clumsy, the couple times I’ve done laser tag as an adult, the game is designed that you don’t really need to be particularly physically fit, a good shot, or anything else to still be productive. In terms of the level of physical effort, it honestly felt much closer to playing hide and seek or blind man’s bluff in a small than a sport. People weren’t completely silent like you’d be in those sorts of games, but the overall vibe of generally moving quietly and being surprised/surprising people was similar.
        That said, an entire afternoon of laser tag like OP is saying? That’s too much. My company had two sessions of ~15-minutes of laser tag throughout the night and that seemed like pretty much the Goldilocks amount: Long enough to be enjoyable but still short enough that anybody who opted out wouldn’t be left out; IIRC at least one person said they didn’t even realize we had laser tag because they were so wrapped up in Fruit Ninja that they missed the announcement.
        (somehow hit the submit button when I hit enter for a new line)

    6. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’m not saying not to push back on laser tag which can be mighty exclusive to some, but do we know that most adults arent enjoying it though? LW seems to have said “a few of us who didn’t have a great time.” Is that a few out of 5? A few out of 10? A few out of 50? If it’s 3 out 0f 50 who aren’t enjoying laser tag, then maybe instead of suggesting laser tag be taken out permanently, offer a rotation of activities so that others may feel included.

      1. Laser Tag LW*

        We are a small org (under 20) and at least a third of us did not enjoy it. There are others who probably didn’t enjoy it either but I am only comfortable discussing it with a few of us who are lower level employees. I don’t feel comfortable asking higher ups what they thought; a few of them obviously enjoyed it enough to suggest we do it again and I suspect the ones who didn’t enjoy it (and again, these are just my suspicions but I do believe a few of the higher ups also didn’t much enjoy it) don’t feel like putting up a fuss about it.

  3. Shakti*

    #3 yikes! This is awful not just for religious reasons, but what if someone is an alcoholic and is struggling and they just get alcohol sent to them with no way to opt out? It’s not great from a religious standpoint or a mental health standpoint either

      1. Allonge*

        In that case it’s a thoughtless and/or impractical gift, not an active danger to their health, though (unless I am missing something? I would hope that having a glass of wine in the evening is the same level of risk as for car drivers – it’s not impossible that there is an emergency and they would need to drive but most days it’s not going to happen).

        The point that there should be a chance to opt out stands, of course.

      2. Despachito*

        I think this is a moot point because nobody can FORCE them to drink the alcohol.

        (I get it that is annoying to get some despite several warnings that OP does not want the alcohol even in their home, but OP’s issue would never be associated with actually DRINKING the alcohol).

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          But it’s still an incredibly jerk move. “I’m not FORCING you to drink this, just sending it to someone trying to get over an addiction that changes the way people’s brains work.”

          1. acoa*

            So it’s totally ok to send a meat package to vegans then, right?

            You really don’t get it.

            This happened to me, and to make things worse, I did have to sign for the package, which I was rudely awakened for at ac ungodly early hours on a day off!! It was part of a gift basket, if I had known it had alcohol in it I would have refused the delivery.

            My employer was kind enough to take it back and gave me a gift card instead, but it was awful and did not have the intended effect of making me feel appreciated!!!

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Um, no, that is obviously also not ok? Just because I mention one action is a jerk move doesn’t mean all unmentioned actions are awesome. May your holiday season be free from jerk gifts and ungodly early wake-up calls.

          2. Katie A*

            Okay, but this comment was a response to the idea of someone who can’t drink much because they use a motorized wheelchair.

            That’s not the same situation as sending it to someone who is an alcoholic. It’s more like saying wine is a bad gift because it’s illegal to drive drunk. Yes, it’s illegal, but it’s not really a reason that wine is a bad gift because “someone might break the law with this present” isn’t very convincing. Alcoholism and religious objections are much better examples.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Even worse, sending it to their home with no warning means that if a partner or child of the employee has a problem with addiction, the workplace is creating a lousy situation for the whole family by having wine show up unbeknownst to the employee.

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              FWIW, I went back to look at the comment Despachito was replying to again (because I commented pre-coffee while brushing my teeth and listening to one kid yell at my spouse about not wanting to put on pants while the other kid loudly did their best impression of a malfunctioning robot so yeah…definitely could have misread!) and it’s been replaced by an emdash. Definitely had the distinct impression that Sparkling Blue also had a mention about alcoholics so if not, whoops and sorry to all.

        2. Rebecca*

          So, I was an addict (opiates, not alcohol). I cannot impart enough how addiction rewires your brain. It takes YEARS for the brains of long-term addicts to return to normal. It took a good 2.5 or so years of sobriety for me, personally, for that urge to actually just be a fleeting thought.

          It really isn’t as simple as just saying no for a lot of people. If it was, there would be a lot less addicts. Attitudes like this are harmful. It further stigmatized addiction.

          1. monan*

            Agreed. My father was an alcoholic. The vast majority of the time he didn’t drink at all, and everything was OK. However, if he had just one drink, he’d fall off the wagon spectacularly and it’d take months to years for him to sober up. Sending alcohol to our house would have been risking disaster. Please please escalate this OP.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              I’ve heard the definition of alcoholism as being “it’s not not being able to stop drinking. It’s not being able to stop at just one drink.”

          2. Practice practice practice*

            OK, but Despachito was responding to a comment about people in wheelchairs, not people with addiction. It’s fair to say that a person who uses a motorized device and in concerned about dui/dwi can just drink in moderation or not at all.

            1. Rebecca*

              It’s a harmful attitude, and that’s the point. Pushing the narrative that it’s a moral failing if you can’t refuse alcohol, when there’s decades of research and science telling us otherwise, is dangerous. It stigmatizes addiction, which makes it that much more difficult to get help. It also works its way into the thought process of addicts, and creates further mental health issues.

              1. Despachito*

                I beg your pardon?

                I was answering a comment saying that it is dangerous for a wheelchair user to drink and drive the wheelchair (which I assume is true), because I just do not think this is a good argument for never giving them a bottle of wine. I assume a wheelchair user has the same agency in this sense as a car driver, i.e. not to drink when they are about to drive, and no one would say that it is inherently wrong to give alcohol to a person who can drive a car.

                This said, I get it is annoying for OP to be repeatedly gifted something they cannot use, after they expressed several times that they do not want or appreciate it. It is definitely oblivious and can be handled better but at that point I’d think how much capital I am willing to burn for this, or whether I’d rather regift the wine to a friend who will appreciate it more.

    1. Ink*

      There are so many ways the lack of opt-out option could screw someone over. It’d be better if it was opt IN. And some years it’s THREE bottles?! Even if you’d be fine with one, the quantity muddies things even more

      1. Mister_L*

        I misread it as one out of a selection of three, the quantity makes it even worse.
        Totally agree with everything you wrote.

      2. StarTrek Nutcase*

        “Opt In” should be the standard and not just for wine. So-called holiday (aka Christmas) parties, Secret Santa exchanges, team-building activities, etc. would all benefit. And part of “opt in” would include no boss or peer pressure or interrogating, no career consequences, etc. I always believed in giving 100% to my work, but not free work, time or money, and not social energy beyond professional interactions. Luckily, I now qualify as an old foggy who doesn’t care if my opinions are in the minority.

        1. Batty Winged Bat*

          I totally agree with you. Outside of normal work, I want things like parties, get-togethers, gift exchanges, etc. to be reserved for my friends and family (i.e. the people I actually want to do those things with). Forced merriment with my coworkers is exhausting and not very enjoyable.

          1. Rebecca*

            I’m in this camp too. I leave work at work. I do not want to interact with co-workers outside of work. Not because I dislike them (well, most of them), but because that’s how I organize my life. Work stays at work, lest I drive my family insane.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Is there an age limit to old-fogeyness? I have a birthday coming up and I wonder if I start qualifying.

          Thanks to the AAM comment section I recently discovered “Jew Who Has It All”. Now every time I see something about “the holiday season” I think, “Yes, it’s Universal that every culture has its most important holidays in Fall around the time of the High Holy Days”.

    2. Asdfghjkl*

      If there’s someone in your household with a drinking problem, having a bottle of wine arrive is miserable.

      If you immediately pour it down the sink, it’s distrustful and sad.

      If you hang onto it to give away, it radiates waves of worry until you do.

      1. AMH*

        Imagining this scenario (as a family member of someone with addiction) gave me instant, stomach knotting anxiety. I absolutely agree with you.

    3. black cat lady*

      It’s very, very tone deaf to continue to send the wine after the poster specifically requested to opt out. [BTW – over 23 years of sobriety and counting so I wouldn’t want it either.]

      There is never one perfect gift, but the CEO should consider offering an alternative of say fruit, candy or treats baskets. It’s really a slap in the face at this point to send the wine each year.

      I know this is petty but giving wine to non-drinkers also means they do not get the benefit of the holiday gift. Unless they save money by regifting it each year.

      1. Merrie*

        Plus odds are decent a lot of their family and friends are of the same religious group and don’t drink either, so they might not have a lot of people they could even regift it too.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes, it’s… ok, so I do drink wine, I like wine.

        But I live alone and I am from a culture and a family with Issues around alcohol, so my rule is that I don’t drink when I am home alone. Most of the people I could re-gift to live several countries away (or work in the same place). I would not be harmed in any meaningful way by the gift but I would still love to opt out of getting it.

        And this is nothing, nothing compared to OP’s situation, or legit examples of actual harm already mentioned here. So, yes, please make these things opt-out and donate the bottles left over or don’t buy them in the first place.

        1. Quill*

          Wine is an especially impractical gift and I think the only reason we still culturally think it’s a good one is that there used to be more times where it was actually appropriate – say, when bringing it to the host of a dinner party. Open a bottle of wine at a dinner party of six and everyone can have about a glass. (Google says there’s about five servings per bottle but serving people slightly less than alcohol than they might have gone for on their own has never been a bad option for keeping parties under control. And often not everyone will like wine, or this specific wine, enough to want to drink a full serving. Especially if they have to drive home.) Open a bottle of wine at home when you live alone and you’ve committed to drinking five-ish servings of alcohol between now and when it will go bad in the fridge, or throwing it out.

          … Which is why I have had the last bottle of wine I was gifted three years ago still sitting in an upper cabinet.

          And this is before we factor in anything regarding health, religion, or addiction: wine’s cultural identity as A Gift You Give People is entirely based on it’s value as a signifier of giving someone who hosts a fancy party something in return for their hospitality. Without that context I doubt it would even be on the cultural radar as something jobs would try to give us – what company gives out a sixpack of beer as an employee gift?

      3. k*

        Thank you for specifying your years of sobriety, black cat lady. My mother has struggled with alcoholism for years and is currently approaching one year of sobriety, and I’m grateful to say that she’s never had such a healthy, happy sober year. She often receives accolades and small gifts for the quality of her work, and if someone tried to gift her alcohol as a result (and disregarded her request to not receive it), I’d be furious. More importantly, she would hate to be put in that position.
        May you have long, healthy, happy, sober years, too. :)

      4. Christina*

        “I know this is petty but giving wine to non-drinkers also means they do not get the benefit of the holiday gift. Unless they save money by regifting it each year.”

        ^Exactly. I was appalled when HR just told OP to submit for reimbursement for a bottle of soda as a replacement for the wine. WHAT? In what world is a soda an equivalent gift to a bottle of wine? One is many times more expensive than the other! Good grief!

      5. Rhiannon*

        Candy would be a slap in the face to diabetics. Gift cards to somewhere common, like a grocery store, are the way to go.

    4. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      At a previous job, my boss started making wine at home and then sending the bottles to clients. I pointed out that sending alcohol to people without them knowing it’s coming is dangerous since alcoholism is pretty common and they or someone they live with might not want alcohol, however good the intention, in their home. Sending it to the office just then opens up the can of worms of having alcohol at work and then if you don’t want it, who to give it to without it seeming like favoritism, since he sent two bottles, not enough to cover enough of an entire team.

      Then when I stopped drinking, I had to have the, “No, really, do not give me wine- I know it’s personal to you, but I just can’t have it and giving it to me is a problem,” talk, which he respected but put me in a weird position.

      I honestly do not understand how anyone thinks alcohol and work, in any context outside of alcohol related products or services, is appropriate anymore.

    5. Nathan*

      That was my thought exactly — what if the gift triggered a relapse in an alcoholic?! What a terrible situation for everyone involved.

      Not to overshadow the disrespect shown to LW3’s religious beliefs, of course. Even if that was the only concern it would still more than warrant pushback.

    6. Helen B*

      There are so many reasons why someone might not want to have alcohol in the house, all the way from “don’t like it” through pregnancy, religion and addiction.

      It’s as silly a gift as, say, having a kitten delivered to everyone’s house with an invitation to a cat-petting session, regardless of whether someone likes cats, doesn’t like cats, or is deathly allergic to cats. The gift says loads about the giver and their lack of empathy with the recipient.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          But, the wine could be abandoned on a street corner or wind up in a high kill shelter!

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Great analogy, but now I want someone to send me a kitten and invite me to a cat petting session! Or even better, a puppy and a dog petting session!

        But joking aside, you are absolutely right!

    7. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

      Also, such a jerk move to say that OP can submit to be reimbursed for pop! Literally, what pop in the world is expensive as even a cheap bottle of wine?

      It also feels like an intentional dig, like, “Oh, you don’t drink? Then have a kid’s drink instead since that must be what you like.” Absolutely no thought, no, taking seriously that there are plenty of teetotal adults. Just give OP the money or a REAL alternative gift!

    8. Dek*

      That was my first thought. It’s bad enough for OP’s religious restriction not being respected, but the level of harm this does could be exponentially worse to someone struggling with alcohol (or in a household with someone struggling).

      It always feels so infuriating to have to request a formal accommodation for something that should just be… not a big deal?

    9. tinaturner*

      If they insist on sending it you could change your mailing address to your parents’. Would they refuse to do THAT?

    10. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Yeah, the risk to someone who’s trying to stay sober was my first thought too. Really irresponsible & insensitive at the company’s end.

    11. goddessoftransitory*

      As a side road note: I can’t believe the mail carrier left alcohol at the OP’s house with no signature. They’d catch holy hell from the State Liquor Board in my state for that!

      If it happens again (ugh,) OP, return it to the post office (which is a huge hassle and you shouldn’t have to do it) and state you did not sign for this and are refusing delivery.

      1. wine dude*

        In the US it is ILLEGAL to use the postal service to send alcohol! If they really are using USPS to deliver the wine, they could get into BIG trouble.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Also, those delivery services that are allowed to do it cannot do it in every state and are required to deliver it in person, so that they can verify age. If they left the package at OP’s house, my guess is that it is not getting delivered in a legal manner (assuming this is in the US).

      2. whingedrinking*

        Yeah, that surprised me too. I’ve received/picked up deliveries of alcohol and cannabis* and have always had to show ID either at the address or at the post office.

        *Legal where I live, obviously.

    12. NerdyKris*

      Also people who are on probation/parole who might have alcohol restrictions. It wouldn’t be great if their parole officer showed up for a check when there’s a shipment of wine on the porch. (This is an actual scenario I’ve seen, where one member of a family was on parole and the rest couldn’t bring any alcohol back to the house)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Someone in my state was sent to jail because on the last day of their supervision, their supervision official found some beers in their fridge that they were planning to drink the next day. They may have been sent back to jail for as many years as they’d been out on supervision, even though their original offense had nothing to do with alcohol.

        For some reason, our state prisons are 3o% over capacity.

    13. lareesa*

      yeah, I thought that too. alcohol as a gift to all employees just gives me the ick no matter what. it excludes a lot of people (religious, sober for whatever reason, pregnant, DOESN’T LIKE WINE, etc)

    14. Michelle*

      A friend of mine has a roommate who would be in violation of his probation if alcohol was found in the house. Imagine going to prison because your roommate’s boss wouldn’t let him opt out.

  4. Ink*

    I think ahead on #3 is the way to go- one convesation a year, after it’s already gone out, is to easy to forget before you wind up on the list again. Yes they SHOULD remember by now, but “should” was abandoned a couple years ago.

    (The soda reimbursement is also killing me. Wow, thanks, a couple bucks. Is it even worth the effort of submitting? Soda is common option to fill in for alcohol, and that’s all good, but in this context I think I’d be less insulted to receive nothing at all. Like inheriting your mom’s old minivan as a new driver, but then your brother gets a brand new ferrari when it’s his turn. The minivan’s great, but the rest negates that.)

    1. MEH Squared*

      Yeah, the reimbursement for the pop comment just adds insult to injury. Plus, it doesn’t even make sense. “We sent you a gift you can’t have in your house so you–need to submit for the reimbursement for a can/bottle of pop because–” I don’t get how the two are connected at all. Or why submitting for reinbursement was introduced into the conversation.

      OP#3, I agree that you need to talk to someone high up now to nip it firmly in the bud. You shouldn’t have to, but here we are. I woould also be highly annoyed at this point because I don’t drink (allergic) and would not want it in my house, either. In your case, it’s even worse because it’s against your religious beliefs.

      1. kalli*

        The idea is that the organisers don’t know what LW would want, so they can buy it and then they can be reimbursed the appropriate amount.

        It would be more equal if they gave LW the same amount that the wine would have cost, because soda and wine aren’t at price parity, but the principle is not unusual, especially when they don’t have anything to enter to describe the purchase (and where their software may not allow generic line items or make entries without a corresponding receipt).

        1. MEH Squared*

          I guess the reason I got caught up in it was that it’s supposedly a gift and making the LW buy their own gift didn’t compute in my brain. I mean, the very least the company could have done was just cut the LW a check for the cost of the wine. That would have at least been, nominally, a gift.

        2. Quill*

          It’s one thing to sub out soda as a suitable replacement when serving everyone else an alcoholic drink, but it’s adding insult to injury when you’re sending someone a gift. Here’s a bottle of fancy expired grape juice that says it’s worth $15, though it’s closer to 10 because we bought it in bulk. But for you, the non-drinker, here’s a 2-3 dollar liter of soda.

      2. BubbleTea*

        The soda reimbursement suggestion shows the company is thinking about this as “LW doesn’t want to be left out” rather than “LW does not want wine”. They’re clearly not thinking it through, but that gives me some hope that clear language like Alison suggests might just work.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Could OP suggest another address for “their” wine to be mailed to, I wonder? I don’t know what it would be – perhaps a friend who would enjoy it or some sort of center that could benefit. Can still act appreciative as if you did receive it yourself if necessary.

        1. pope suburban*

          My first thought was giving the wine to someone else too, but I’m not sure if that would still be in conflict with their religious beliefs as well. I used to work in the wine industry and would get free bottles, which I did not drink because I don’t like wine, but I did reuse as gifts for my hosts when I went to dinner or holiday parties. But I am not religious nor teetotal, so there were no ethical/moral conundrums there for me. The letter writer may be in a different situation there, and honestly it’s just crappy of their employer to continue actively discriminating against them when it would be so simple to send a gift card or fruit basket instead. Frankly, in their shoes, I’d be casually (or not so casually, depending on how the job is the rest of the time) searching for another job, because this is just ridiculous.

        2. PNW cat lady*

          When I was a child I had extended family birthday parties. And I never seemed to get any gifts. They would buy me clothes that didn’t fit and instead of exchanging them for a different size, one of my younger cousins always went home with a new wardrobe. It didn’t feel good then, and it doesn’t make an employee feel valued if they need to provide work with an address of people who are a better fit for the gift.

      4. Nomic*

        And that “we’ll give you soda instead” is so.. unnecessarily tone-deaf. For the price of a bottle of wine, a nice selection of teas or coffees could be sent, and those are tasting experiences as well.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Not saying this is true for the OP, but I had one friend whose beliefs included not involving others in drinking either. If they chose to go out and buy, great, but actively sending them wine like this wouldn’t have been OK.

          1. acoa*

            Yeah, alcoholism has already destroyed my life from someone else’s drinking, it’s not fun for me and I’m not participating in alcohol culture or supporting the industry. I trust that there are people who can drink socially but I don’t want to be around it or support other’s habits.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          It would depend on what religion LW 3 is as some religions that don’t allow for alcohol also wouldn’t allow for tea or coffee. It seems like LW would be fine not getting any gift as well, not that they are concerned with getting an equivalent-value non-alcoholic gift.

        3. Ro*

          Asking might be better and letting OP pick a gift of the same value. If OP is mormon for example, not drinking alcohol might extend to not drinking caffeine as well which would apply to tea, coffee and most sodas.

    2. Observer*

      I think ahead on #3 is the way to go- one convesation a year, after it’s already gone out, is to easy to forget before you wind up on the list again.

      Pragmatically, I agree with you. Your only chance is to talk to someone before the gifts get ordered. But absent some formal accommodation language, I’m not hopeful. Because just putting a notation in the address is a real no-brainer that no one could bother to do.

    3. münchner kindl*

      Soda re-imbursement is a double-down on the thoughtlessness, since “soda” is not alternative to a bottle of wine, especially with a wine tasting.

