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we needed to share our “shadow sides” and “be extra weak” at a gathering — Ask a Supervisor

A reader writes:

The small group of seven folks I’m on (inside a Fortune 500 firm) lately had an offsite for team-building and strategic planning. A junior worker was assigned to plan the team-building a part of our offsite. She’s repeatedly mentioned she desires extra belief inside the group and for us to really feel like a “household.” So she deliberate an exercise for us to “be extra weak with one another.” We got clean paper masks and requested to attract/paint our strengths and issues we confirmed to the world on the entrance of the masks, after which on the again to attract/paint our “shadow sides” or weaknesses or issues we don’t normally share within the office. Then we have been all requested to share.

I managed this by not speaking about something I didn’t need to share. However one worker cried whereas sharing and one other was visibly uncomfortable. I’ve carried out this sort of exercise earlier than, however within the context of group remedy beneath the supervision of an expert therapist!

I’ve the credibility and capital to share some suggestions with my administration group about this exercise. However I’m having a tough time determining the best way to articulate it past “inappropriate for the office.” I don’t need them to inform the junior worker that different folks didn’t like her exercise, however I do need the managers to vet actions going ahead! Do you’ve any advised language to speak about this?


It’s so widespread for managers to let staff plan this sort of exercise with none oversight! Typically the primary time different folks hear particulars concerning the exercise are when it’s being introduced on the assembly and everybody is anticipated to take part on the spot. It’s fairly weird since if team-building and ice-breakers are priceless sufficient to spend assembly time on (and they are often! I’m not saying they by no means are), you’d assume they’d be necessary sufficient for somebody to evaluation earlier than setting a junior staffer free with full free rein to provide you with something they need.

Particularly one who has repeatedly mentioned the group ought to really feel extra like a household.

Anyway, right here’s your listing of causes:

* Extremely private actions about folks’s most intimate selves are finest carried out with the steerage of a therapist or at a religious retreat, not at work. For many individuals, good-faith participation on this exercise would have meant delving into and revealing trauma, which nobody ought to need to do at work … and which may very well be counter to some staff’ psychological well being wants.

* It’s intrusive. Many individuals really feel violated by calls for that they decrease their boundaries, and really feel being anticipated to share deeply intimate issues with colleagues or managers as extremely invasive and overstepping.

* Asking staff to “be extra weak” could not truly be protected for everybody there to do. It places some folks — significantly these with marginalized identities — able of precise vulnerability and dangers opening them as much as discrimination.

* It’s true that high-functioning groups are ones the place folks really feel psychologically protected and the place they are often their genuine selves. Nevertheless, that setting is one thing that’s created by good administration over a sustained time frame. Merely demanding emotional intimacy from staff doesn’t obtain that; to that opposite, that may make many individuals really feel much less protected.

* Actions like these at all times should be opt-in; folks ought to by no means really feel obligated or pressured to take part. (And even opt-in actions might be inappropriate for work, and I’d argue this one is.)

So sure, please do share suggestions together with your administration group about what occurred at this assembly, and ask that future actions be vetted forward of time and tips supplied to anybody charged with planning them. Your coworkers will thanks.

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