Punk Rock HR Question #6: Compulsory Team Building

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Laurie,

My department is having a three-day conference and part of the second day will involve a team building event. Must I participate the team building portion of the event? What about the company sponsored events in the evening? Do I need to have dinner with my colleagues? What’s the rule on this?

Thanks,
GRPI

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Dear GRPI,

Very simply: you don’t have to do anything at work except your job. You don’t have to participate in a team building event, you don’t have to eat dinner with your colleagues, and you don’t have to follow any imaginary rules.

Just know that when you publicly opt out of these events, you are playing a game of high stakes poker. Your boss will tell you that the team building event is part of a thoughtful and important agenda created for your professional development. Your Human Resources professional may tell you to trust the process. Your peers may look at you, roll your eyes, and say to themselves, “Can you just shut the hell up and participate? You’re slowing things down and we want to get this over with so we can hit the bar.”

If you resist the team building event, you better be sure that your performance speaks for itself. Your supervisor may peg you as difficult, your division’s Vice President may discount your future leadership potential, and your Human Resources professional will think that you don’t get enough attention from your spouse.

Here’s what I think: if your performance is good and you don’t want to participate, don’t.

  • Be subtle, be thoughtful, but don’t be an asshole about it.
  • Excuse yourself from the event and take a walk.
  • Grab a few minutes with your boss and tell him/her why the team building event is bullshit.

You are paid based on how well the company meets its shareholders’ expectations. More specifically, your merit increase is then calculated based on your part in the company’s overall success. Feel free to tell your boss that the best team building activity comes from your team’s successful completion of real work

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