      The alternative is either grape juice – from grapes intended for juice (different type than to make wine out of), or fruit juice. At least in my country, there are companies who blend fruit juices together to accompany red meat or fish dishes – because so many people have religious or health restrictions on alcohol, but don’t want to sit empty at a nice meal when others are having one glass of red/ white wine.

      Surely this alternative exists in the USA, too? Especially since it will be shipped anyway, so can be bought on the internet from the start?

      In addition – depending on the reasoning behind the no-alcohol rule of OP – there are also alcohol-free wines, more common now than 20 years ago. Depending on where company buys the wines, a good wine seller should be able to suggest alternatives – IF it’s mentioned in advance.

      So LW might want to suggest what alternative would be acceptable to her – fruit juice or also alcohol-free wine? (Even if LW actually wants soda, she should say “Please send me a nice bottle of Dr Pepper instead of the wine, thanks” before, so she gets it delivered same as the other employees).

      While thoughtlessness is not good, I also prefer to think they are not malicious, but, because it’s “only” once a year, so mailing the reminder a few weeks before this year’s wine is bought and shipped might solve the problem.

      1. Rebecca*

        We absolutely have that in the US. I just saw a news segment the other day about a sober bar, where they mix mocktails and have different selections of the kind of juice you’re talking about.

      2. L*

        As someone who doesn’t drink, I don’t really enjoy alternatives that seem intended to make it “look like” or “have the ambience of” drinking. I don’t ever really want a mocktail or non-alcohol beer or even fruit juice. It just kind of makes me feel like I’m trying to mimic drinking alcohol. Soda or water is my preference 99% of the time. That said, I don’t particularly want reimbursement for a soda as a replacement for wine. I’d prefer a box of chocolates or something if it were up to me, otherwise nothing, or a gift card.

    4. Morning Reading*

      There are breweries around here that make good non-alcoholic root beer, some specialty fizz drinks or cider. If offered “reimbursement for a soda” I would definitely go for something of equivalent value to the wine. Or a case of pelligrino.

        1. So Tired*

          In the US, where we can safely assume this LW is from since they say it’s the US employees getting the wine, we have both hard (alcoholic) and sparkling (non-alcoholic) cider. Martinelli’s is the most common brand of sparkling cider, and they even have different varieties now, apple grape which looks like red wine, blush which is a pinkish color that kind of mimics rosé, and even a pear sparkling cider. There is also apple cider which can be served warm and is essentially apple juice with spices added and is a popular non-alcoholic drink in the fall in many areas of the US. 2/3 of the things we call “cider” here are not inherently alcoholic.

          This of course doesn’t solve the issue of LW’s company not heeding her pleas for no alcohol, nor the tone deaf “submit a reimbursement for soda”, it was something I wanted to bring to your attention, that not all cider here contains alcohol.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          In the US, you can get sweet cider (not yet fermented) or hard cider (fermented). Sweet cider from a farmers’ market is amazing.

          But the OP shouldn’t have to submit anything! The employer should have an easy-to-choose non-alcoholic option. (And many places that ship wine do ship other things.)

          1. Your Mate in Oz*

            Australia + Aotearoa I’m used to “cider” meaning alcoholic and “sparkling apple juice” meaning non-alcoholic. You *can* carbonate just about any juice, but from experience there are some you should not (mango juice!) BigClive on youtube seems to think you *can* carbonate many alcoholic beverages as well (same caveat).

            “employer should” seems to be one of the themes here :)

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              We also have sparkling cider. (Much better than sparkling grape juice.) And apple juice is not the same as sweet cider.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          In the US, you can get a drink which is apple juice before it has been filtered, which we call apple cider. It’s just as sweet as apple juice but has a more complex flavor and is usually only available in the fall. It is often served warm with mulling spices such as cinnamon and cloves.

          If you ferment it, it becomes “hard cider” and is often purchased in 12-oz bottles like beer. (The half-gallon of fresh apple cider I’d gotten from an orchard and forgotten in my refrigerator became increasingly alcoholic over the month of October.)

          “Sparkling cider” in contrast is carbonated apple juice and is sold in festive champagne-type bottles as a non-alcoholic alternative (similar to sparkling grape juice).

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There are some fantastic soda companies out there too — often local, sometimes historic, sometimes novelty.
      The company could so easily send an RSVP offering option of CEO Choice wine vs a 12pack of Hosmer Mountain sodas (a local example I know offhand).

  5. Coin Purse*

    Re: #3…I don’t drink alcohol in any form and my last company was really set on alcohol gifts for every occasion. I refused them and talked to my manager. Then I went to HR. They arranged for me to get craft root beer for all future events.

    After I had confronted this issue, a large # of people came out as uncomfortable with alcohol gifts. HR then had an alternative available for everyone at each gifting event. It pays to speak up….there may be many others who just throw it out or give it away.,

    1. Clare*

      Putting my hand up as one of those others! But I don’t have what a wine-mad company would call a ‘legitimate’ excuse, I just don’t like the taste. I’d love it if craft root beer became a common alcohol-alternative gift.

      1. pally*

        They shouldn’t be judging the reason(s) why someone does not wish to receive wine (or any alcohol) as a gift. Just the fact someone doesn’t want it should be good enough to search out a different gift.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think that it’s pretty well established that there is no universally appreciated gift, even cash. I don’t think companies are obligated to make sure there is a preferred gift that every employee likes. Yes, it’s probably better for morale if there are multiple choices, but even then there are no guarantees and it does make organizing the gifts far more complicated.

          However, it is absolutely essential for companies to make sure their gifts aren’t harming their employees or violating their beliefs. It’s the difference between “I don’t like really like peanuts” and “these peanuts might kill my child.”

      2. Phryne*

        I do not drink (this) is a legitimate excuse though. I have only once tasted root beer long ago but I’m pretty sure I did not like it… Having root beer pushed upon me would be as annoying as wine to you. Having one type of gift is just not a smart policy.

        My brother and SIL don’t drink wine (they don’t like wine, they do drink other alcohol) but my brother regularly gets (pretty good) bottles from his employer because it is a product they sell… So they saved up the good wine and served up the whole mismatched but delicious collection at their wedding. It was a great success. That only works once though, not sure what they do with them now. Maybe save up for an anniversary :P
        (Obviously this is not advice to the OP, just a funny story)

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Maybe they regift them. It’s pretty common with people who don’t drink wine (such as myself), but don’t have problems with alcohol.

        2. L*

          If it’s truly just taste, I tend to agree. However, the acceptable reasons for not drinking tend to be religious, pregnant, medical, or you’re an alcoholic. There isn’t really room for someone to say “I don’t partake in mind altering drugs.” And to me that’s distinct from just not liking the taste, when it comes to gift acceptability, but also not really something people tend to announce as a reason. Would marijuana be an acceptable gift at a liberal-minded company in Colorado, even if you knew there was a good chance many employees didn’t smoke? I don’t see it as super different, though of course cultural norms are different.

          1. Phryne*

            “There isn’t really room for someone to say “I don’t partake in mind altering drugs.””
            Um? How is there not? I know lots of people that do not drink, or do legal drugs, for no other reason than because the don’t want to? That is very normal? Honestly, if your environment needs a ‘valid excuse’ that is a them problem?

    2. DameB*

      You know, that’s an excellent point. My company is VERY VERY booze centric and I don’t drink (not health or addiction or religious or anything — I just don’t like the taste). The number of “good job” bottles of Prosecco that I’ve given to coworkers is astounding. I cant’ be the only one and should speak up next time it comes up. Thanks.

    3. EngineeringFun*

      I keep a dry house. No reason I need to give to my employer. I would be angry if this keep happening without my consent. Glad they gave you an alternative.

    4. Arts Akimbo*

      For medical reasons I can’t have alcohol or a sugary beverage like root beer. I think there are a lot of diabetics out there that are in a similar boat. I wish HR would just give people cash or gift cards.

  6. Enough*

    #3 – If after using Alison’s scrubs you still get wine maybe consider returning the wine. You indicated it came through your mail delivery so write refused and return to sender.

    1. Observer*

      Except that on at least one occasion the mail carrier just left it there. No chance to refuse delivery.

      1. kalli*

        It’s a bit more effort but you can take it back to a post office or mailing centre if you don’t catch the delivery person at the time; just don’t open it, or if you have to open it before realising what it is, securely reseal the package.

      2. Indolent Libertine*

        Which I think is completely illegal, if this is in the US. Occasionally we get wine sent to us, and we’re always told that it can’t be delivered unless an adult over the legal drinking age in that jurisdiction is available to sign for it. The delivery driver is absolutely not supposed to just leave it on the doorstep. They don’t always ask us to actually sign something, sometimes they say it’s enough that they can see they’re giving it to an adult, but just leaving it is not protocol.

        1. zaracat*

          If the number of signature-required deliveries I’ve found just sitting on my doorstep is any indication, delivery drivers must be faking signatures pretty often. The signature is nearly always done on a tablet with e-pen, so it rarely looks like the recipient’s signature anyway, if it came down to checking.

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            I can definitely attest to this one. I once had a brand new, brand name, latest version (re: expensive) smart phone delivered to my house that required an adults signature for delivery. The delivery guy handed the box to my 5 year old neighbor who was running around our yard, playing with my 7 year old son and a few other neighborhood kids around the same age. The neighbor boy later handed the box to my son, who promptly left in on our back deck and took off to continue playing. I received the notification my package was delivered and signed for but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I checked with my kids if they saw the delivery truck and none of them did. I did have access to seeing the signature online and it was just a scribble. I then checked with neighbors and everyone claimed they didn’t receive the package, which I know my neighbors pretty well and had no reason to suspect any would keep the package and lie to me (but you never know…). Later on that day, when it had started raining hard, I happened to glance out a window onto our back deck and saw a box. I grabbed the now soaked box and brought it inside. Sure enough, it was my new phone. Thankfully, the phone was in a separate box inside the shipping box and it had not gotten as wet so the phone was fine. I then checked with my kids again and that’s when my son remembered the neighbor boy handing him a box. He didn’t realize it was my delivery, he just thought it was a random box and promptly forgot about it. I couldn’t be mad at my son or the neighbor kid, they did nothing wrong and were young enough to not realize it should come directly to me. And I honestly never thought to mention to my kids to let me know if a delivery truck showed up. I was definitely pissed at the delivery person, but of course making a complaint to the delivery company did nothing since I my package wasn’t lost and I eventually had my item.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I was thinking what if the person had a teenager who got home before them and who the parent did not want having unsupervised access to alcohol. Obviously, most teenager would act responsibly and not take it, but there certainly are teens who would think it an opportunity to drink or to take it for a party or to show off for their friends and hope their parents would think it just hadn’t arrived.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            I can imagine the resulting letter:

            My company sends out wine every year (it’s a hobby of the CEO) as a holiday gift. I haven’t received one but I know they’ve been sent out as people have talked about it in the office. Should I let it go or bring it up with the company (and how)? –

            Answer: bring it up, assuming good faith and they would not want you to be left out.

            Follow up update: I brought it up with the admin. They had tracking information and a photo showing it was delivered. Eventually my teenager fessed up. They were grounded for a month for stealing and embarrassing me with my employer.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I’ve had wine deliveries handed directly to my teenage sister with no one else home. They really don’t care.

        3. LB33*

          Not to derail but I don’t think I’d want to get the driver in trouble for something like this – not his fault that the company didn’t listen. These delivery drivers are often working in terrible condidtions with insane pressure for low wages so I’d rather not put it on them

        4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          I was shocked by that. I used to belong to a wine club and if I missed the delivery, I would have to go to the regional USPS distribution center — not the closest local post office — to pick up my box.

          I wonder if the sender is not properly indicating that the shipment is wine.

      3. madge*

        This part is wild to me. I own an alcohol business and it is illegal to leave wine without a signature. We have separate paperwork to submit to our third party who ships.

      4. KateM*

        Become friends with your mail carrier and ask them to keep all wine that comes to your address as a gift from you. :D

    2. OMG, Bees!*

      I would be a little tempted to smash the bottle and send the manager a picture of it saying the stop sending alcohol. But that would be as a very last step, probably before quitting.

  7. Chase*

    I am horrified about the wine. The second she asked to not receive wine, is the second her details should be withdrawn from the scheme. The why does not matter but that this now leans into discrimination is awful. And what is the writer couldn’t have it in her house due to being an alcoholic? Awful, awful, awful.

    1. lilsheba*

      I think it’s really sad that so many events and workplaces and things are alcohol centric. It’s terrible to just promote drinking all the time when it can end so badly on so many levels.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I interviewed at a place that had a bunch of DEI initiatives. It also had beers in the refrigerators, monthly happy hour with wine and whiskey-tasting Wednesdays.

        I asked what they would do if they hired someone who didn’t drink and they assured me that they had recently hired an observant Muslim woman and she just didn’t participate in any of those things.

  8. Coyote River*

    I would have quite enjoyed laser tag as a younger man, I think. I’m quite amused by the thought of some white-collar middle-management types running around a dark room playing cops and robbers.

    But having said that, it definitely isn’t appropriate for a workplace team building exercise, as it’s something many people may not enjoy for a variety of reasons. It’s difficult to find something everyone will enjoy, sure, but in this case enough people were bothered that the organization should have definitely cut it away. It surprises me they still intend to go through with it a second time, despite the feedback.

    1. John Smith*

      I hated lasertag / paintball when I was younger, primarily because I was so bad at it. I’ve found that people who attend these are generally the same types of people who drive unnecessarily large vehicles or in some way feel the need to overcompensate for something…

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I loved laser tag when I was a young woman driving a honda civic, sp your experience is not universal.

          2. Anonymous 75*

            huh, so today I learned by late 40’s female self has penis envy. okay then.

            seriously though, just because that’s your experience doesn’t make it accurate but it’s definitely rude, especially in response to someone who expressed a possible past interest. now laser tag as a team building activity is super dumb, but there’s no need to insult people who may enjoy it

            1. John Smith*

              Right. I said it was my experience. I didn’t say it was universal. Nor did I mention genitalia (and that is not what I was referring to). And I wasn’t insulting people who enjoy it, I was merely stating that the people I have seen play it appear to have a certain character trait. I really do wish people would not just make stuff up or twist things round.

          3. RagingADHD*

            Then you need to broaden your experience or bear in mind that the rest of the world may be different than your limited experience.

            IME, the top demographic for attending laser tag are teenaged girls, because I’ve only ever seen it as a venue where my daughters and their friends like to go.

            They don’t drive, and I assure you, they aren’t trying to compensate for anything.

          4. Roland*

            That has been used as an excuse for all sorts of needless, rude, and harmful generalizations. Your experience is not universal. And the motives you ascribe to those around you aren’t the same thing as their inner truth. And many people are especially quick to judge people who are good at something when they themselves aren’t good at that thing (I am also not good at laser tag so not saying that’s a problem in and of itself).

      1. Hohumdrum*

        lol I used to play laser tag every year for my (adult) birthday and I’m about as far from that stereotype as you can get. Paintball is for the war enthusiasts, laser tag is for nerds who can’t shoot for sh- and trip over their own feet but love pretending to be in Star Wars. When I would go it was mostly young adults and teens being goofy. Or at least that was my experience. I’m extremely anti-gun but always enjoyed laser tag because to my mind the laser aspect is more sci-fi vibes than about real weapons. Obviously YMMV on that part.

        I wouldn’t suggest it for a work activity, but it’s a fun and not weird thing for a person to do and enjoy imo and it’s funny to read how others perceive it.

        1. StarTrek Nutcase*

          I totally agree with your explanation of the difference between paintball vs laser tag. Though LW obviously feels they’re the same.

          As someone who in the 50s was obsessed with Star Trek TOS and later Star Wars, laser tag has always been fantasy/sci-fi based. Lasers are Obi Wan whereas paintball guns are Dirty Harry. I also grew up with Wily E. Coyote as a villain who was violent – an obviously fantasy one distinct from that in say Call of Duty video games.

        2. qwerty12345*

          Paintballs physically hurt. Like a lot if you’re reasonably close, and usually leave bruises and welts. And it’s very easy to overmark someone, and it can feel like you get the breath knocked out of you. I actually did do paintball as a team building activity once. We had fun, but it was a certain type of group, but I’m sure there were people that didn’t enjoy it.

          You ever been hit with a laser tag? Not quite the same consequence to getting hit. The black lights and music make it kind of fun. Personally I wouldn’t mind laser tag as a team building activity, but it feels kind of childish.

      2. Queer Earthling*

        “Compensating for something” is inappropriate, body-shamey, and is a cultural “joke” that really needs to die for a host of reasons.

      3. Magpie*

        What a weird thing to say! If you don’t enjoy something just don’t do it, there’s no need to put down people who do enjoy it.

      4. L*

        Well that’s rude! You can hate lastertag and paintball all you want, but there’s no need to unfairly stereotype people that enjoy the activities.

      5. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        My guy…

        Everyone else has already pointed out this is out of pocket, but I would like to reinforce for you that your perception is incorrect. I’m a queer woman who likes trains and hates trucks and laser tag was how I celebrated my 21st birthday. I’m in my 30s now and still love it.

        No one should be forced to play it for work (and I’ll point out that playing with people who don’t enjoy it makes it suck for everyone, even if you don’t care about other people) but the image you have in your head of laser tag is off base.

      6. Sascha*

        Paintball can be pretty rough and tumble, but you do understand laser tag is basically hide and seek with some neon lights, right?

    2. Jackalope*

      I love laser tag and could understand having it as, say, a possible activity if there were multiple activities provided as options. For example, on some retreats I’ve been on there is an afternoon free time slot with multiple things that participants can choose to do. But as the only activity I can see issues with having it be The Only Option.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, given the difficulty of finding something that suits everybody, I think where possible, there should be alternatives. We once had a “wellbeing” activity at work where we could choose from a walk, meditation, badminton, table tennis, art…

        That level of choice might not work so well for team building, but there are things with more variety than laser tag.

      2. NYWeasel*

        As someone who likes Laser Tag but had to be excluded the year I was pregnant, I’ll just add to this sentiment by saying that I’ve never had it as a sole activity. We’ve always gone to a “fun center” where there were all sorts of games to choose from as well as tables to sit and talk at, so everyone could just do what they wanted to. I would push back if Laser Tag was the *only* option!

    3. Allonge*

      I think I would love to try it on company dime, despite (or because of?) being really not fit. Our team is usually good at finding the funny side of stuff (and we are in Europe, so the gun issue is less of a thing), so maaaybe it would even work for us.

      But yeah, bad idea all the same, especially a repeat. And at least if it was done already, feedback about not wanting it again should be taken seriously. As in, really really seriously.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m not sure being in Europe makes guns less of an issue, when parts of Europe are actively at war right now.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Ukraine is a very very long way from me, here in Europe. Guns really are not an issue here like in the US.

        2. amoeba*

          Oh, it’s very definitely different. Yes, there’s war happening, but that’s not the same thing as having active shooter drills or actually having to be afraid of getting killed in a mass shooting in your every day life. Guns in general are very much a non-topic here, honestly. (Although people do love to discuss gun laws in the US from a safe distance… oh well.)

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Right? Even in Ukraine, children aren’t expected to conduct mass shooter drills. They have plenty to worry about, mainly random Russian missile/drone attacks. But the likelihood that one of their own neighbors may decide to kill them in their school AND has easy access to weapons isn’t something they have to worry about and prepare for.

            Hardly anyone outside the US worries about this, including the people whose countries are fighting a war for their very existence. I don’t think anyone in Kiev can just go into a store and walk out with a combat-ready rifle.

        3. allathian*

          I’m in Finland, and in my entire life of 50+ years I’ve never, ever even seen a real gun in the street (thank goodness!). Cops don’t routinely carry guns here, only tasers. If there’s a hostage situation or similar, special forces who do carry guns are called in. People here don’t have to worry about the risk of being killed if they call the cops, regardless of their ethnic background.

          Admittedly we have a conscript military service, so most young men, and an increasingly large number of young women who volunteer, learn how to handle guns during their military service.

          I’m not claiming that we’re in some kind of paradise with no violent crime, far from it. Just that the weapon of choice is usually a knife or a blunt instrument rather than a gun. We have strict licensing laws and even stricter laws about storing and carrying guns and ammo.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          I guess it depends where in Europe. I can well imagine that people in Ukraine might be uncomfortable around guns and have negative experiences with them, but I am guessing that Allonge is in a country where war is not an issue. I agree it’s not necessarily true across Europe, as there are a whole range of different experiences across the various countries in Europe. Heck, even within my…island of Ireland, I suspect this may be very different north of the border where police are armed and there was essentially a war only 25 years ago, whereas down here, yeah…guns are mainly a TV thing.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            As an example of how our culture differs on this issue, before the Halloween break, our school made a video with people in their Halloween costumes and it involved people running into the school with toy guns. This was put up on the school website. I suspect that wouldn’t be considered acceptable in the US but here it was just seen as a funny scenario.

      2. Hohumdrum*

        IME being not fit is totally fine for laser tag because you don’t really go “out” in laser tag. When you get hit your pack lights up and you can’t shoot for like 20 seconds then you’re back in again (you also can’t get hit again while you’re out which tends to encourage whoever hit you to move along to someone else rather than just spam you with hits over and over). So even if you’re slow and have terrible aim you’re still going to spend most of the time actively playing.

        You also don’t have to run around, you can just chill at your base and guard that while others on your team explore more. Also you’re not allowed to run or climb things at laser tag, they will kick you out if you go nuts on the stunts because it’s not safe in the dark, so even if you want to roam and be active you don’t need to be fit to play. Basically you walk around and pew pew at people you see not on your team, sometimes you do some crouching behind barriers. If you get too excited and jog the teens working will yell “walk!” at you lol

        Definitely not ideal for work for so many reasons, but if you’ve ever wanted to play laser tag personally it’s not a particularly athletic game and is pretty easy to engage in, IMO

        1. Heart&Vine*

          I agree that this company should’ve put more thought into their team-building retreats because, while it can be hard to find activities that are inclusive for absolutely everybody, laser tag seems like it’s bound to be exclusionary and somewhat fraught no matter what. But I also think OP is being a little negative overall. They point out that laser tag has nothing to do with work but isn’t that the point of these kinds of activities? I doubt people who work in the ceramics industry would want to do a clay-working retreat. Or people in the snack industry being taken on a pretzel factory tour. Also, I think it being a “waste of company money” is a bit subjective.

          So yeah, laser tag may not be the best choice for a retreat (although, as you pointed out no one should be forced to play and, even if they decide to play, they can always just stand around and guard the “flag” or whatever). I’d raise my concerns again if I were OP but, if everyone else outside the handful of people who didn’t like it gave it rave reviews, I’d just resign myself to bowing out or simply taking that time to get some snacks and relax with my other, similar-minded coworkers.

          1. Laser Tag LW*

            Hi, Heart&Vine! Alison has some great posts on why team building exercises aren’t really all that useful, so I won’t get into the reasons why I am, indeed, being pretty negative about all of this. And if it were company money that’d be one thing but we’re a nonprofit and get our money from generous donors, so I really do feel bad spending that money on this activity when it could be put to better use. I know that it’s probably not a ton of money but every little bit helps when you’re a nonprofit.

            1. Hohumdrum*

              I mean team building activities can actually be quite useful! Sometimes I think this site just replaces one problematic blanket statement for the opposite vs just recognizing different jobs/workplaces find different practices helpful.

              My job is creative and collaborative, and I always see a huge quality difference in ideas presented to a group after a teambuilding activity vs before. But also my job involves both doing teambuilding activities and implementing them for others, so a lot of thought is typically put into what activities we do and why, and how inclusive they are.

              I totally trust your judgment that teambuilding doesn’t improve your work! But I would like to point out that perhaps commenters here can stop suggesting they’re useless across the board in all contexts.

          2. münchner kindl*

            “Laser tag has nothing to do with work” – actually, that is one common criticism of team building exercises, that they have an activity with no relation to work to solve problems at work.

            No, people in the ceramics industry wouldn’t do a clay working retreat: they would meet up in a low-stake activity instead of stressful competition, and talk to each other. That is how teams are build, getting to know people, not artifical stress and competition like deliberatly splitting one holiday camp of 10 year olds into groups and telling them they must win against the other. That’s very bad team building and will cause problems.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          That’s much nicer than the way. I used to see it where we did go out of the room to reset equipment to rejoin.

      3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        I wouldn’t recommend it for work but it’s pretty fun if there are any places that even offer it where you are! Running is usually against the rules so fitness doesn’t matter, but there are lots of ramps and obstacles so it’s not a great fit for people with limited mobility. I’ve played a lot and most people lean in to being goofy about it. Sometimes teens take it super seriously but that makes it even more fun to be extremely silly.

        This is not advice for LW; it’s not going to appeal to most people and that’s cool and you shouldn’t be made to do it at work or any time really. But if you’re laser tag curious, check it out!

        1. Laser Tag LW*

          I agree! I was laser tag curious the first time we did it so I was okay with it, but I didn’t find it enjoyable and my biggest issue was the fact that the devices we were using really do resemble actual guns (semi-automatic weapons, maybe? I am not up on my gun types). Would I object to it less if they were more innocuous looking? Probably, but we’d still be trying to target one another in a way that would seem pretty war-like to me. I did enjoy dodgeball as a child, but I don’t think that’s a work-appropriate activity either, even before you consider how varying levels of mobility will affect how much people enjoy it or are able to participate. (Although one could make the case that dodgeball is more violent in some respects because participants are actually being physically hit by something.)

          1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

            Totally valid feelings to have! Not that you need a “valid” reason to dislike it. It’s enough to just say no and I think that should hold true at work as well for things this far outside your normal work environment/activities.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            My one experience with laser tag had been walking around in a light-up vest getting trounced by 3rd-graders with their laser pew-pew guns, so I thought it would be a fun, silly thing to do with coworkers when it was announced as a team-building exercise.

            The gun they handed me was heavy and made out of metal. One of my teammates said they thought it was a real one they’d disabled. It made machine-gun noises when you pulled the trigger. WTF.

        2. Tally miss*

          Granted I have not been around laser tag for 20 years, but places like that tend to give me horrible asthma attacks because of the harsh cleaning products they drown everything in.

      4. münchner kindl*

        I’m also in Europe, and the gun issue is a big thing for me! I’m a city person, not rural, so I’m neither in a sport shooting or traditional shooting club.

        And since the news in the past years, I’m very glad that I don’t have to be afraid of random shootings everywhere, but that my country is gun-safe.

        I have zero desire to play-shoot real people, even more people I know like colleagues.

        I also didn’t grow up with Star Wars, so zero connection there.

    4. Ally McBeal*

      I have always loved laser tag and still do. But it’s a TERRIBLE team-building exercise because there’s very little teamwork involved. You can try to strategize at the beginning of the game, but in every game I’ve played it quickly devolves into one- or two-person mini teams doing whatever they can to rack up points. It doesn’t last long enough, and the arenas are too dark and crowded, to really band together as a large group.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        Thank you! I commented similarly elsewhere and it is nice to feel confirmed.

        Ironically laser tag has brought our team together

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Not specific to laser tag, but I don’t think a team building activity necessarily means the activity itself has to involve teamwork. It’s usually more about just getting people together which in itself can be good team building.

        1. ceiswyn*

          How does just ‘getting people together’ result in team building?

          Sure, in laser tag people are ‘together’. But they’re not speaking to one another, or even recognising one another half the time. And while I enjoy running around a darkened room shooting at any lights I can see, how exactly does that build any kind of ‘team’ dynamic with the vague silhouettes wearing those lights?

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            I don’t know, but my point was that you don’t all need to be collaborating on something to have a team building event. An example might be instead of laser tag playing pool or bowling, or attending a sporting event or improv, or just going to a restaurant.

            Those could all be good team building events that don’t require the team to do anything team oriented in the activity itself.

          2. ThatGirl*

            it’s not just about the actual laser tag. it’s about spending time with your coworkers in a different setting; it allows you to see them as people, in a different light, and maybe have some fun or let off some steam.

            and look – nobody should be forced to do laser tag or any other specific activity. but I swear half the commenters here are so resistant to any kind of fun.

            1. Laser Tag LW*

              I like fun but at work I just want to do my work. So even though I’m thinking of suggesting other activities that I actually would find fun in lieu of laser tag, I still find myself faced with the fact that I’d rather be working during that time since I’ll need to catch up on my daily tasks that I won’t be able to do due to our morning meetings that week.

              1. ThatGirl*

                A reasonable workplace would ensure that you actually have the time to do these activities, too – not make someone work extra to make up for mandatory fun. I am assuming a healthy workplace here; I know not all of them are.

                And again – you have very valid reasons for not wanting to do laser tag, and nobody should be forced to do any specific thing they can’t/don’t want to. I’m just commenting on the general tenor of comments here lately.

                1. But what to call me?*

                  Sometimes there’s just no getting around the need to make up the work, like at my last workplace. The city contained the number of people that it contained and they reached the relevant birthday on the day they happened to have a birthday and the law required exactly the processes and meetings and paperwork it was going to require, and none of that was going to change just because our boss wanted us all over at the main office for some team building activities.

                  That being said, I’ve never had a problem with team building activities themselves, as long as they didn’t consist of something I would actively hate. The problem was a boss who rarely remembered that my little team’s work tasks weren’t nearly as flexible as those of most of the teams she managed. She would even encourage us to give ourselves a break and come have fun, which fell a little flat when the only way to actually give ourselves a break would be to go out of compliance with the law, which she would not have been pleased about.

            2. city deer*

              Oh ffs, not enjoying non-work activities with coworkers does not mean anyone is “resistant to any kind of fun.”

              For me, fun is doing things with my actual friends or by myself. Being with coworkers means having to keep up my work persona, and pretending to have fun while actually being in work mode is…not fun.

              As the sole member of an underrepresented minority group in my workplace, I categorically cannot “let off steam” or unwind around coworkers, or show them the side of me that exists outside of work. And that is fine because every day I can clock out and have my own fun, on my own terms, with my own community!

              Is this really so hard to comprehend?

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                Sure, laser tag isn’t for everyone (for many reasons, expertly outlined by others). But hosting a variety of social activities during work hours is not torture. Bring a puzzle, or knitting, or whatever, and be pleasant to your coworkers.

            3. Ally McBeal*

              But my whole point is that you’re not really spending time with your coworkers. There’s no real team element to laser tag, apart from the nominal point that you’re divided into two teams and are trying to win the most hits against the other team’s base. Laser tag is not particularly collaborative – paintball is a much more collaborative activity, although I personally dislike paintball and would not like to do it for any reason, including team building.

            4. ceiswyn*

              You seem to be missing the point, because the point *is* about the actual laser tag.

              There are lots of different ways to see your colleagues as people, in a different light; but laser tag isn’t one of them, because it involves no actual interaction, or even recognition. It is simply not suitable for a team building activity.

              You’re never going to find an activity that everyone likes or can do, which is why you should vary your activities; but you should at least rule out any activity that can’t accomplish the thing it’s intended to do :)

              (Laser tag could still work as part of a larger event, but not on its own. And I speak as one who enjoys laser tag.)

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I see your point but I think you’re taking the words too literally. The act of everyone going out to a fun event in itself can be team building. Just getting out of the office once in a while as a group can be helpful on its own.

              2. ThatGirl*

                No, my point was the larger trend I’ve been seeing here – especially over the past week – that any kind of socializing with coworkers is Bad.

  9. Person from the Resume*

    I just wish that the leadership team would make a better attempt at imagining me and people like me as someone that they want to respect and hold space for within our community.

    I feel like this statement applies to LW#3 and LW#1 where in both cases the LW expressed that she didn’t like the gift/activity and was just ignored.

    Do better, managers and HR. Be more inclusive by considering that everyone is not the same. And for LW#3, respect their religious convictions.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. In both cases, the managers love their thing (laser tag and wine respectively) and seem unable to accept that not everyone feels the same way.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        That’s what I got from #3 too, we don’t have enough evidence for #1 but it is highly likely.

        I love this THING so I am going to push it on you without bothering to find out if you like it too. Which for #3 is not being kind and inclusive. If you were kind you would think about what other people want (if they work for you its money or time off) not what you want them to have. Gifting is about the other busines not you. For #1, its not teambuilding if you are just pushing your hobby on others. They aren’t learning to work together as a team, they are just bored, resentful, and not happy.

        1. Laser Tag LW*

          Yup, for the first laser tag afternoon it was definitely a couple of people who were pushing their “thing they loved” on the rest of us. One of those people has since left the org and I figured the other person wasn’t as much into it as that person was so we wouldn’t have to do it again but I guess I was wrong.

          And I think I mistermed the laser tag as “team building” in my letter. I don’t think it’s officially being labeled a team building event, more of just a fun afternoon. Except that for many of us it’s really not fun. I’m not sure it matters anyway whether it’s “mandatory but unrelated to our work activity” or “team building,” but I do agree with other commenters here that laser tag isn’t really that much of a group activity, you’re more just wandering around trying to shoot the other team members while also trying not to get shot yourself. There’s not really a whole lot of team strategy involved, at least on the level we’re playing at.

    2. Clare*

      The saying “Put yourself in their shoes” comes from an older saying encouraging you to walka mile in someone’s shoes, and I think a lot of people forget that part nowadays. It’s not enough to think “But if I was in their position I’d love the thing!”. If you’d lived their life, with all of their history, family, and experiences you almost certainly wouldn’t love the thing. As Person from the Resume says, “…everyone is not the same”.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      Taking that statement to heart would solve a lot of problems in general, I feel. Thanks for highlighting its relevance to both letters.

    4. Snow Globe*

      Particularly ironic, since the purpose of both situations is presumably to improve employee satisfaction.

    5. Laser Tag LW*

      I do love your last line, Person from the Resume. I am not a religious person at all but I am 100% a pacifist, so that is my main objection to the laser tag. I can see it might be a fun activity for some people but for me it just reminds me of all the horrible and saddening wars that are happening now or have happened ever and I really can’t get past that.

      So even though it’s not disrespectful of any religious conviction I have, it is disrespectful to my moral conviction. One could even argue that it’s triggering for me (absolutely no pun intended) except that I have been lucky enough to never experience war personally so I don’t have any kind of PTSD that will get set off by it. But it does set off my sadness and disgust in the human race, unfortunately.

      1. MJ*

        It may not be disrespectful of a religious conviction, but it is absolutely disrespectful of your beliefs!

        Your personal convictions don’t have to be part of a mainstream religion to be worth respecting.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yes. Legally, a strongly held personal conviction is enough to exempt one from the draft as a religious conscientious objector; one doesn’t have to be part of an established religion.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I will suggest that LW3’s company could be an admin issue–someone requests a export of all current employees, and they need to specify “AND who haven’t said they need an alternative.”

      That doesn’t excuse the company–but in many companies the CEO may not have been told that OP brought this up. And someone’s got to add a field to a database, change an ordering process. and all that takes authorization .

      So OP, when you write to HR, make sure to cc at least one level higher than you did last year. And I’d also attach my previous requests.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, HR is most likely not involved in this process. The CEO’s admin takes a list of employee addresses and submits it to the vendor. No discussion anywhere. Now, after the second year, HR should have interfered and explained explicitly that they will provide the list which excludes anyone who has opted out. I can imagine it still happening again because the admin just doesn’t remember or doesn’t think through the ramifications. It also sounds like HR’s approach is more like “LW is being excluded” rather than “LW is having their religious rights attacked,” so they aren’t taking the first step as seriously as LW wants them to.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I find it ironic that both the company and many of us in the comments have jumped straight to “get LW a gift they actually want” to avoid excluding them. In this case, LW just wants to stop receiving the “gift”. Stop attacking their religion first, we can talk about inclusivity later.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            I said that because I do wonder if LW softened their message or put it in some many words: “You’re sending me a gift that I can’t use”. Hopefully LW uses the language Alison provided to keep all softness out of the message to prevent wine from showing up at her house.

            But also send LW a gift card or something.

  10. Brain sparkles*

    #4 – I find that having managers participate can actually help set a fun and light hearted tone.

    At my secret Santa last year, everyone was very politely selecting new gifts instead of stealing, until a manager announced that the rubber fish slippers were CLEARLY the pick of the bunch, stole them, and then dared everyone else to come get them. Everyone relaxed, the fish slippers became a hotly-contested item and much merriment ensued. (Obviously pick your crowd for this particular approach, but hopefully you get the general idea!)

      1. Sally*

        I just did the same thing, and I’m trying so hard not to snort laugh because I’m sharing a room with my mom, and I don’t want to wake her up. OMG! Now I have an excellent gift for the next Yankee swap (white elephant) gift exchange.

      2. Gumby*

        Those are… well they exist. Good to know. Good to know. I expect these to show up in Dave Barry’s gift guide any year now.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I had a manager who watched for someone unhappy with their swap gift so she could steal it and let that someone get another chance.

      1. Smithy*

        That’s really amazing.

        I do think as a manager engaging with Secret Santa or White Elephant then part of the goal is about taking on a very quiet but assertive “team building” function. So stepping in for someone unhappy with a gift or strongly adhering to any price caps while still being thoughtful. So instead of chasing down some crazy 90% off item that’s only accessible when you have a xyz topline credit card, or being comfortable paying $10-20 over because it was just easier – actually stay within the spirit of the rules of those price guidelines, while also being thoughtful.

        1. Casey*

          I think quiet but assertive team building is a great way to put the manager’s role in this kind of activity. I do think it’s one of those tricky things where the people who worry they might participate inappropriately definitely won’t be the same group as the people who actually do participate inappropriately.

          I had a boss years ago who took part in a Secret Santa organized by a coworker (same level as me, same boss). She was already super unpopular because she was not effective in her role and we often ended up doing extra work to cover for her, which she never seemed to notice, and we were also all underpaid. Just having her participate felt awkward. Names were assigned using a website that allowed people to create wish lists and add links to the products they wanted. The wish lists were visible to everyone participating, and we all either left them blank or just put one or two things in them. One day, when the boss was out sick, someone checked the website and noticed that she, the boss, had listed a ton of things in her wish list, like at least ten things, and several of them were above the price limit. From what I know of her, I think this was just her being clueless and not thinking about the price limit, and not an attempt to pressure an underpaid employee to buy expensive things. But this did nothing to improve people’s opinions of her, and I really felt she just shouldn’t have participated. Which is not to say that no boss ever should! Just that you need to be careful about how you do it.

          1. Smithy*

            This is such a great example of those price caps being solid in theory – but once you accept that most people aren’t going to ask their coworkers for just anything they happen to want or need. And when it also needs to be under an amount like $20-$30, in many ways what managers need to recognize is that it may take some time (aka work) to think of things they’d want to put on a list like that. And if they’re shopping for someone on their team – time they’ll have to think about that team member, and find stuff that’s been price checked.

            I once had a CEO who ended up (or *ended up*) with her EA in the Secret Santa – and you just didn’t have to be an expert shopper to figure out the total cost was more than $25. Which created a whole vibe to the price cap of it being there unless you happened to really like the person….which was dreadful. On the flip side, one year I got someone I didn’t know at all, but knew she’d moved recently. Gave her a gift card of the maximum amount to Bed Bath and Beyond with a note about her move, which she seemed to appreciate? So being thoughtful and being a super creative shopper doesn’t need to go together.

      2. NYWeasel*

        That’s how I approach it too but ppl here still gossip about the senior manager who was so dead set on getting some $15 bottle of wine, she didn’t care who got shafted. It was almost a decade ago and that manager is long gone, but everyone still feels outraged over the way the manager behaved. So perhaps my coworkers trained me to try and be kinder!

        1. Orange_Erin*

          This reminded me of the first year we had a Halloween costume contest in my office. Some people got really into it with silly homemade but creative and appropriate for the office costumes. Of course, the senior legal counsel for the company showed up in a professional costume and went all out with details and accessories. He won the contest ($100 gift card) which I found really inappropriate. I’m all about senior leadership participating in wearing a costume to get the rest of the office feeling comfortable with the event, but he should not have been considered for a prize. He makes at least 5x as much as the admins who came in 2nd and 3rd place.

    2. pagooey*

      More than a decade ago, I submitted my resignation to a boss I just loathed, right before Christmas…and right before our team’s annual, cutthroat white elephant party. We had horrible gifts come back to haunt us year after year, and in fact that year I contributed the gift I’d received the previous time: a cast-resin wine bottle holder, poorly painted, and shaped like a…squatting, stereotypically Eye-talian chef. (Wine definitely not included.) Hated Boss selected my gift, was visibly and sourly disappointed, and NO ONE would swap with her. I couldn’t have planned a better parting shot, and my heart grew three sizes that day.

  11. John Smith*

    LW2, unless you’re in the military or some other regimental organisation, please don’t “dismiss” people. I’m unsure if it’s just want for a word, but it does come across as being overly officious, pompous and, I’d say, quite disrespectful.

    1. Magpie*

      Alison’s commenting rules request that commenters not nitpick letter writer’s word choices. It’s unkind and doesn’t help the writer with the problem they wrote in about.

    2. metadata minion*

      I don’t see any reason to assume they’re actually saying “you’re dismissed!” at the end of the meeting. I’m about as far from being in the military as you can get and to me it sounds like a completely normal phrase to describe ending a meeting or other formal gathering.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        They probably say “I’ll give you ten minutes back lol don’t spend it all in one place” like we do at the end of our meetings

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Classes are also dismissed. It’s a useful term that I’ve never associated just with the military.

    3. June*

      I think you’re making quite the leap to assume LW is saying “you’re dismissed!” / “dismiss!” at the end of their meetings. They’re clearly just trying to say that the meetings are pretty short.

  12. Observer*

    #3 – You can’t have alcohol for religious reasons.

    Allison’s language is good. But I feel like asking if they would be comfortable insisting on sending a ham to either and Orthodox Jew or practicing Muslim? I think that if that were happening a lot of people would be questioning just how much the CEO “means no harm”. And that in any case, it’s a classic case where impact over-rides intent.

    I think that Allison is right about going higher up the chain with your issue. Because while it seems to be a CEO problem, this could *possibly* be an issue with bad / incompetent HR. In which case kicking it upstairs would get the problem resolved pretty quickly.

      1. Elsa*

        I don’t eat ham for religious reasons. If my work sent me a ham once I would think it was funny. But if I received one every year, after pointing out the issue the first time, then it would be problematic.

    1. Kristen K*

      The first year is a “mean no harm”, the consecutive years are “we just don’t care what you think” or, even worse, “I can’t be bothered to do the work right exclude one (or a few) people so tough luck, you are getting wine.”

      My guess is that the CEO doesn’t even know this is happening because it sounds like low-level HR not caring.

      I might email the CEO now, before it’s even sent, to say:

      Thank you so much for the lovely gift of wine. However, due to my religious beliefs I cannot consume alcohol or even have it in my home so every year it becomes a situation for me to dispose of it quickly. I have contact HR three times in the past to opt out but still keep receiving your thoughtful but problematic-for-me gift. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate the sentiments but this year I will be either refusing the delivery or mailing it back to the corporate headquarters for someone else to deal with.

      Again, I do not want to to feel that I do not appreciate the lovely thoughts that accompany the wine, but that it violates my religious beliefs to accept it

      Hope your holidays are magical.


    2. Sesquedoodle*

      I suspect that a lot of people WOULD insist on sending a ham to an Orthodox Jew or practicing Muslim, sadly.

      1. Observer*

        I suspect that a lot of people WOULD insist on sending a ham to an Orthodox Jew or practicing Muslim,

        True. But then the victim would not be thinking about whether the CEO means harm or not, and any reasonable person would understand the problem. Now any reasonable person *should* understand the problem here, but that’s why I’m calling it out.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      Don’t ask this

      Instead ask, how many Muslim and Jewish employees have received hams from their employers?

    4. Anonymous 75*

      I’m wondering if the CEO evens knows about the LW asking to be left out because I want getting that from the letter. personally I’d probably email the boys and HR again and cc the CEO and their assistant.

    5. Fed Anon*

      Spouse’s last employer sent everyone Honeybaked Ham giftcards for Christmas (can’t remember if it was dressed up as neutral “holiday”) every year without checking if anyone had pork restrictions, so there are absolutely equally thoughtless employers who send hams. Stood out to us because he’s a secular Jew, though our nonreligiousness does limit our level of offense and I don’t think Spouse ever pushed back. Still, we don’t eat ham for the holidays, so it was a wasted gift at best.

      1. JustaTech*

        One year we go a new HR person and in January she was telling us about how she had wanted to send everyone a HoneyBaked Ham for Christmas. I laughed, because it was obviously a joke, who sends hams in the 21st century?
        It was not a joke.
        “But what about everyone who can’t eat ham for religious reasons?”
        “Who can’t eat ham?” said the head of HR.
        “Uh, Muslims and Jews and vegetarians and vegans?”
        Head of HR blinked twice, and continued her story about how they didn’t pick the hams because someone pointed out for the same cost they could give grocery store cards and people could buy cheaper hams and get the rest of the meal as well.
        We never did get hams, but that was a first warning that this head of HR was not going to be great to work with.

      2. Pescadero*

        Honeybaked Ham sells lots of things that aren’t ham.

        They sell pork, beef, turkey, numerous side dishes (including a few that are Vegan), and deserts (cakes/pies/cheesecakes).

        1. AnonORama*

          We got Honey Baked Ham gift cards one year, and I’m Jewish (although not religious) and vegetarian, so it did seem tone-deaf. I just gave mine to a teammate who I knew loved the place, and didn’t really care that I didn’t wind up with a gift. Still an eye-roll, though, and I did mention it as did others. Next year it was something more inclusive, although of course I can’t remember what it actually was because it wasn’t ridiculous…

    6. Devious Planner*

      Haha this actually happened for a long time in my family! Growing up my dad had a client who sent everybody he worked with a ham for Christmas. We’re Jewish, so we use to laugh at this giant smoked ham that showed up every year.

      That said, it wasn’t really offensive. We didn’t keep kosher, so the ham did get eaten. Also, this was a client, not a boss, so the optics were different. I have no idea if the client would have stopped sending the ham if asked, since it never came up.

    7. Elsewise*

      I agree with most of the other commenters here, don’t ask this. The point is “you are committing a microaggression based in religious discrimination against me.” If OP is Christian (which we don’t know for sure they are, I don’t believe it was specified), it feels like it would water down their point at best to say “you wouldn’t commit a similar microaggression against a more marginalized religious community!” To me, this would sound like someone complaining of reverse racism, not someone who has a legitimate concern.

  13. Lily Dale*

    #1 I made the decision not to apply for a job because of a post about laser tag. The work was interesting, and the pay was good, but I could not imagine trading in my comfy coworkers for a team that shoots at each other.

  14. Lily*

    Re LW#1 – I would be curious to know what people here think of axe throwing as an activity? We had that as a recent NGO team building activity – myself and a couple of others opted out and mostly just sat around watching. I can’t define why I was so uncomfortable with it, but it just didn’t feel right.

    1. Red Flags Everywhere*

      Anyone with arm or shoulder issues, general clumsiness, or many other physical limitations immediately come to mind (yes, I would be on that list). But even moreso, I know someone who nearly lost his leg when the axe slipped and caused some serious damage. I’m terrified of that activity.

      1. virago*

        The popularity of ax throwing mystifies me for all the reasons you mention. (Maybe I am projecting, because I am a certified klutz who would take off a toe at the very least if I tried that out.)

        1. L*

          Am also a certified klutz, and just went axe throwing yesterday! Surprisingly, did not hurt myself. Not even a stubbed toe. Even had fun, and could hit the target at least a third of the time by the end.

      2. Lime green Pacer*

        20-some years ago, my husband checked with his lawyer about a business opportunity running historic-type events for tourists. He was told that most of the things that were planned for the tourists were fine, in terms of legal risks, but the lawyer was horrified at the idea of axe-throwing.

      3. OyHiOh*

        I have a family member that came dangerously close to losing a leg and/or death due to an accident with a hatchet as a teenager (they were splitting wood and the tool bounced/slipped on a knot and split open their shin instead). This accident happened many years before I was even a gleam in my parents eye but was told to me several times as a child, as an illustration of *why* certain safety rules were in place. I know how to safely use a hatchet and an axe, but this story is a vivid reason why I haven’t and wouldn’t go axe throwing. I’m sure there are safety protocols but it’s just too easy for something unexpected to happen.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable with this unless it was one alternative in a number people could choose. Seems like it would require a certain amount of physical ability which could exclude people and I can imagine people being uncomfortable being around people throwing axes.

      I think any activity that requires everybody to do the exact same thing is likely to be less than ideal. An activity that involves a variety of skills is likely to be more inclusive.

      1. ClaireW*

        Yeah there’s a place in the city where I work that has axe throwing, a sort of ‘Crystal Maze’ type set of puzzle rooms of different types, an escape room and a cafe, so that seems to work pretty well in terms of giving a range of activities for different folks and the option to swap out or go for a coffee if you change your mind on the activity you were doing.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I think your first sentence is key – there’s never going to be one activity that everyone can or wants to do, so alternative activities are the best way to go, a selection of different things that no one is obligated to participate in.

        Also, there may be teams out there where everyone is 100% in favor of (insert activity here: laser tag, paintball, bowling, axe throwing, card games, etc), but realistically there may be one person in each team who isn’t interested in or can’t physically do what the majority wants, so multiple options seems the way to go.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I think of ax throwing as more in line with bowling than laser tag. I haven’t done it, but it seems to be a social activity that is fine with drinking and food. You sit/stand around and talk as people take their turn. Major difference is that some folks might be great bowlers because they practice regularly whereas I don’t know of any ax throwing leagues (but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.)

      Both are less physically exertion than laser tag and you actually can talk to people while doing it.

      Some people may not be able to do it because of physical limitations or just a desire not to participate, but they can still socialize with the people actually playing.

      1. NforKnowledge*

        I think the difference is that axe throwing requires more physicality than bowling. You can bowl by gently rolling the ball, but you can’t gently throw an axe. Plus axe throwing is kinda inherently violent, and dangerous. I would not be happy with it as a team building activity.

        1. bamcheeks*

          yeah, I’d say they’re pretty clearly differentiated by the fact that you have to be 18+ to axe-throw and you can take a 3yo bowling!

        2. A clock that won’t work; an old telephone*


          This activity is also particularly insensitive to Jews, Muslims, Palestinians, and Israelis. Most of us are on high alert about potential violence, and many of us have reason to fear for friends and family who live in or near the conflict zone.

          Violent activities just feel like a complete nonstarter for me right now. As do music festivals and anything with a large crowd, for that matter.

          I don’t want to be thinking about any of that at work, and I don’t want to break down sobbing in front of coworkers

          1. Observer*

            Most of us are on high alert about potential violence, and many of us have reason to fear for friends and family who live in or near the conflict zone.

            Yup. Guns and their analogs are not the only way to kill people. . . lots of people. So maybe it would be good time to skip fake violent activities.

          2. Parakeet*

            I get the point that you are making (and am so sorry that you’re having a hard time), and I wish people would speak for themselves as Jews/Muslims/Palestinians/Israelis, rather than treat this as a universal. I am Jewish. I have experienced intense antisemitic violence before. I have done security for Jewish (and Muslim/Palestinian) events before. I have been in situations where there was live gunfire (and I don’t mean at a range where that’s what’s supposed to happen). I have lots of triggers of my own, many of which involve things most people find benign, so I can understand how laser tag would be triggering to some people! But I would not mind laser tag, though like most people here I agree that it is not a good work activity. My workplace is too distributed to easily do a live “team-building” activity, but if someone were to propose laser tag, I’d be a little nonplussed if the pushback included an assumption that I would react to it in a certain way.

            Same for axe-throwing, which I would be extremely bad at while probably enjoying it at least for a little while.

            1. Observer*

              I wish people would speak for themselves as Jews/Muslims/Palestinians/Israelis, rather than treat this as a universal

              I don’t think that anyone is treating this as “universal.” But it *is* true that this is a moment where the likelihood of people having a hard time is far higher than normal. Enough so that it’s almost certain that if you have staff that belong to any of these groups in your workplace, someone is going to be having a worse than usual time with it – in a way that “I can’t do this because it’s physically prohibitive for me” way is not.

              I’d refer you to some of the discussions on the site about dark humor in the workplace. Sure are a lot of people who are just fine with it. But most people recognize that this stuff is disturbing enough to enough people that you don’t do that unless you *really* know your audience. Same thing here.

              Is *every* person going to have a hard time with this? Probably not. Are some people going to have a hard time? Almost certainly. At least if you have staff in those groups (or with friends / family in those groups). That’s not a good starting point for something that is supposed to be a positive tram building experience.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Once and future historic reenactor chiming in. Thrown weapons practice is usually scheduled alongside archery. There is a lower cost to get started than there is for archery.

      3. Orv*

        My experience with bowling as a team-building exercise is it generally works out OK as long as you don’t divide people into teams. It’s one of those sports that it’s socially OK to be bad at. The people who are bad at it and the people who take it seriously don’t tend to compare themselves to each other.

        However, it may raise accessibility issues. Most bowling alleys can make some accommodations for people in wheelchairs, etc, but it’s really not the same game for them.

    4. trust me I'm a PhD*

      For me personally, I’m less into axe throwing than laser tag, b/c as someone mentions downthread axes can do real, physical damage. I work in higher ed and axe throwing has been offered up as an activity at a conference before, which surprised me for this reason –– it just didn’t seem safe. (I opted out of the activity altogether.)

    5. A person*

      It’s pretty popular for team building at my job. I actually enjoy it also despite being very uncoordinated. Not everyone actually throws usually, but those that don’t get in plenty of socializing and food and beverages.

      Now that said I totally get why some people may not like this activity and the group needs should be considered and it shouldn’t be the only team building activity ever done.

      I live in the twin cities and the MOA has a place that has a bunch of different carnival sort of games, axe throwing, go karts, skee ball, etc… plus food and beverages. We did that one recently (these are completely optional events). It was pretty fun and people seemed into it and there were activities for all levels of physicality. I actually did not enjoy the go karts. I went but I basically cried the whole time cuz the helmet induced panic. I actually wasn’t expecting that… I had happily signed up for it and then regretted it immediately. My work group would not have judged at all if I’d opted out though. I powered thru but wouldn’t go again that night. I did have a blast throwing axes though.

    6. Honey Badger just don't care*

      Funny you should mention this because it’s what my team is doing in a couple of weeks for our small event. I think the difference here is that we all chose it. We were given three options that were low cost and close by and everyone chose it. I’m not wild about it but figured it was worth a try. Wouldn’t be at all comfortable with laser tag or paintball as a work event though. I’d enjoy it with friends and family but there is just something unnerving about it being a work event.

      1. Jo*

        not a fan myself, but ax throwing is probably more a spectator “sport” than anything since most of the time everyone is watching and socializing. So as long as I get to choose where’re or not to throw – that would be fine.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        There are now Axe/Hatchet throwing houses/bars popping up all over the country. It doesn make money. Like I said it seems like bowling to me. You have a lane. People take turns throwing their axe; people are scored.

        I view the physicality as similar to blowling too, Bowling balls are heavy; the proper bowling form is sort of awkward. Actually I think an inexperienced person might have an easier time throwing an axe than throwing a bolwing ball.

        Per the internet (which only has true facts. LOL!): if axe throwing is done correctly there should really be no harm or danger. The axes used for axe throwing are specially designed blunt axe heads without sharp edges; therefore, they won’t cut your skin if accidentally thrown towards you (unless you try catching them).

        1. Sacred Ground*

          If anything is done correctly, there should be no harm or danger. When drunken newbies are doing it, it’s unlikely to be done correctly. This reminds me of all the “combat simulator” type gun ranges that popped up all over Vegas in the last decade.

          Axes are tools. Guns are weapons. Neither are toys.

    7. The Very Jewy Sparrow*

      My company did axe-throwing on our annual staff retreat one year. I think it’s an activity that could be okay or not depending on the people involved. If people are going to be required to participate or are going to get super competitive about it, then no. At my company there were two really athletic people who were really good at it and most everyone else was mediocre to bad, so the activity was mostly standing around schmoozing and cheering each other on in a low-key sort of way – similar to the vibe with bowling. I was extremely pregnant and didn’t trust my balance to throw axes, so I chilled out in a chair with a seltzer and watched the whole time. It was fine. But I can envision companies/scenarios in which it would not be fine.

  15. Anononon*

    Ugh. I went to Laser quest once when I was a student.

    SOOOOOOO boring. Aside from the running and shooting, the novelty wore off after about three minutes.

    I’d sit in the cafe with a book, if I were you, OP1.

    1. Allonge*

      OK, but OP was told by their boss to go, they are not feeling an irresistible urge to go despite philosophical issues with laser tag? At least half the issue is the mandatoryness of the activity.

  16. Editor Emeritus*

    Re #1 reminded me: in employee comms, we would encourage people to submit their own experiences for potential publishing. I once got one from a colleague who had organised a paintball session with his team and customers. His opening line was “It was a great day for shooting at colleagues and customers”.

    1. Mister_L*

      That reminds me of a (stupid) pun in my native language.

      People with trauma related to guns might want to skip this on.

      “Treten Sie einem Schießverein bei und treffen Sie neue Leute.”
      Translation: “Join a shooting club and meet new people.”
      The word for “meet” can also mean “hit” as in hit or miss.

      1. münchner kindl*

        Similar to the old Army (or Navy?) recruitment slogan: Join up, travel abroad, meet new people (and shoot them).

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Beyond puns, a word with 2 meanings has gotten at least one photographer tackled by security: “shoot” is also used for photos.

        1. Orv*

          Synonyms are funny that way. I often volunteer to help run stage rally races. Once there was one in Canada and we were advised to not use the term “rally” when talking to border guards, as they would assume we were going to make political trouble and refuse us entry.

  17. Cup of Brown Joy*

    #2 Sorry for this fairly irrelevant comment but in the UK we use “fortnightly” which means two weeks as bi-weekly means twice a week to us. It literally means 14 nights in Old English

    1. NforKnowledge*

      Fortnightly is an excellent term, I teach it to people anytime the confusion over if biweekly means once every two weeks or twice a week comes up!

    2. Confused Pedant*

      huh? Fortnight is common for a two week period (although not usually turned into an adverb). Biweekly meaning twice per week is not normal English (not American or British). In both places (and according to meanings of the word roots) bi- anything means every other. Twice per would be semi-

      Signed, someone who used to have a job converting stuff between British and American English.

      1. Ferret*

        Not true according to my experience (UK English) and multiple online dictionaries I just checked (Collins, Cambridge, Merriam Webster) all say that both twice a week and once per two weeks are valid, and that the same holds for bi-monthly.

        For years there is at least biennial/biannual but I wouldn’t count on people to remember the difference, and in any case it doesn’t really support your point, as biannual is the one which happens twice a year

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I admire your sunny optimism. However, alas, from Merriam Webster:

        1 of 2
        bi·​week·​ly (ˌ)bī-ˈwē-klē
        Synonyms of biweekly
        : occurring every two weeks : FORTNIGHTLY
        : occurring twice a week
        biweekly adverb
        What do bimonthly and biweekly mean?: Usage Guide
        Many people are puzzled about bimonthly and biweekly, which are often ambiguous because they are formed from two different senses of bi-: “occurring every two” and “occurring two times.” This ambiguity has been in existence for nearly a century and a half and cannot be eliminated by the dictionary. The chief difficulty is that many users of these words assume that others know exactly what they mean, and they do not bother to make their context clear. So if you need bimonthly or biweekly, you should leave some clues in your context to the sense of bi- you mean. And if you need the meaning “twice a,” you can substitute semi- for bi-. Biannual and biennial are usually differentiated.

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            GRIN, just because the combination of units sounds nice, I knew of someone who converted the speed of light into “furlongs per fortnight”

            1. 2e asteroid*

              Furlongs per fortnight is a perfectly reasonable speed measure…

              if what you’re measuring is your rate of yarn consumption in a knitting project.

      1. Black Horse*

        This made me laugh. Yes, as an American parent of teens, the use of “Fortnightly” would be confusing to me in reference to meetings.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I am British and don’t hear “biweekly” at all for either sense (2/7 or 1/14).

      I would expect to hear “twice weekly” or “twice a week”, and “fortnightly” or “once a fortnight”.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Yeah, in America fortnight isn’t a common word. You use biweekly, unless you’re talking about the video game.

    4. Gumby*

      To add to the confusion, there is a local group here called the “Fortnightly Music Club” whose public concerts are monthly. But I am assume that people who are actual members of the group have additional non-public gatherings making it fortnightly.

  18. Holly.*

    re # 5

    I once worked for a firm who had a written promotion policy.
    In summary:

    1) you must be qualified for the next rank up.
    2) you should be doing some of the next role work already.
    3) are you at risk of leaving?

    It sounded odd, but in practice, I expect many firms have an informal/subconscious version of this.

    (I met criteria 1 and 2 for four years, and repeatedly expressed interest in promotion, then started interviewing to show I was also in item 3 – unfortunately for my boss, I got a job offer he couldn’t match, so Byee.)

    1. r.*

      1) and 2) can be reasonablye, but 3) really sounds like a recipe for needlessly losing talent.

      The company’s recruiters and possibly also HR must’ve loved it, tho; superb job security.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly. When it works, it means they get someone doing hire level work at a lower salary. But when it doesn’t work, it’s a brain drain.

        It’s generally used by companies that focus their staffing on short-term payoffs (lower payroll) rather than long term success (i.e., having the right people in the right spots, right amount of turnover, etc)

    2. Barrie*

      It was common in my old industry that you had to demonstrate working the higher level role way before a promotion was given. In practice that meant doing extra tasks and informally managing (or being seen as a leader/ mentor). But it usually meant working your guts out and increased stress for at least a year – probably 2- for no title change or pay rise and then being thankful when you eventually got it. Looking back there is a ton of free labour expected with no benefit (except an expectation the “promise” of promo will eventually happen).

      1. Corelle*

        Same. And the expectations change. My director is this way, and there’s also no developmental help of any kind to get you there. My direct manager is way better and I’ve grown so much since she took over. She went over my director’s head to get me a promotion this summer, after I took on two huge “growth opportunities” last year without additional compensation and was refusing a third and told her I was interviewing elsewhere. It wasn’t as much as I should get, but my job hunt also taught me that there isn’t much locally in my field, and I’d need to be open to moving or commuting way more for a better opportunity. Maybe next year :)

    3. Oh Snap!*

      Yah I think Alison’s advice is off base on this one. A lot of companies you have to show you are performing at the level, and you have to do it for a sustained period of time (6-12 months).

      I also don’t find the informal supervision confusing at all. I have seen it at multiple companies as an engineer, and it means some combo of you having 1:1’s with the person, providing technical feedback/advice, helping them prepare for big presentations, giving constructive feedback on performance, but not doing the actual performance management if there is a big performance problem. Its always clear that the “lead” is informally in charge of the the day to day for junior employees, as the manager may have 10 or 20 or more direct reports. And being a lead usually leads (pun intended) to being promoted to supervisor and directly managing a small team.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I feel like those make sense as unconscious thoughts you would include when thinking of someone but it seems so odd to me to have a written formal question about “risk of leaving.”

      I know there are a million reasons they might think someone is a risk and a million reasons someone would actually be a risk that they wouldn’t know about. But the first thing that crossed my mind was how many people think women “of child-bearing age” are always at risk of leaving…

      1. Practice practice practice*

        That’s a different type of risk. In this context, “risk of leaving” means “risk of leaving for a different company” rather than “risk of leaving the workforce entirely.”

    5. Jamjari*

      “2) you should be doing some of the next role work already.”

      This is also a recipe for inequity. I had my boss use “you need to do the job to be promoted to the job” when I questioned why a similarly experienced male colleague had a significantly higher title (and the salary that went with it) … except that male colleague hadn’t done the job. I explained to boss that in the situation where you have a male and a female doing the same next-level job, one of those people is historically more likely to get that promotion, but he just didn’t get it.

    6. The Riddlee*

      Another thing that drives me nuts is that they will hire an external candidate for a given title just based on their resume and interview (a few hours at most, with little to no verification of what is claimed therin), but an internal candidate must prove themselves for months or years to get the same title.
      Right now, I am seeking my manager’s support to get promoted to the same level as him (company has separate manager and individual contributor tracks), even though he doesn’t meet the written requirements to be at that level himself. But he was hired in at that level and obviously they’re not going to demote him.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Yep, and this is why so many people end up leaving and returning to a previous company, because it’s faster for them to get the promotion externally. Makes no sense to me, but it is something I’ve seen not infrequently in my network.

        1. The Riddlee*

          Yes, and I guess it’s basically the same thing as refusing to pay existing employees market rates. And of course the dangled promotion should almost always come with a raise itself.

  19. r.*



    It’s been a very long time since I’ve run across an idea that is as horrible for a mandatory team building event as lasertag; other activities, while still being bad ideas due to not being inclusive, at least do not simulate — mock-play, really — the act of killing other people.

    Even if people appear to be relaxed around guns doesn’t mean they’d want to go to lasertag. Being in the presence of guns doesn’t seem to phase my outwardly (a few people can tell, tho) but it will hit my hyperawareness switch sooner or later. Depending on the circumstances this happens sooner or later, but it’ll happen eventually and this is not something I can do anything about. I react the same to both paintball and lasertag. (did try)

    It is an extremely taxing mental state, and I’d rather not be in it needlessly — I’ve actually resigned from a job once over it, because that plus the local security arrangements did not mix — even if it weren’t for the implications of it.


    yeah, that’ll need strong guard rails on what will be expected of you, how you will be evaluated, and for when the decision to promote or not promote will be made. You’ll also need at least some sort of limited authority. Expecting you to review other people’s work is neither fair to you nor them if it wasn’t made clear that this is your responsibility now.

    This can be as simple as your boss saying “LW5 has agreed to take over all teapot reviews to help reduce my workload”, which has the added benefit of also providing a face-saving narrative (you doing the reviews was a temporary solution due to a spike in boss’s workload) in case it doesn’t work out for you.

    1. Laser Tag LW*

      Hi r! Curious what you mean by this:

      Being in the presence of guns doesn’t seem to phase my outwardly (a few people can tell, tho) but it will hit my hyperawareness switch sooner or later.

      Do you mean at some point suddenly you become aware that you are using a gun and feel terrible about it? Or do you mean suddenly the whole experience becomes too much for you? Reason I ask is that I also have recently been diagnosed with ADHD and I wonder if the whole activity was too much for me the first time around not just because of the guns aspect but because it’s too much for my hyperfocused and overactive brain to deal with.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        I can’t help you interpret the above, but I do have ADHD and we all have different things we find overstimulating. Laser tag has never bothered me, but the TV simply being on does. And sometimes you just don’t like stuff and it’s got nothing to do with ADHD.

        No matter the reason, you shouldn’t be forced to play laser tag and certainly not for work. Good luck talking some sense into your workplace and best wishes on the journey of finding out what your diagnosis means for you.

        1. Laser Tag LW*

          Funny you should mention TV. I can’t ignore a TV that is on. We had a mtg last year in which my team met in a room that had a TV on (it was the hotel’s breakfast area). I muted the TV but still couldn’t ignore it and it was tuned to a news station that was reporting all kinds of terrible things. I could NOT ignore it and couldn’t not pay attention to the meeting that had only three people in it, and I finally just went over and turned the thing off. We were the only people in the room and I don’t even know why they had it on if the room was empty after 10 a.m. anyway.

          1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

            I hear this! It doesn’t matter what’s on the TV; my household watches all these cop shows that I find tedious and boring (matter of personal taste don’t come for me) yet even with my noise cancelling headphones on, the flashing lights still distract me eternally from what I’m doing.

            Pro tip: Open plan houses are bad for ADHD. Even if you live alone, you see too much stuff that you should be doing or want to do at all times.

            1. Laser Tag LW*

              Oooh, yes! I have had open plan apartments and am now in one where the rooms are more divided from each other and I like it a lot better.

      2. r.*

        Possibly related in some way, but not like that.

        I know how to react when people point guns at me, I’ve had it happen before, and I bear no ill will towards the people that did it. They just did their job in a country (post-war Balkans) and at a time where even civilians who travel there may have taken reasonable precautions; how your opposite holds their weapon and how they look at their surrounding can tell you a lot about them.

        I know how to remain calm, collected and rational during it, and it is very much a situation I am in control of myself (at least as far as external circumstances allow) and my emotions.

        It is, however, an extremely taxing state of mind for me to be in, the thing I cannot fully control is what drops me into it. What I do know is that it is a cumulative type of background-stress that adds up over the day. Hence running in an armed guard several times a day while you fetch coffee can set it off while getting your papers checked at a quite well armed police checkpoint may not.

        I wouldn’t call this psychological triggering because its not backed by trauma. It simply is something that is very stressful for me, even if the activity weren’t something I abhor for what it simulates in the first place.

        1. Laser Tag LW*

          Oh wow, that’s awful. I would say that it might actually be psychological triggering. You don’t have to actually get shot or witness people getting shot to be triggered by someone pointing a (real or imaginary) gun at you. Thank you for clarifying. Yes, it’s definitely extremely taxing in a different way from how ADHD works.

  20. Monkey Princess*

    The problem with team building activities is that people are going to complain about literally anything.

    The first commenter mentioned walks or historic sites. My husband STILL complains about the trip to a local historic site his team took 15 years ago as the weirdest and most random work trip ever. He tells it as a funny story about a weird boss, but as someone who loves historical sites, it always annoys me how much he hated it.

    Walks and a picnic just seem like an opportunity to be cliquey and hang out with your friends. And then the people who feel awkward in social situations, like me, spend the whole time over analyzing everything and honestly it sounds hellish to me.

    I managed a small team of about 10 people for a few years, and it was unanimously voted by the team (with me not voting) that we try the new laser tag place across the street. I was surprised because I knew that 2 of them had some mobility issues, and I guess I come from kinda a pacifist background. Our job involved working with kids too, so shooting guns at each other seemed problematic. But I was overruled, and we went, and it was so much fun. The team member I was most worried about mobility was a very sweet woman in her 60s who turned out to have a vicious streak when handed a laser gun. We were all rolling on the floor laughing at lunch afterwards.

    Team building events are hard because once you get a large enough team you’re going to have at least one person who doesn’t like anything. But I do agree that they’re important, because they humanize coworkers for each other in ways that, when done in the right cultural atmosphere, are really important. But I think the cultural atmosphere is really important, and needs to exist before the team building exercise. For the nature walks, you need a culture that doesn’t have cliques. For anything physical, you need a culture where people are physically able to do a bare minimum, and where everyone is willing to fail, discuss difficulties and differences, and laugh at yourself with no social or professional repercussions. I think managers see these activities as ways to create these cultures, but they can really only be done as reflections of current team culture.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think the best option is to have some variety, either by letting people choose or by having activities where people can participate in a variety of ways – somebody mentioned a trip to the zoo where they had to take photographs and do a presentation and create quiz questions and they were in teams so if somebody hated presenting, somebody else in the team could do that or if somebody couldn’t walk around, they could be the one to make the presentation once the others came back with the photos.

    2. Clare*

      Your last paragraph is super insightful, Monkey Princess (not a sentence I ever imagined myself writing, haha).

      It really clarifies something I’d observed but hadn’t put words to.

      1. anonymous outcast*

        It’s not “teambuilding” if it actively makes people feel even less welcome or miserable. You shouldn’t have to bottle up your trauma/disability and pretend to be ok all day or be forced to disclose it if it doesn’t affect your day to day job. That’s unacceptable. I’ve never left a teambuilding activity feeling more welcomed or included, just more othered than I already do.

        1. Monkey Princess*

          I’m really sorry, that sounds horrible. It also sounds more like a cultural issue than an issue with a specific team building activity, though, if it’s a universal reaction.

          The best team building activities, IME, are the somewhat silly ones, where everyone lets lose and has a good time and the manager makes a mild fool of themselves (in a totally work-appropriate way) and it all then becomes a shared joke about “that time we went to laser tag and boss Jim managed to shoot himself and who knew that quiet Bob from accounting could do such a dramatic death scene when he was shot? These people seem like boring suits when I interact with them at work, but they are actually people who are funny and flawed and quirky and have weird talents (who knew that Jane from HR could do a dramatic recitation “Oh Captain My Captain” as Boss Jim went down?) and this is good to keep in mind as I’m working with them.”

          Examples that lead to this sort of thing in this thread are the building towers out of straws, and the zoo trip, but honestly anything that lets people be a little bit creative and individual can work. As others have pointed out, there are places out there where a rock wall IS perfectly appropriate for the team culture and everyone has fun (I once quit a job because they were making me go to a rock wall climbing thing).

          But in order for this to work, you need to have a healthy team that can know the appropriate boundaries between “silly” and “unprofessional,” and can laugh with instead of at people about each other. A lot of teams don’t have that, and even the greatest event won’t make it happen.

      2. violin squeaks*

        I agree. I was on a team with a terrible, disjointed, distrusting culture. When I brought these concerns to my boss, he thought we could a) organize a day trip to a client where we would all be in the car together and HAVE to work things out, or b) bring in lawn games and take a half day from work for “team building.”

        I refused to plan either, and since he couldn’t carry out any ideas on his own, they never happened. There was no team to build – there is no possible activity that would have dug us out from the hole we were in without fixing the core issues.

      3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Same! I moved to a new team in the same org somewhat recently and I now find that I don’t hate these kinds of activities because this team trusts and respects each other. A teambuilding exercise will just make whatever your team’s culture is more of that. It can’t change the culture, just emphasize what’s already there.

    3. High Score!*

      That’s because the best “team building” is encouraging a healthy functional productive team and letting people use non work time to spend doing the activities they like with their families or friends.

      1. agree with High Score!*

        I really wish more organizations understood this, High Score! The best team functioning I have ever had was when there were clear expectations and goals set for the team, quality feedback provided on progress, when managers made sure that toxic behaviors were addressed, resources provided so people could get tasks done well, and an overall climate of supportiveness and helpfulness. At the end of the day, that’s all really on good management and policy. No amount of artificial “team building” exercises can make up for a dysfunctional workplace where the problems are not addressed by management, the organization, or policy. And I have never been on a positive and functioning team where “team building” did anything to make that even better.
        That said… I know Allison encourages us to address the OP and what they can do. So I am wondering if OP can have a larger conversation with their supervisor or grand boss or team to ask, “Why is this needed?” “What is the goal/outcome?” So often workshop and “team building” exercises and activities have never thought those questions through, which is why most people do (rightfully) object. If the team is functioning well and is happy then keep doing what is being done on a daily basis. If there is conflict on the team, then conflict management… not team building… is what’s needed. If I was OP, I would be really curious to hear why management thinks paintball (or any other activity) is necessary. If not said in a defensive tone, it could help understand their motive, and give you information you could use to suggest better alternatives.

      2. Laser Tag LW*

        That’s because the best “team building” is encouraging a healthy functional productive team and letting people use non work time to spend doing the activities they like with their families or friends.

        Yes, this! Many of us really feel that it’s completely silly to spend the time and money having half of our org travel here if we’re only actually having morning meetings for the few days everyone is here and then doing “fun” activities in the afternoons. (We’re also, btw, going to a chain arcade for a scavenger hunt. I’m sure many of y’all know which chain I’m talking about, but anyway, it’s another non-work related activity a lot of us are absolutely not enthused about when we could be doing actual useful work things. At least at an arcade I can talk to people, but I’ve done said scavenger hunt at this arcade before and it’s not an activity I enjoy either, but also at least it’s not war-ish the way laser tag is.)

        1. MonkeyPrincess*

          Yikes, is your team building thing a trip that you have to stay at for a few days? That’s rough, and I definitely question the need for that. I’ve only ever participated in team building activities that were a few hours long, and during the work day.

          1. Laser Tag LW*

            When the out-of-town employees come, we usually have three days of in-person meetings. This time instead of meetings all day we are having two afternoons of “fun” activities, because the boss says that no one pays attention in the afternoons anyway. This is true when the afternoon meeting is all of us in one group and consists of one person talking about their project and no one listening to that person because the projects we have are usually pretty team-specific and no one else needs more than a five-minute overview of them. But when we have split into our teams in the afternoons to discuss specific projects the afternoons are fairly productive, and I’m confused as to why we’re not doing that as we have in the past.

            In addition, the out-of-towners also have to fly a few hours to get here, stay three nights in a hotel, and they usually also all go out to dinner together. I am very glad that I can escape back to my home and my cats and don’t also need to bond with everyone over dinner. I do enjoy having lunch with everyone but there’s a reason why I truly enjoy WFH…it’s extremely draining for me to be “on” all day long. (ADHD does not help with this.)

            1. Ellis Bell*

              In these circumstances I’d be tempted to big up the team work that’s happened in the past and request more of them happen in the afternoons. I had an old mentor who used to say “If it’s possible to just ask for the positive option instead of complaining about the negative option; do that”. So, if “fun” activities are simply a manager’s solution to unproductive afternoons, give the preferred option a name, like I dunno workshops, and a purpose like “Can we build on the morning meetings by regrouping in the afternoons to workshop in our teams? This has worked really well in the past, so I was wondering if we could do that again.” The fact it’s happened before is a point in favor. It may be that if people are traveling in they feel they’re owed entertainment, but the poor bunnies would probably much rather wrap things up a day earlier! I think you can definitely complain about ill thought out “fun” and say it is in fact, not fun, but I would also do this.

              1. Laser Tag LW*

                “If it’s possible to just ask for the positive option instead of complaining about the negative option; do that.”

                I LOVE THIS!!!!

    4. Helvetica*

      Your second paragraph is very eloquently put!
      I think this commentariat often tends to veer into hating anything social associated with work, so I appreciate you outlining why it is actually relevant to engage with coworkers beyond just doing work tasks. As you say, all such activities have certain downsides, and inevitably, there may be someone who just does not want to associate with coworkers outside of strict work assignments – but humans are not robots, and humanising each other is valuable.

      1. Practice practice practice*

        “I appreciate you outlining why it is actually relevant to engage with coworkers beyond just doing work tasks.”

        Feeling connected at work has a protective effect against burn out, so it’s really in the best interest of the corporation as a whole and everyone in it as an individual to find ways to engage with coworkers beyond work. That’s where team building comes in.

        1. MonkeyPrincess*


          These are the other positives I’ve seen listed in this discussion:

          1) In these silly sorts of team building activities, you build an environment where it’s okay to fail. One laser tag team will lose. Someone will end up with the rubber fish slippers. Most people will not be able to build a bridge of popsicle sticks that can support a book in under 5 minutes. Half the go-carters will be running into each other or the wall. You need your team to know that it’s okay to make mistakes, and fail, and ask questions in a no-stakes environment, so that when your employee is in a high-stakes environment, they feel safe reaching out for help.

          2) It humanizes bosses, so that you see them not just as someone ordering you around, but someone who can be funny, silly, have interests outside of work, etc. You’re more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if you see them as a person, and not just the guy who orders you around.

          3) It provides a structured environment for small talk. “OMG I have a Master’s and I can’t even figure out how to tape two popsicle sticks?” Now everyone is sharing what they studied, what the job market in that field was like, their career pivots, etc. I posted above that the nature walk team building sounds like it could be super cliquish, with people just chatting to their friends. Forced Team Fun, when done correctly, makes you talk to people outside of your circle.

          4) Breaks from the daily grind are healthy.

          I’m sure there are more, but honestly all of these are good reasons for being willing to participate in team building things that seem pointless or irrelevant, but which DO exist for a reason. And can be really healthy in an otherwise healthy, functional environment.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I just don’t think that these activities are the only way to do that. I feel like we do a good job in my team (which I do not lead!) of making people feel safe, respected, and able to reach out when we need help while at the same time making “silly” activities entirely optional.

    5. Clefairy*

      I totally agree, well stated.

      While I can understand why laser tag could potentially be problematic, I think the comment session is veering to it being Very Bad in a very black and white way. At my last job, our holiday party ended up being to an arcade/laser tag joint. We were a team of mostly under-35s, but our grandboss was this buttoned up 65 year old woman who actually made the final call for laser tag, and shockingly was the most unhinged/crazy player on the field, in the most hilarious way. We all had a great time and really bonded. I think, to your point, ANY activity is going to be bad for some people, so you really have to read your audience/office culture on if it would make sense.

      1. MonkeyPrincess*

        I had such a long reply that seems to have disappeared, and now I’m sad because I actually have to get to work today, LOL.

        But the short of it was that I used to be as misanthropic a coworker as many here, and it wasn’t good for me professionally, and I also think it just wasn’t good for my soul.

        A lot of people here think (and I used to think) that if you keep your head down and do good work, that’s enough. Every office has people like your grandboss who seem serious, do good work, and everyone respects them, and I think the assumption is that if you follow that lead the respect will come. But if you pay attention, people like her just have a really good boundary between when to be removed, and when to join in the fun. Her carefully chosen unhinged/crazy laser tagging makes her a more effective manager… instead of thinking “this uptight old biddy is always complaining about something,” her underlings now think “I know she’s really serious about some things, but I also know that she has a wicked sense of humor: maybe it’s worth it for me to pay attention to what she’s serious about.”

        And I don’t think it’s reserved for managers, although I do think that it’s important for managers to be the silly they want to see in the world (the rubber fish slippers at the Yankee swap are a perfect example!). A work environment where nobody can ever get anything wrong is toxic. A work environment where a room full of educated professionals can’t even build a tower out of straws (to use an example from up above), and everyone is rolling on the floor laughing about it, is one where peers are more likely to approach each other or their boss and say “I made a mistake, how can I fix it?”

        I know I’ll be come at for this post being ableist, because some people have a hard time figuring this stuff out, and I totally get it. It took me 20 years to figure it out. But taking longer to figure out social nuance isn’t a reason to not do it at all, in my personal opinion and experience. Just like lots of other things that neurotypicals dream up seem bizarre and pointless (thank you notes, distribution requirements in undergrad, saying “how are you” when you don’t mean it), it actually DOES serve a point, and I think that people like me have to be willing to sometimes take that on faith while the figure out what the point is.

        There are always exceptions… toxic work environments, toxic bosses. These definitely exist, and I’m not trying to discount that. But I do believe that they’re in the minority, and I think introspection about the potential benefits of something so widespread is better than an immediate jump to misanthropy and annoyance. And I really am speaking from experience here.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Heads up that if your comment didn’t appear after clicking submit, it’s probably in moderation and will show up later.

          1. MonkeyPrincess*

            Oh good to know! I think that has happened to me in the past, so I should have remembered that. Apologies to everyone if I wrote the same thing twice :)

        2. Jaybeetee*

          You make such great points. Of course, it varies from job to job and team to team, and not everyone wants to advance, etc, but I’ve worked at the kind of place where you arrive in the morning, leave in the afternoon, and barely speak to anyone all day, and I’ll say it wasn’t really a *happy* work environment either. I’d run for the hills at any “we’re a family!” talk, but given the same eight-hour day in any situation, I’d rather the time go by faster with colleagues I actually like – or at least, can get along with.

          In terms of team-building activities – yeah, any given activity won’t work for someone, and even I roll my eyes at a lot of “forced fun”, but for places that can pull it off, an afternoon or a day away from your desk to do something fun and silly with your team *can* be refreshing, can avert burnout, and can provide networking opportunities for people as well. There are benefits when it’s done well.

          (I’ll also say that I’m a woman who loves laser tag, but even I’ll admit that it isn’t an awesome work activity for a bunch of reasons, least of all that plenty of people probably don’t feel great about even playing with “pretend” guns.)

        3. Clefairy*

          I’m sorry you had to type that out twice, but I’m glad you did! What a well thought out and reasoned approach. I think you hit the nail on the head on the nuances with when to be silly, and how silliness can ultimately contribute to a healthy and functionining workplace.

          I love your point about deciding WHEN to be buttoned up, and when to let loose and have fun- my husband and I are both neurodivergent, on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. He lost a job in the past because he put his nose to the grindstone and did his work, but never let himself be silly or bond with his coworkers. I have definitely been judged and missed out on opportunities for always being “the fun one” at work, cracking jokes and just not knowing/understanding when to pull it back. We’ve both had to really reflect on how we allow ourselves to be perceived professionally. For me, learning how to filter and just be the silly/fun one 75% of the time instead of 100% of the time has helped me climb and grow in my career because people know I CAN be serious when it matters. In the same way, my husband pushing himself out of his comfort zone and learning how to participate in water-cooler conversations and crack the occasional joke have done great things for HIS career, because now his perception is the team player who works hard, instead of the antisocial one who thinks he’s too good to talk to anyone.

          1. MonkeyPrincess*

            My husband is my polar opposite socially. It’s been interesting to watch him rise through the ranks of his career by being both good at his job, but also very friendly, kind, and chatty. He’s really great at forming relationships in a way that I find really hard. I’ve learned a lot just overhearing his work calls over the years, particularly since we both started working from home.

  21. Gifty*

    haha a manager a few levels up from me sent out a wish list for our secret Santa and then spent well under the limit in her last minute shop on the day of gifting! Just don’t be like her and you’re fine.

    1. ferrina*

      As manager, ask for things in the mid- or low-range of the budget, then spend closer to the top (and make it something folks want). Your ask should always be affordable.

      I once knew a VP who requested a $200 massage chair because “it was the only thing he wanted”. The Secret Santa budget was $25. Don’t be like that guy, either.

      1. Gifty*

        haha yeah my one was showing us jewellery and bags and telling us what she wanted and which ones she didn’t have. Then bought a cheap toy for the guy she was buying for

    2. JustaTech*

      My office has had a White Elephant (gift stealing game) for many years and almost every year it was great fun. But one year it didn’t go as well.
      That year we’d just gotten a new C-suite department head, and he decided to join the game at the last minute. He also hadn’t finished moving to our city yet, so didn’t have a lot of ~$25 gifts on hand. There were maybe 30 people playing, everyone was having a good time until we get to new CMO’s gift, which was a very worn laptop bag from our competitor (that he had just left). The person who got the bag assumed that this was the funny part and there would be a gift card inside the bag (which was not uncommon). When he figured out that this was the whole gift he was *pissed* and the new CMO was confused why anyone was upset, because in his mind this was a perfectly normal White Elephant gift.
      Thankfully I had brought a spare gift so it was smoothed over, but it made a really bad first impression of the CMO. (He was a *very* dry and deadpan guy, so it was hard to get a read on him.)

      The next year I sent out explicit instructions about the White Elephant that gifts were to be ~$25, new or like new, and Safe For Work. And the game has gone on merrily every since!

      1. Orv*

        I was that guy once. I forgot all about it until the last minute, plus I was just out of college and didn’t have much cash on hand. The item I brought was a cheap desk lamp. People hated it and I still cringe thinking about that story.

        1. JustaTech*

          But that’s the important difference, you were just out of college!
          This guy was our brand-new C-suite! He’d come from a similar position!
          But more to the point, there was no expectation that he would participate. He could have hung back, enjoyed the refreshments and everyone would have been 100% fine with that.

          (There are some places where White Elephant gifts are supposed to be terrible, which is why I’ve made sure the expectations about gifts were clearly explained well in advance.)

      2. Pescadero*

        A “White Elephant” gift exchange is intended to have amusing/impractical gifts.

        The term supposedly comes from the King of Siam gifting people he didn’t like albino elephants – which would then ruin them financially due to the upkeep costs.

        If the exchange involves gifts people actually want, it isn’t a “white elephant” gift exchange by definition.

        1. JustaTech*

          Well I’m not going to call it a “Dirty Santa” because then people won’t keep it safe for work, and I won’t call it a Yankee Swap because that has separate issues, so I’m going to stick with calling it a White Elephant and clearly communicating the rules and vibe.

          And if it’s about animal gifts no one wants, why not call it George’s Kangaroos, after King George III who was always trying to foist kangaroos off on unsuspecting aristocrats?
          (Where I’m from a white elephant is a flea market.)

  22. myfanwy*

    Yeah I would not be able to do laser tag. I walk with a stick, I can’t run, and I can’t really process that amount/speed of sensory input without panicking. (I tried paintballing once, before the stick. Once and once only.)

    People who insist on holding physical activities for team building drive me nuts, because there are SO many people who are automatically excluded! Especially awful if it’s competitive. My dream activity would probably be some kind of book group, but I’m aware enough to know that lots of people would hate it – my dyslexic boss for one – and I wouldn’t dream of trying to make everyone do it.

    Enforced fun of one specific type is BS. You either need a wide variety of truly opt-in activities or nothing.

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Agreed! Of all the team building activities mentioned here over the years, laser tag is about the only one that sounds appealing to me, and even then I’m giving it the side eye that they are doing it again. This round should be something like group meditation or an ice cream and cocoa bar.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      You know your boss, of course, but a book club wouldn’t necessarily exclude dyslexic people – there are audiobooks! My dyslexic son loves books, he just mostly reads them with his ears rather than his eyes.

      1. myfanwy*

        Oh no, you’re right, absolutely it wouldn’t – this is a my-boss-specific thing and I realised some time after hitting ‘submit’ that I hadn’t been clear about that!

    3. Clare*

      I love the idea of a book group, but the thought of being forced to read the kind of book that my colleagues would enjoy gives me the shudders. It would probably be something non-fiction about cooking or travel. Or cooking while travelling. Or sport. They’re all lovely people, but I think I’d be just about ready to hit them with a paintball gun by the end of it.

        1. L*

          My work book club rotates through the members for picking a book. The person whose turn it is nominates three books, they’re put into an anonymous survey, and the one most people vote for is the one chosen. I don’t participate because I have very different genre preferences from most of the group and would be bored out of my skull, but it seems to work really well!

        2. Lady_Lessa*

          I’m involved in two different library based book clubs. One tends towards thrillers, mysteries type, the other has a varied selections with a wide range over a year’s worth of reading. That one does tend to pick more seasonal types, like a banned book for “Banned Book Month”, a black author for “Black History Month”, etc.

          In both, it is acceptable to say “I didn’t read it”

      1. Laser Tag LW*

        It’s funny, I read all the time but I haaaaaated English class when I was in school because it was mandatory. So I always figured that I’d hate being in a book club but actually it turns out that when it’s completely optional I enjoy it. I even enjoy reading the books that I hate because it’s always fun to eviscerate a book as a group or hear why others might have enjoyed it even when I didn’t.

        My last job actually had a completely optional book club and it was great. You could come even if you hadn’t read the book and of course audiobooks were totally accepted, no actual reading necessary.

      2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Mood! I love to read and read broadly but every time I’m in a book group at work they seem to pick a self help book where the author spends a solid 50% of the book talking about their own accomplishments or their other business ventures etc (I’m not naming names because these authors are VERY popular and regularly recommended on this site).

        Every time I spend like 4 hours of my life mad that I’m just being advertised to in the guise of self-improvement and then I’m the only person who disliked the book when we discuss. (I still find the worthwhile things to point out; I try hard not to rain on everyone else’s parade.)

        1. Laser Tag LW*

          Perhaps you would enjoy the podcast If Books Could Kill? It’s a whole hour of people eviscerating self-help books and other similar books. CW: vulgar language and maybe also sometimes topics. I LOVE it.

          1. Cyndi*

            Or James Thurber’s book Let Your Mind Alone, which is from the 1930s and definitely dated in places, but it’s very funny and all his gripes about self-help books from ninety years ago are still very accurate.

        2. JustaTech*

          Ha! My work’s women’s ERG did (tried to do) a book club for a while. The first book was really well received, so folks were looking forward to the second book, another sort-of self-help book by someone famous.
          We get to the discussion and everyone is clearly trying to be positive when the moderator finally said “I hated this” and everyone chimed in “me too!” Even the person who suggested the book (but hadn’t read it yet) found the whole thing really off-putting.
          So a lively discussion was had by all, if not the intended one.

    4. Holly.*

      After years of the only official team-building being sporting activities (many directly or indirectly excluding women), in an exjob we fought back with a ‘book club’, with the idea that it would be women only, as we knew darn well that the blokes in the office wouldn’t want to read for fun.
      We ended up taking books to a pub garden and having a boozy ladies night, without opening any books. It was very well received, and probably instrumental in the job promoting the next golf day to beginners (i.e. us gals.).

      (worse team building was offered by another exjob – several days hiking and camping on a glacier, very experienced skiers only. The following year they offered a naked sauna experience…)

      1. Mister_L*

        While sauna absolutely isn’t my thing I’d like to point out that naked sauna seems to be rather common in some parts of the world.

        1. Orv*

          Having known some Finns, I got the distinct impression that the “naked” part was implied for them and if it *wasn’t* naked they would consider that odd.

          1. Holly.*

            Yeah. Fine for the Finns, not so comfortable for other people. You should have seen the horror on the faces of my trad british team at the idea. :-) and in front of the bosses too!

    5. I should really pick a name*

      Unless the book club is for short stories that get read during the meeting, I wouldn’t recommend it.
      Otherwise, you’re requiring people to read something that they didn’t choose on their own time.

      If it’s a purely optional social thing that doesn’t require full participation, then sure, but as an office/department-wide activity I don’t think it’s a great choice.

    6. Laser Tag LW*

      You know what’s particularly frustrating, myfanwy? Our org actually works with people who have mobility issues! Even though none of our employees have mobility issues, I am pretty mad that we are doing an activity that the people we work to help might not be able to do. I’m not sure it’s relevant to this specific situation, though, is it? I am thinking it’s just a red herring. But of course if an employee did have a mobility issue, I suspect that we probably wouldn’t be doing this activity unless that employee said they could still do it.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I mean, how would anyone know for sure that no one has an issue? If you get overwhelmed by sensory input, if you have poor coordination, if you have a chronic but invisible condition, you don’t necessarily tell people if your job is otherwise manageable. I suppose people could out themselves to be excused, but for the sake of an occasional game they might just suffer through it.

    7. Dek*

      I remember being so excited to find a laser tag place in a nearby city that had a sort of observation area where people could sit and snipe with a mounted laser gun instead of running around. I have a friend with mobility issues, and this was when we were all still young enough to actually make multi-person plans for hanging out.

      Then I called the place to double check and found out the only way to access the observation area was stairs.

      … so yeah, I like laser tag, but I can’t see it being remotely inclusive.

    1. WellRed*

      That this was offered as an alternative makes me think OP really needs to get specific with language as Alison suggests. These are not thinking people.

  23. Ugh Packages*

    To add insult to injury, they ship stuff without asking where/how to send it? That, in of itself, can be a problem.

    If they did that to me it would just sit in the package room indefinitely because the automated package processing for my apartment building isn’t accessible and the (not good) workaround doesn’t provide any notifications that I have a package (there is an erroneous assumption that all packages are expected and tracked which I can’t change and thus they are unwilling to work around). If I somehow found out there was a package it would be physically taxing for me to deal with a package that heavy and I would be really upset if I did it for bottles of wine I don’t want.

    There’s a reason I have most packages sent to a friend who brings them the next time we see each other.

  24. Cadmium*

    OP #3, Allison’s advice is spot on, but I would add to make sure your next request to not receive the wine is via email (and cc or bcc your personal email in case it gets “accidentally” deleted from the office server), so you have an electronic paper trail of the request, and they can’t say that they never received it. That way, if they don’t provide the requested accommodation, and you decide to pursue legal action, you have the documentation to support your claim.

  25. münchner kindl*

    LW 5, that sounds just like the setup for when in three or four weeks the coworker writes in to Alison for help, because suddenly a peer is correcting their work because boss “forgot” to tell coworker about this whole arrangement.

  26. Morning Reading*

    Re Laser Tag: this post provoked a brief fantasy in which the employees all line up for the game but then in unison all lay down their arms, shake hands or bow, and go off to have a (non alcoholic) drink or play something non competitive like frisbee together.
    That would be bonding, no?
    “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      That would be so funny!

      And I’m one who hates team building events but would totally get into team laser tag!

    2. Morning Reading*

      Or, they all break into song, “ain’t gonna study war no more,” in four part harmony, then a hippie chick puts a daisy in the barrel of the last gun.

      1. Laser Tag LW*

        OMG this is AMAZING. And I am a musician who is not afraid to sing in public so I could totally do this.

        1. Laser Tag LW*

          (And also I 100% would not expect my colleagues to do it because I know that not everyone enjoys singing in public.)

    3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Incredible. I love laser tag but this sounds way more fun than just going through with the event as planned.

      Begging off at the last second with bone spurs… comedy gold.

    4. Arlo*

      Sorry, boss, but when they let me off the Group W bench I had to promise I would not hold any kind of guns OR do any littering.

      1. OyHiOh*

        It’s almost that time of year again . . . .

        Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving until one listens to Alice’s Restaurant)

  27. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I already want an update on number 3. As a religious minority, that stuff drives me bonkers. I can have wine, but do not like it and if it’s not kosher, I similarly have to move it out… and it’s not like I can give it to relatives or neighbors (because I live in a Jewish community and everyone else has the same issue).

    But religion and preferences aside… what if they have an employee who is trying to stay sober??!

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Exactly, that was my first thought upon reading the submission until I got to the part about religion. Like if I’m an alcoholic, especially early in my recovery, having a delivery like that that I cannot refuse is going to potentially ruin my life. It’s completely unacceptable that there isn’t a way to opt-out and I hope that LW keeps pushing for one, even if it means looping in the CEO.

      The good intent behind the gift does not matter. There needs to be an obvious and publicized opportunity for people to affirmatively opt-out (or even better – use that money for a bonus instead of alcohol).

  28. Peppermint*

    As somebody who doesn’t drink alcohol, I hate when I’m gifted it, so I understand OP’s frustrations – although my reasons aren’t related to religion.

    Over 1/3 of American adults never drink alcohol – that’s a lot us!

      1. Ms. Murchison*

        US culture is very socialized towards drinking, pressuring people to drink, and glorifying drinking. People who don’t drink or don’t drink heavily enough usually don’t get invited back to hang out with people who do drink, so you probably self-select out of being around us.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Unless you knew me very well, you would probably think that I drink, and might even have thought that you’d seen me with a drink in my hand. One of my in laws thought I was kidding when it finally came up because she’s seen me with beer, she’s seen me with cocktails, she’s seen me with “those fancy bottled drinks you like”. No, she’s seen me with non alcoholic beer, non alcoholic champagne, mocktails, and she’s seen me with premium soft drinks.

  29. Cabbagepants*

    With axe throwing you are throwing at a target, unlike paintball or laser tag where you shot your colleagues. So it’s less “violent” in that regard.

    On the other hand, you’re using a real axe. People can be careless and the danger is real. When my team did axe throwing, at least twice we had to stop someone who was about to throw while someone else was walking down range to recover the thrown axes from the target area. You also the axe over your head and if your hand slips then you’ve just thrown the axe up or even backward.

  30. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (promotion) – ultimately, management is a different role than individual contributor and I don’t think it is unreasonable to want to see some evidence of aptitude before promoting someone to the role (which, yes, means taking on additional duties without necessarily being paid accordingly at first). If you think about it, this is not really much different than applying for any job, say as a ‘Llama Groomer’ the employer will presumably want some evidence that you know how to groom llamas before they hire you… why is it that so many people get (or expect) a Manager role without any evidence that they can succeed in it, and in fact this is part of the reason why “excellent individual contributor promoted to mediocre manager” is a trope, not that I necessarily think it applies to OP.

    The real issue, as the answer picked up, is that the people you are ‘supervising’ know you have been given this task. Otherwise it will inevitably end badly when Soo’s “peer” starts asking them how they are getting on with project x, etc – Soo will go to the boss and ask why is OP exceeding their authority in asking me this stuff (and then the boss will have to say OP has been put in charge of this, or throw OP under the bus).

    1. ClaireW*

      With LW5 there’s nothing I’m seeing that says this is specifically a management promotion though, or am I missing something? In my industry (tech) if you’re moving from a mid-level programmer to a more senior one then it would be normal for you to show that you can mentor/train other employees or lead shared bits of work, because that’s a core distinction between mid-level and senior in a lot of places.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I’ve inferred it from OP’s boss’s request for them to “informally supervise” the colleague, with the implication that if the promotion is successful, they’d presumably be “formally” supervising them.

    2. Not a problem*

      In my industry, technology – its very often told explicity that you have to show that you are already doing it, to be considered for promotion.

      What I’d ask my manager is an email to both me and the person I’m asked to manage, stating explicity what role I’ll be playing. (Supervise, review, approve, be in charge of delivery..or whatever that is… ) so there is no confusion between the 2 of you.

      This also indirectly establishes that you have been doing this work, as of the date the email was sent out. If you tell your manager this, they wouldn’t send that email as it may come back to bite them later. So stick to first point when the roles are made clear.

  31. Dear liza dear liza*

    LW #2: If your meeting does not include discussion and is only 10-15 minutes long, could it be falling into the dreaded, “This meeting could’ve been an email”? Updates don’t need to be shared face to face, usually.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, I was thinking this. Or could LW2 does need to actually talk to some of them, can they meet with people individually or in smaller groups? That would likely be more work for the LW but would ultimately save everyone else time and they might really appreciate it. And for those of you who will say that it’s only a 10-15 minute meeting, it’s not that much of a time suck for everyone, I would like to point out that even a short meeting can be pretty disruptive to your workday if, like me, you have trouble task switching or getting focused when you know you are going to get drawn out of that focus in an hour or whatever (yes, I do have ADHD, why do you ask?). And yes, obviously if you have that issue (ADHD or whatever other focusing problems you might have), you learn to deal with it for important meetings, but it’s frustrating to get drawn out of your focus for a meeting that doesn’t pertain to you at all.

      Perhaps, LW, you could make the meeting optional for everyone, that they only need attend if they have something they need to tell you. If this is a situation where everyone needs to know about the other projects, then of course they should attend, but if these meetings are just for you to get independent updates from everyone, then again I say maybe just meet individually with the parties you need to or make the biweekly meeting optional. Can you send out your agenda a day or so before the meetings and say that anyone who isn’t involved with the agenda items can skip that week’s meeting? Apologies if you are already doing this, but I can’t tell from your letter if you do or not.

    2. Smithy*

      I’m in a cross-team function, and I do think what can happen with a number of my meetings is that they’re very important to me. And not always very important to other participants.

      While I may be of equal or even junior standing to other meeting participants, I will have the support of my Sr. Leadership and usually their Sr. Leadership as well to have those meetings. When the benefit balance is that skewed, very often the concession is to make the meetings short and is done via a meeting because I’d never get responses via email.

      The main difference in what I do however, is that I’d never ask for feedback. I know these meetings may not be enjoyed by everyone. I know I have senior backing to hold these meetings, and I know that they’re largely for my benefit. If any of these staff find them such a horrific burden, they can take the initiative to raise that distaste to their senior leadership or mine.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I have several 10-15 min update meetings that most of the time could be an email, but they’re meetings in case the update turns out to need to be a discussion, which we won’t know until we do it. You might think “well email it and then if you need to, set up a meeting” but it’s more like, someone asks a follow up question in the moment, it might be a one sentence answer, fine move on, or it might turn into a conversation. I’m not saying this is inherently the best way, but I know a lot of short update meetings are meetings for that purpose. So it just gets resolved/discussed/hashed out immediately when the need arises.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, sometimes this meeting could’ve been an email, but there is also the equally dreaded “this 30-message email thread could’ve been a 5-minute conversation” — it sounds like the OP usually needs input or feedback from some of the other attendees, and that is often easier to get in person!

    4. Jade*

      Also this is why employees do not want to participate in the so-called anonymous surveys. Someone thinks the meetings are too often. It may be valid. Then comes an upset manager taking it too personally, possibly bringing it up in a meeting, worker afraid of getting doxxed and reprisals. Management trying to figure out who the complainer is. Anonymous cannot be trusted. I wish this was addressed.

  32. WellRed*

    I have a weekly annoying meeting (today in fact). It rarely provides value, most of us work individually (so updates from others are not helpful) and if anyone needs specific requests of others, that’s what teams, email and the phone are for, not a sidebar the rest if us have to sit through.

    1. violin squeaks*

      At a previous TerribleJob, we had these meetings at 8:15 DAILY over Zoom (starting during the pandemic) until I gathered feedback from the team and presented to my boss that we could at the very least cut them down to twice a week. We then weaned off to one day a week. He couldn’t possibly imagine people wouldn’t want to check in daily?

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yup, we have these at my work too. They are completely useless and I spend my time doing mindless work tasks or if I can’t concentrate on them while someone’s talking at me (which is usually the case), I knit.

  33. The Rafters*

    OP 5, this is actually fairly common in my area. Someone who has never had acted in a supervisory position in the company may be given “easy” employees to supervise. Most of the time, they have at least a bit above me but once or twice have been peers. They did have more knowledge & experience in my field than I did, so it really did make sense & the company was able to use that experience to give my “supervisor” a promotion. The higher ups kept me in the loop so peer supervision wasn’t just thrown at me. The higher ups would also have had my peer supervisor’s back if needed, and I knew it.

  34. Hiring Mgr*

    I agree with the advice on #2 to raise it with the team. But I’m not sure about the “shaming” them into dropping the complaints

    It was an anonymous survey so whoever mentioned this may not feel comfortable being put on the spot, so I wouldn’t take silence as a sign it’s an unfounded complaint

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think the assumption was that if there was a group discussion that concluded the meetings were necessary, whoever was complaining would probably stop simply because they would know nothing would come of their complaints. They might still think the meetings are unnecessary but they’ll at least stop leaving anonymous messages about it.

  35. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #2 – if you have long projects with deadlines, do you really need to meet with a large group of people every 2 weeks? You say that you cancel when nothing is going on, how often does that happen in the life of a project? Can you schedule meetings at regular intervals for the deadlines, like 3 months out, 6 weeks out, 2 weeks or whatever works? Also, is everyone you call in on the same deadline? Like if my deadline on the project is in 6 months, why am I at a meeting about a deadline that is happening next month? Are people occupied with making sure they have the information they need for the meeting that they aren’t actually working on the project?

    Definitely listen to what people say about the meetings. Don’t just try to get buy in to why you need the meetings every two weeks. By listening you may find out that less frequent meetings are more productive.

    1. Antilles*

      It’s possible that every two weeks is indeed the correct cadence. For large projects, it often does makes sense to gather the entire team every couple weeks for the life of the project. The biggest benefit is for the PM to get everybody’s updates, but inevitably there’ll be some cross-talk where Betty provides her update that she changed X and Charlie chimes in with “oh good to know, that change to X means Y for me”. Even though their deadlines for their portion of the project are different, their work still interacts.

      But I agree that OP should at least think about the feedback. Maybe you decide to keep the meetings, maybe you change it, but don’t go in with the mindset of just getting buy-in to your already decided frequency.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I mean work projects are usually different than school projects where you have one fixed deadline and no one needs to know anything until you turn the finished product in. Every long-term project I’ve ever worked on at work had regular meetings set up like this and even if your final deadline for your piece is several months away people will still want updates on how it’s coming and to discuss any potential roadblocks.

      (My current project has 3 meetings a week which is wildly excessive. One 10-15 minute meeting every two weeks sounds like a dream to me)

  36. Engineer*

    You know what’s the best way to help with team building that will also make a bunch of commenters here mad? Have lots of team building opportunities, with a variety of activities! There’s no one activity that’s inclusive to all people and as people here are eagerly demonstrating, any suggestions get shot down with “not everyone can eat sandwiches,” so just host a bunch of different events! Laser tag this month, paint ‘n sip next month, board game lunches, homecoming game lunch, volunteering at xyz outreaches, all of it!

    People can opt out for whatever reason, whether because it doesn’t interest them, they’re too busy, or just bitter that they’re being asked to connect to coworkers.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Honestly I think the worst thing about laser tag as a “team building” activity is that everyone will spend pretty much the whole time actively hiding from each other lol. It doesn’t really make sense even if everyone liked it and had no physical limitations.

      But it does sound like OP is vehemently opposed to any team building at all, so if that’s how they came across to their boss rather than keeping it to the issues with this specific activity choice then I wouldn’t be surprised surprised they were just encouraged to attend anyway. Hopefully they are able to get with the others who openly disliked it and push back on the specific activity as a group.

      1. doreen*

        I agree – if someone objects to a particular activity there ‘s a much better chance of getting the activity changed than of getting the team building cancelled altogether. Especially since it’s possible that the others are opposed to laser tag specifically and wouldn’t object to crepe-making as a team building activity ( it’s real, I’ve done it)

      2. Clefairy*

        I get where you’re coming from, but I think it’s pretty common for laser tag participants to split into two teams- when I did laser tag with work people, there was a lot of collaborating and communicating strategy on the field. And we made a point to split work teams up- so half of the trainers on one team, half on the other, half of the content team on one team, half on the other, etc. It actually led to some really interesting collaborating/bonding with people I didn’t have as many opportunities to connect with organically at work.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      To the contrary, providing a wide variety of activities while making any or all of them genuinely voluntary with no hidden consequences for “not being a team player” is the default response among the AAM commentariat. On the other hand, suggesting that “just bitter that they’re being asked to connect to coworkers” is featured as a reason why they might opt out illustrates nicely why many people are suspicious of there in fact being no hidden consequences for opting out.

      1. Wintermute*

        the problem is that opting out of socialization of any form sends a message.

        I compare it to people who insist they don’t care what anyone thinks of their clothing. Dressing as if you don’t care what people think *is also a message of its own*.

        “Neutral” is showing up and putting in token effort, opting out entirely sends a very clear message and while management can say they won’t hold it against you they cannot protect you from the fact that you sent a very clear message to your coworkers and they’re entitled to their own feelings about that.

        This is inevitable, this is unstoppable, this is simply how human interactions work.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Hmm. I think if you only provide laser tag events and people opt out, all you can conclude from that is that those people don’t like laser tag. It doesn’t actually relate to their social inclinations at all (especially if it’s the kind of laser tag that is actively unsocial and is just a lot of hiding and shooting). If there are lots of different types of events and they are all declined, only really then can you conclude that people are opting out of all social activities.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Hence my strategy for holiday parties, when I worked where those were a thing: Show up, spend a few minutes of chit chat with my boss, then a few more minutes of chit chat with his boss, then go home. None of this qualified as anything I would consider socializing, but the important thing was to be seen to be socializing. Neither the quality nor the quantity of the socializing really mattered.

    3. Laser Tag LW*

      I agree with you that offering multiple activities is a good idea if they want to give us the afternoon to do something un-work related with the group, but many of us are also frustrated that there are some actual work issues that could use discussion and instead we are wasting our afternoon on a completely unrelated activity. I personally feel that even doing an activity I like would not be enjoyable because I would be thinking about all the work stuff I could be doing that I’ll have to catch up on later. We already have group lunches that are enjoyable, I like getting to talk to my coworkers about their lives, and we definitely don’t get to have conversations during laser tag so it’s sort of the opposite of bonding in that respect. We are a small enough group that these lunches aren’t overwhelming and I can handle them (I have mild social anxiety); that’s really enough team building for me.

  37. Dog momma*

    #3. and what about people struggle with alcohol addiction? They may or may not want anyone at work to know. But absolutely should be able to opt out..its a medical condition that could be life threatening

    1. Wintermute*

      that was my first thought, coming from a family with alcoholics.

      Do they really want to be responsible for a relapse?

      That’s before the fact I would go even further, once they were told this is not an innocent mistake this is religious harassment.

  38. Sunflower*

    #3, I have no problem with alcohol but I just plain don’t drink because I don’t like the taste. So if I’d be disappointed with this gift, then I can imaging how awful it is to be ignored for those with real issues with wine.

    The best gift from a company are gift cards/gift checks (even $5 is better than nothing which is what wine is for the OP; nothing). No food/drink we may not be able to consume or more knick-knacks taking up space gathering dust.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      It’s worse than nothing, it’s a chore — or, in LW’s case, a violation of their religious beliefs.

  39. Dinwar*

    #5: This reminds me of how the company I work for does things. To go from one level to the next is such a huge leap that very, very few people could possibly do it without significant training, which creates tremendous liability for the company (you can royally screw up) and the employee (you get fired, go to jail, etc). So we gradually introduce new responsibilities, in chunks that are reasonably digestible. By the time you get the promotion you’ve been doing 95% of the job, so learning that extra 5% isn’t a huge thing.

    For my part, I like this method. When it works right this sort of training creates a conveyor belt that pulls everyone up the ranks. I have a clear mentor and it’s very clear that I do have certain authority, while at the same time I’m not flapping in the wind unsure what to do next. And I’m doing the same for my team–I’m actively looking for opportunities for them to start taking on more responsibilities to move into my role once I get promoted, as well as for them to build up skillsets and make contacts within the company that can help them even if they choose to leave my group.

    Oddly enough, the promotion comes with a pay cut. I’ve mostly been a field guy throughout my career, and that means 10-12 hour days, ranging from 5 days a week to a personal best of 29 days straight. Management means higher hourly pay, but fewer hours total. It’s worth it for the more regular schedule, in my mind at least.

    1. kiki*

      I think the differentiator for your situation is that there is a process and protocol for this gradual increase in responsibilities that’s actually tracked and leads to promotion. The issue I see with letter 5 is that “informally supervising” is kind of meaningless. Is LW approving PTO? Are they checking in on their coworker’s performance? How involved is the actual boss staying in this? Is LW receiving guidance on what great supervision looks like in this context? What specific benchmarks does LW need to achieve to prove to HR that they deserve the increase? Is LW’s promotion tied to their employee’s performance now?

  40. Nuke*

    “The CEO is passionate about wine, so he aggressively sends everyone wine every year” just kills me. I’m passionate about horses. I have a horse, and she is a big part of my life. I love talking about horses and I could talk about my own horse for probably hours.

    Not everybody wants to hear about my horse. Even less people would want to receive horse-themed gifts every single year! Especially if it were something that made implications like equipment for riding a horse. Not everyone has that or is interested!

    I don’t drink alcohol at all. So this is how wacky it feels to me when people just assume everyone drinks. It’s the same as me assuming everyone has a horse. Like, in MY world, having a horse is pretty normal! I know lots of people with horses! Don’t mean it’s actually a norm… lol.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      The self-centeredness is truly wild and completely misunderstanding the concept of the gift.

      I even like to drink but this gift would still suck because I hate both wine and beer. It’s wild to me how common a gift wine is (esp when you present feminine) because even if you like wine (and again not as universal as people seem to think) there’s a high chance you won’t like THAT wine. It’s not like a bottle of ketchup (ketchup connoisseurs don’t come for me).

      And this is all beside the religious discrimination of it all. Or forgetting about people who are dealing with addiction or have someone who is in their household. Or forgetting about people who are pregnant or nursing (I’m not here to fight just pointing out a common practice to be aware of without any value judgment attached). And the many of us who take medications that say “do not take with alcohol”! Of course many of us ignore that, but that’s not an option for everyone.

      Whew just a lot of thoughtless people taking it to a new level in today’s post.

    2. Observer*

      It’s the same as me assuming everyone has a horse. Like, in MY world, having a horse is pretty normal! I know lots of people with horses! Don’t mean it’s actually a norm

      This is such a good way to put it!

  41. Ex-prof*

    LW3– Religious accommodations aside, the likelihood that they are mailing wine to recovering alcoholics has got to be around 100%. This gift should be opt IN, not opt out.

    LW1– I’m honestly amazed anyone would do this, if this is in the US. I worked for many years at a workplace that had had a mass shooting (and yes, I was there when it happened; most of us were). As the years go by, I meet more and more fellow mass shooting survivors or people who were close to non-survivors. It’s no longer a rare thing.

    1. Jackalope*

      As a fellow shooting survivor, I will say that to me at least it feels very different. As someone said above, laser tag has more of a “Star Wars” vibe, and the laser guns and gaming area don’t feel like real shooting in the same way that, say, paintball would. I totally understand why others who survived a shooting would potentially have that reaction, but to be honest it never occurred to me until today that someone might connect laser tag and actual shootings. So I can see how someone who hadn’t been through a shooting might get to this as a fun group activity, even though I can see ways in which it could be problematic.

      1. Parakeet*

        Yeah, I have similar thoughts (I wasn’t in a “mass shooting” as traditionally understood – each time I was in in a situation involving live fire, I was in conflict zones/zones of civil unrest and state violence – but I have been in a few situations involving live fire, a couple of which involved fleeing/taking cover, and I have seen someone die violently). Aside from the sci-fi vibe, the part that makes it different for me is that players show right back up in the game after a brief interval. This removes any connotation of injury or death for me. My main issue is the potential for jump scares, but that’s more about people’s play style than anything inherent to laser tag.

        Video games involving death of the player’s character bother me far more than laser tag, but that’s a weird me thing – even as a little kid I would have panic attacks trying to play video games because I felt so terrible that my incompetence “killed” Mario!

        All that said, I don’t want to suggest that I think this is a good work activity. It’s not. Just offering my own perspective on laser tag and what it does and doesn’t bring up for me.

    2. Laser Tag LW*

      Ohhhhh, no, I’m so so so so sorry this happened to you. Mass shootings are so so so horrible I just can’t.

  42. Angstrom*

    LW3: Since the CEO wants to share their wine enthusiam, they could send a short newletter of “My favorite finds of 2023” with information on ordering, and a generic Visa gift card that could be used for that OR anything else.

    1. madge*

      I absolutely love this. If someone only drinks one varietal or style, they can select multiple favorites AND have a terrific conversation opener with the CEO. And non-drinkers don’t have to feel singled out.

    2. PotsPansTeapots*

      This sounds like a great way for any org to do it. If the CEO or top brass want to share a passion (whether it’s wine, or sausage, or FunkoPop dolls), they can share it while still letting people buy what they want. Plus, it makes the gift card feel less generic.

  43. MCMonkeyBean*

    Hmm, I actually do think it would be a bit weird for the one person who draws the boss’s name in Secret Santa! If there is a very clear and very low dollar limit that will help, but I think I’d probably still feel extra pressured to pick something “good” in their shoes.

    But a “Dirty Santa” or a White Elephant exchange where no one bringing in a gift knows if you’ll be the one to go home with it should be 100% fine.

    1. kalli*

      It’s different again if people guess who gave the gift and eventually know who gave it to them or if that’s not part of it, which some exchanges do.

  44. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW #2 – The regular check-in meeting could be reconfigured into “office hours”, a sort of opt-in time to swing by, ask questions, maybe brainstorm on the issues. Anyone who is up to date on their project deadlines and anticipating problems coming up could be welcome to do their own thing during that time (or come to see if they can help out the other teams), and anyone who isn’t would be encouraged to fill you in on the situation. Which honestly, could be an email update, or a request for “hey, I’d like to chat with you and Marketing about some timeline changes – I think it could fit in Office Hours so we don’t have to arrange a separate meeting.” (and if other folks are there too, maybe they’d have useful insight.)

  45. MicroManagered*

    On #3, Would you be comfortable sending a politely-but-factually-written email blast to your coworkers, including the boss sending the wine, asking if anyone wants yours?

    It might embarrass the wine-sending boss into remembering your request next year and you probably aren’t the only one who doesn’t love receiving wine as a gift. It might empower some of your coworkers to reply-all expressing that they really can’t/won’t use the wine either.

    1. Practice practice practice*

      Passive aggressive moves like that rarely have the effectivity you are imagining. The CEO probably doesn’t even know, and they will be hurt rather than embarrassed. If addressing the CEO is the right step, do so directly.

      1. MicroManagered*

        It’s not passive-aggressive to give away a gift you can’t use though. It’s … giving away a gift you can’t use. That’s a real need OP has.

        The CEO has not changed the gift after several years of OP trying to address the issue privately. Sometimes bringing visibility to a problem helps move it toward resolution. I specifically chose “polite-but-factual” as the tone for that reason. The idea is not to be unnecessarily cruel here, but very clear. A natural side effect of that may be embarrassment on the CEO’s part, but frankly, that’s understandable here. Continuing to give a gift that someone has asked not to receive due to religious beliefs *is* embarrassing.

        1. Florence Reese*

          Trying to “embarrass” someone into changing their behavior is the passive-aggressive part, and it’s not very effective. The CEO’s behavior IS embarrassing all on its own and no one is defending them. But an all-staff email regifting the wine is unlikely to change the CEO’s behavior (since other communications haven’t done that) and it’s likely to make the CEO remember LW in a particularly negative light, fairly or not. It just seems like a nice vengeance thought, but not something you’d actually do in your own workplace.

    2. Username required*

      I think sending a detailed email to HR manager, cc’ing the CEO would be more effective. Trying to embarrass someone via email, regardless of their level, rarely works out the way you want it to.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I see where you’re going with this; you’re saying it’s not an embarrassing misstep, it’s just a gift that needs a more appropriate home. The problem is that it really, really is an embarrassing misstep and they’re probably only going to realize this in public view if this is how it’s going to be raised (the CEO probably doesn’t even know at all, since only a supervisor and HR were informed and they thought it was a query about getting a substitution, not about stopping deliveries). OP also needs to stress they’re breaching religious boundaries in a pretty egregious way and they can’t do that in an all staff email.

  46. Akcipitrokulo*

    My old work had a social committee that was given a budget to spend – we did a different, totally optional, activity each month. Some were in the work day. We had trip to theatre, laser tag, mini golf, cheese and wine tasting, quiz night, barbeque picnic lunch (inc veggie food). No-one liked everything we did, but hopefully most people liked at least one option!

  47. Practice practice practice*


    The advice here can be restated as, “Just do the survey again in person, removing the anonymity!”

    That is terrible, horrible, no good, very bad advice. If you want to ask for feedback on how to do better, do not connect it to the anonymous survey, and especially do not address it in the meeting, where you will be putting people on the spot.

    Instead, frame the request as continuous improvement. Bring it up during the meeting, and request that they send feedback *after* the meeting. If someone does choose to contribute during the meeting, don’t argue about what they say. Just thank them for the feedback in the moment. Have a conversation with them about it later in private.

    Don’t just make the request once, either. Request feedback at a few meetings in a row and then give a deadline. Once the deadline passes, announce what you are going to do differently, even you aren’t going to do anything differently.

    1. Colette*

      I strongly disagree.

      The point is to hear the opinions of the group at large. There was an anonymous complaint, but that doesn’t mean the meeting is useless. It’s a chance to check in with the group and see whether the OP is the only person the meetings are useful for.

      Requesting people to send feedback after the meeting is basically the survey again; the point is to have a discussion.

      I’ve had complaints that meetings I ran were too frequent; the fact is that one junior person found them useless, but they were useful for me and for his management. And that’s OK – sometimes part of having a job is doing things that you don’t want to do or don’t find helpful, but not every task you have to do is there to help you. There are other people with different needs.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I totally disagree with your passive aggressive recommendation. As usual, Alison is recommending using your words. There’s nothing wrong with saying the survey showed negative feedback on the meetings. As long as the LW doesn’t say “Only one person gave negative feedback and I want to know who it is!” this is good, all good, totally excellent advice. I mean, you gave negative feedback for 3 years and it’s finally being acknowledged! That’s awesome.

      Of course she should address it in the meeting. Everyone relevant will be there. These are professionals and colleagues, and not her employees or interns, so there’s no power dynamic that would make them feel they can’t respond. If they can’t think of anything or don’t want to use their words, cool. She’s not obligated to change anything. If nobody wants to speak up, then they don’t actually want change, they just want to grumble, which is also fine.

  48. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Honestly, I’d go right to the boss about this and say you need to opt out. If the boss is as into wine as he says he is, he wouldn’t want to send some to someone who isn’t going to drink it. And honestly, he’d probably feel badly that his gift can’t be received with the spirit he hopes to extend and that you don’t get to have a gift. This is probably coordinated by the boss’s assistant (someone has to send the list of addresses to the shipping company/winery/distributor, and it probably isn’t the boss himself). So, if the complaint goes to HR, and HR does nothing with it, neither the boss nor the assistant, nor whomever else is involved with Operation: Foist Wine On People knows about the issue. If this was communicated to HR by email over the years, it would be helpful to show those to the boss, as well. He may be interested to know whether HR is appropriately communicating issues within the company. And because the issue is one of OP’s religion, getting the ear of the CEO on this might actually work, since HR is absolutely not protecting the company by ignoring the concerns.

  49. kiki*

    For LW #2– Since this was an anonymous feedback survey, I don’t think calling out the complaints and responding to them directly is the right move. I think instead, you can highlight the value these meetings do bring to the project. At the beginning of the meeting, briefly touch on why you have this meeting and the types of input you’re looking for. And call-out really productive meetings as they happen. When the marketing department brings up a change to timeline that finance is able to weigh in on, ask a few questions, and approve because both department heads were in the meeting, say, “Great! I’m happy we were able to resolve that in this meeting.”

    I think it can be easy for a lot of individual contributors to get sucked into the “this could have been an email” mentality about all meetings, not realizing that just because they personally didn’t get value out of a particular session of a recurring meeting doesn’t mean other people or the project as a whole didn’t benefit. Or that they won’t benefit at a future session. And for organizers, there is value in just having major stakeholders all gather in the same place to make sure everyone is actually on the same page and not just skimming an update email.

    I know a lot of people are in meeting hell and sucked into too many useless meetings, but if you’re actively on a project and are too busy to be able to attend a 15 minute check-in once or twice a month, that says to me that you have way too much on your plate.

  50. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – it’s pretty normal for companies to build in training in supervision before you get a chance at promotion to supervisory or management roles. Sometimes it comes with a formal title, sometimes it doesn’t. If your company has identified you as someone they want to train for management, that’s a compliment – even if it does entail some extra work.

    One thing I would insist on, though, is that the team member you’re supposed to be supervising is informed by your manager, that you are, in fact, supervising them now. The responsibilities you have should be spelled out, so that everyone is clear about what is going on. Otherwise, your team member may be quite upset if they think you’re unilaterally deciding to “boss them around”.

  51. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – I think your concerns about laser tag as a team building are very valid, but consider whether you need to pick your battles. If your team has a rotational on team-building events and laser tag came up again as something the majority of the group enjoyed, I would say that you’re being a little unfair to your team and there is no event that every single person will enjoy (though you should always be given an option to opt out). If you only happen to have team-building events 1-2 times a year and you’re always doing laser tag, that sounds dreadful and I would absolutely speak up.

    Regardless, I also wonder if you’re coming off to your supervisor as a fuddy duddy when you tell them that it has “nothing to do with your work/a waste of your time and the org’s money”. It’s a stray away from your message which is that the team building event isn’t all inclusive and instead comes off as “we should never attempt to have fun around here because this is a serious business” which I don’t think is what you mean/want.

    #5 – I think it’s pretty normal for companies to have an expectation that staff members show that they’re ready to take the next steps by taking on duties which align to the next level. This normally wouldn’t be enough for a pay increase because everyone has an ‘other duties as assigned’ expectation and it’s likely that they’re not expecting you to be spending the majority of your time doing this.

    I’m interpreting your supervisor’s ask as ‘peer to peer management of project tasks’. You would be a first point of contact for your peer when they have questions. You may be responsible for delegating new project tasks out to your peer(s) and providing feedback . Since this is informal, it’s not likely you’d be sitting with the peer having one-on-one meetings weekly about their goals/performance, but you would be there to help troubleshoot concerns. If your vibe is that the staff manager is expecting more, then you need to have that line clarified.

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

    Although personally I think laser or tag would be fun, with my friends, I don’t think I would like it for a team building experience.
    I can just see someone going really overboard and shouting ” Say hello to my little friend. or “Yippy ki yay…” at their coworkers as they shoot them. I think that it could really end up causing a lot of hurt feelings and such at work. And no one knows what their coworkers may be going through. Maybe they themselves or a family member was a victim of gun violence and this could bring up lots of problems. This just feels icky to me.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, I actually enjoy laser tag but I wouldn’t want to do it with my coworkers. That actually goes for most physical activities, especially because I am one of the few women in a male-dominated field. I know it realistically shouldn’t impact people’s thoughts about me this way, but I could 100% see some people’s assessment of my competence at work being impacted by seeing me absolutely fail at laser tag.

  53. Longtimelurker*

    #3 FYI it is illegal to ship alcohol to many states. Check your state laws, you might be able to approach it from that angle as well.

    I’m sorry HR etc are being so awful about this. It should be an easy fix on their end.

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

      I think there are some stipulations. Like if it’s directly from the wine company then it can be shipped. But I think it’s supposed to be signed for.

    2. avast!*

      Companies that ship alcoholic beverages are usually already aware of state by state laws and limit their delivery area accordingly.

    3. longtimelurker*

      I was assuming that it might be shipped directly from the company rather than from the wine company, given that they said it is given to all US based employees. But, yes, if it is being shipped directly by the winery or similar then they should know those regulations.
      It can’t always be delivered and signed for (I tried to send a friend whiskey directly and was unable to do so, although liquor might be stricter than wine).

  54. Just Thinkin' Here*

    For OP #5 – This is a poor situation to be put into with a colleague. If one of my teammates starting ‘managing me’ informally you better believe my manager and HR would hear about it. It’s one thing to lead a project team – which would have been a much better way to demonstrate leadership ability. It’s another to start giving orders to your peers in a unstructured way. What if your peer also wants and has been working towards a promotion? And now you’re trying to manage them to get yours? This is a poor management practice all around.

    1. Veryanon*

      Yes, I’m not a fan of this at all. If you want someone to get management experience, make them a team lead or something. Not whatever this is.

  55. Northbayteky*

    I live in California where it’s legal to ship alcohol. It can only be delivered when a person over 21 years-old signs for it. It can’t be left on the step.
    I had a coworker who belonged to a wine club and due to this rule he had his monthly shipment sent to the work address.

  56. Veryanon*

    First letter – I’d definitely fake an injury or illness to get out of attending. I hate any kind of forced team building events, but one that emphasizes guns and shooting, especially in today’s world? No thanks. Lots of people enjoy laser tag, but they can do it on their own time.
    Wine letter – What the what? It would be one thing if you hadn’t ever said anything, but you’ve specifically told them several years in a row that your religious beliefs do not allow you to have any alcoholic beverages in your home. Agree that you should use the words “formal religious accommodation” in your communications to your manager and HR as this will put them on official notice. If the wine shows up anyway, look into whether it’s worth it to you to pursue it legally.

    1. anon for this*

      If you can handle it in terms of social capital, don’t fake/lie out of this : use a script like AAM to not participate. If you have the power to opt out of stupid/non-inclusive stuff by calling it out, please please do so.

      1. Laser Tag LW*

        Yeah, I was thinking that I could fake having a headache if it came to that, but I really do want to spend the capital to get them to reconsider this as a required activity.

  57. kiki*

    For LW#1, I think it’s important to make sure your complaint about laser tag is hitting first on your most salient points about the lack of inclusivity and violence and not veering too much into, “and some coworkers and I personally didn’t enjoy it very much and also I think team-building is kind of a waste of time” While the latter points aren’t unimportant, it’s impossible to plan an event absolutely everyone will love. You’re also not super-likely to change leadership’s mind that a “fun team-building activity” is a positive or necessary thing.

  58. Elizabeth West*

    #1 and #3 — What is it with people who try to force their passions onto everyone else? I get it; you like laser tag and wine, but stop trying to make your entire workforce or colleagues do it with you.

  59. Phony Genius*

    I actually asked the same question as #4 in a response on one of the Friday open threads. Glad to see Alison’s answer.

    If I would add one thing, the manager should also avoid thinking “since I’m the manager, I should spend more than the limit.” I’ve heard of this happening and while it may seem nice for the recipient of this gift, the other gifters may come out feeling inferior for spending less.

  60. Colorblind Lady*

    Friendly neighborhood colorblind employee here, just chiming in to say that laser tag is essentially impossible for me! Green and yellow LED lights are literally the hardest thing for me to tell the difference between, and after a traumatic experience at a birthday party in high school where I got cornered in a dark alcove and screamed at by a group of guys I didn’t know for shooting at the wrong target, I haven’t set foot in a laser tag arena since and won’t be doing so ever again!

    1. MonkeyPrincess*

      I never knew this, so thank you for bringing it up.

      I hope that LW1 sees this comment so they can add it to their list of reasons why it’s not inclusive. And it’s definitely something for everyone to consider.

  61. jellied brains*

    Going to push back on #4, sorry Alison. I drew the CEO’s name at our last Secret Santa & there was a LOT more pressure to get them something than if I had drawn a random coworker.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      If you’ve signed up for a secret Santa shouldn’t you be planning on buying the person a gift anyway? Or do you mean you felt pressure to buy them something nice? That can easily be solved by haven’t a maximum spending amount

  62. Nancy*

    LW5: that seems reasonable, depending on what the next level is. In my role, to be promoted to the next level I need to show I can supervise junior employees because that will become part of the job. If you aren’t sure what is required for the next role, ask to see a job description.

  63. tone deaf*

    Not related to any of the questions, but I’ve noticed a lot of comments on this post and on others here use the phrase “tone deaf”. Please be aware that phrase can be considered offensive and ableist. It implies that there is something bad/wrong with being deaf. Alternatives are: oblivious, tactless, out of touch, etc.

    1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Not trying to be dense, and maybe I missed what this is referencing, but how does the term imply there’s something bad about being deaf?

      I had thought it was an analogy to the difficulty some have discerning musical pitch, with the difficulty some display in discerning social tone or pitch. Did I miss something? asking out of genuine desire to better myself here.

      1. celeste*

        Same. Since “tone deaf” has to do with detecting musical pitch, I didn’t think it had anything to do with deafness.

      2. tone deaf*

        That is where the analogy comes from, yes, but it’s another instance of medical term turned social term that can feel degrading to the people who are in fact tone-deaf. The metaphorical phrase “tone-deaf” has a negative connotation, which implies that the condition is also a negative. That has worked it’s way around to being offensive to some (not all, I personally don’t find it offensive) “regular” deaf. It’s similar to the case of the word “retarded”, which we certainly don’t use anymore (or shouldn’t. If you are, please stop.)

        If it is being used in a metaphorical sense and the situation can be equally or more clearly described with better terms, then why not use those terms. “Oblivious”, “ignorant”, “dismissive”, “thoughtless”… I’m sure there are many others.

        A general guideline: don’t use people’s medical realities as pejoratives or insults.

        1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

          I agree with the guideline. Having spent most of my school years doing multiple musical instruments/choir, I didn’t think of it as a medical thing.

          Thanks for clarifying.

  64. i like hound dogs*

    I’ll admit I’m the competitive jock type, but I hate laser tag. I did it for my son’s birthday last year to be a good sport and did not enjoy getting chased and yelled at by 12-year-old boys (not the ones in our party; we were competing against others we didn’t know). Similar to my paintball experience as a kid. I don’t want to shoot anyone or anything. It’s not fun. It’s stressful. I also can’t help but feel that many of these planned sports activities are sort of … masculine. Like when your new boyfriend takes you to the batting cages and just assumes it’ll be fun because he used to enjoy doing it with his dad. Just … no.

    Even though I personally enjoy rock climbing and Ninja Warrior activities, I would never ever ever try to arrange a group outing related to these things because I recognize more people than not either hate them or wouldn’t be able to participate.

    1. Despachito*

      I am a gal and I love laser tag. Am I “masculine” for it?

      I hate categorizing like that (and wonder why most fun activities are tagged as “masculine” and most boring ones as “feminine”).

      This said, I agree that a teambuilding activity should be one that is enjoyable/doable by all persons involved, and this is just not it.

      1. i like hound dogs*

        Fair point. I’m also a gal who enjoys many activities seen as traditionally masculine. But in my experience it’s always men pressing batting cages or hitting golf balls on me. I do recognize that women play these sports, too … they just don’t seem to have the overwhelming need to make others play them too

    1. Ms. Murchison*

      This. People who enjoy Secret Santas and white elephant exchanges tend to assume that it is a “all-in-fun activity” but many people hate them.

  65. anon for this*

    I know of an office where the principal in the office is a billionaire. They do secret santas year after year, with a maximum dollar amount limit. It goes fine. Not easy to shop for a billionaire, but everyone takes it in good stead.

  66. Ollie*

    I’m getting flashbacks of a super into team building boss who decided we should all play golf. It would have been kind of fun if we hadn’t been keeping score and giving out prizes for the best score. I had never played golf, it was hot as hell, and I came in with the lowest score of all. It was miserable. My favorite team building exercises at another company were doing some sort of helping a non-profit. We helped sort food at a food pantry and painted a fence for a camp for disabled kids.

    1. Orv*

      Note that this is for USPS. If it was delivered by FedEx, UPS, DHL, or some other carrier, the rules will be different.

  67. Compliance Is Fun*

    I did laser tag a couple of times (the kids wanted to play) and I did not enjoy it. I don’t see well in the dark and I really was never sure who or what I was aiming at.

    But what if EE A is aggressively targeting EE B? Maybe A is aggressively targeting everyone, but B doesn’t know that and walks away wondering why A doesn’t like them. This seems to be the opposite of team building. Plus if EE A really is aggressive in this type of game, I might be a little more wary of them back in the office.

  68. wine dude*

    LW3 – I’m a little confused. In the US it is illegal to send wine (or almost any alcohol) through the postal service. If your employer is boxing up wine and mailing it they could get in a lot of trouble. (And no respectable retailer or winery would risk using the mail.) The fact that it was left by the delivery person such that you couldn’t refuse it is a big clue; wine must be physically accepted by an adult in every US state. If that’s the case, pointing that fact out may help you be heard. Here is a reference on the USPS website

    1. CorgiDoc*

      In Canada it is very common to order alcohol (beer or wine, I don’t believe you can ship liquor) through the mail, so if they were ordering from a wine seller or distributor that would be totally normal. We order a beer advent calendar for my dad every year and have it mailed to his house. They do require a signature though so that part doesn’t add up. But ordering beer or wine to be shipped to your house is very much a thing in Canada and likely some other countries. It is possible OP isn’t in the US.

      1. wine dude*

        From the post (heh): “Every year as a holiday gift to the U.S.-based employees, our CEO sends a selection of one to three wines through the mail delivered directly to our homes.” OP is in the US.

    2. WineGetsShipped*

      Huh. I’m in the US and I’ve gotten it as an unexpected (and unwanted) “sorry about all the customer service issues” gift shipped to me before. And I’ve seen it sold via infomercials and the like where it obviously was getting sent to the buyers.

    3. Femme Cassidy*

      This is surprising to me. I subscribe to Bright Cellars and their whole thing is delivery wine every month. Maybe this is just for government post? BC is shipped via FedEx for us.

      1. wine dude*

        Yes. FedEX (and UPS) are not the US mail. The box your wine comes in probably has something like “Adult signature required.” And BC pays extra for that service.

      1. wine dude*

        Check the link in my original comment. I ship hundreds of cases of wine a year via UPS/FedEx. OP3 said it was mailed, left at her door, and she had no chance to refuse it. If it was shipped correctly/legally the delivery person must ensure that the wine is delivered into the hands of someone who is of legal drinking age. And I have to pay extra for this service so they had better do what I paid for!

  69. CorgiDoc*

    If the team is large enough and there is an area where this could be accommodated, I like the idea of splitting up in smaller groups for a variety of activities (each person can pick which they want to attend, if any) and then meeting together for a meal or snacks/finger food as a large group afterwards. A company I worked for did this at a large multi-function facility that could accommodate all the activities, there was bowling, laser tag and a paint night activity, and an escape room. Some people chose to just come for the snacks afterwards which was also held in the same building. This could also work if there were different activities in close geographical proximity to a restaurant. It was great because the activities were also a built in conversation starter with people from the other groups during the mingling and snacks time.

  70. Candy*

    LW3 – You know your request is slipping through the cracks so you’re going to need to be more proactive about this on your end. Instead of saying in January after the gifts have already gone out that you don’t want wine, you need to add a task or calendar reminder for yourself in November to reach out to the gift organizers and remind them then while it’s top of their minds.

    Yes, it’s annoying that they aren’t following through but after four years of this you need to do what you can on your end now

    1. rollyex*

      “you need to add a task or calendar reminder for yourself in November to reach out to the gift organizers and remind them then while it’s top of their minds.”

      I’d push back in other way with work for them, adding to AAM’s script: “Please make a note for the future in your own calendar or whatever planning document is used for this.”

      1. I should really pick a name*

        In a more idealized situation yes, but Candy’s suggestion is probably more likely to get results.

        They SHOULD have made a note years ago. The LW can’t rely on them to take the correct action.

  71. MAW*

    White elephant gift exchanges (the ones where you can “steal” something from someone else) sometimes can get messy — more than once, i’ve watched highly-paid senior staff get so caught up in the “stealing” aspect that they have nabbed the prized treat that they could easily afford (like a Starbucks gift card for $15) from some poor intern or entry-level staffer, leaving the lower status person with something kind of junky and doing so in a gleeful, oblivious sort of way that makes them feeling as crappy as their gift. If everyone can be trusted to be mindful of who has power/income and who doesn’t, it can be a fun game. But if you get people who are hyper competitive, it can get kinda gross.

    1. Pescadero*

      …but ALL the gift are supposed to be useless/ugly/impractical in a “White Elephant” – the very point is it’s supposed to be a bunch of stuff people DON’T want.

      1. This_is_Todays_Name*

        Right! Like the letter about the guy who wrapped and gave a framed photo of himself, etc… The best thing about White Elephants is not what you GET but what you GET RID OF!

  72. Anony3858*

    Re: 1. Laser tag for team-building
    If you need ideas for team building, my coworkers and I did an Escape Room. Of course there was drama where some people “refused” to be in a room for an hour with certain people, but it was good fun. Depending on your team dynamics, maybe a Happy Hour or picnic would be ok.

  73. This_is_Todays_Name*

    Number 5: In every large company (big Gov contractors) that I’ve worked in, in order to be promoted to say, “Senior Llama Groomer” you have to have demonstrated 75% or more of the duties/characteristics/requirements, etc… of that role. E.g. “Brought in $XM in revenue;” “participated in XYZ proposals, of which Y% were won;” “hired and/or supervised X personnel;” “worked X00 ‘hours over standard'” etc… It’s pretty common that you have to demonstrate you CAN do the role before they’ll offer you the role.

  74. Misty_Meaner*

    Number 3: Honestly, if you get a box this year, I would take it into the office, march into HR and slam it (lightly) down on the desk while saying, “I’ve repeatedly requested that the company respect my religious beliefs, which do NOT permit the consumption of alcohol. So, here it is. You can have it back and please do NOT SEND ME ANYMORE. Am I making myself clear THIS TIME?”

  75. Always Tired*

    OP1, I feel you. We do paint ball every year. But we’re also a construction company, so able bodied is a job requirement, and those who do not wish to participate can opt out of attending, or be like me and just hang out in the picnic area. To have a mandatory fun where there isn’t an opt out or secondary activity is not good and often does the opposite of it’s intended goal.

  76. Audrey*

    #2 – meetings; could this be a situation where some of the info from these meetings could be an email? I would be annoyed to go to a 10-15 minute meeting every week when it could have been a 2 minute email exchange. Maybe it is needed in person to talk out! But if not, I could understand.

  77. Spcepickle*

    I am going to stand up for laser tag. Last week my team did a laser tag event. It was amazing! My 65, almost as wide as she is tall, mobility impaired grandma took top prize in one of the games.
    I have several people who are refugees who participated in combat zones, I have never seen two of them so engaged and entertained by something.

    I did think and dwell on reasons team members might not want to participate and worked to make sure there were ways to have fun without playing the laser tag game. I think it was a success because a) it was totally voluntary, b) it was at a center where there were lots of other things to do (sit and chat with a snack, table top games to play, acrades games) c) this was out of the norm for my team. Normally we do two potlucks a year and that it is.

    I think playing together is something we so rarely do as adults that building time and space for that to happen can help a team form connections.

    1. Dee*

      If everyone on your team had fun, great! But this person has clearly communicated they did not have fun and neither did several other colleagues. So that should be enough. I would rather get a colonoscopy than play laser tag.

  78. Sharkie*

    #4 you are fine! I got my boss in our white elephant sock party ( who doesnt love socks!?!) and because I really wanted to get him socks that he would enjoy, I had to pay attention to his interests (i was still new on the team). I respect him so much more now!

  79. LobsterPhone*

    No.5 …I’d check that the colleague I was unofficially supervising was aware of the situation also otherwise they might start wondering why you suddenly thought it was appropriate to start managing them.

  80. Rainy Day Workplace*

    Your annual reminder that food and drink gifts are not appropriate workplace-wide gifts when there are no choices involved! I get an annual box of a variety of Godiva chocolates from my workplace, but I cannot have chocolate and am allergic to nuts. No matter what you choose, it will be inappropriate for someone. Don’t give food/drink gifts unless you offer choices!

  81. Dee*

    If I had to participate in laser tag I’d just plan with my fellow comrades who don’t want to play to shoot each other at the start of the game so we could sit out immediately. Oh, I’m dead. So sorry. Guess the four of us will go get a drink and actually bond as humans instead.

  82. Avoided since*

    I went to laser tag many years ago as team building and it was absolutely awful, basically like a simulated nightmare. The guns were way more realistic than I had expected. I don’t even want to get into the details further because I’m sure it could be upsetting for some to even read.

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