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I have this situation where I can't figure out what to do. Big team building event is coming up and it is happening at place where my girlfriend loves to go few times at summer time, it is really beautiful place.

I asked person, who is responsible for event, if my girlfriend can come too. She kindly responded that budget is really limited for this event, and that it's limited to only company workforce only. So I ask about expenses for one person and asked if I can cover for my girlfriend. I got strange response saying that its not that person responsible has got anything against my girlfriend, but that it would be weird that she is there, even if she does not participate in activities. I just asked I would like to have her by my side while i am there, because i know that she loves that place. And I got again this weird response that I should spend more time with colleagues and not make any excuse to avoid that.

The thing is I am not making any excuses I just want that my girlfriend is besides me while we are there, I would participate in all activities and all. It just don't feel right that I would go without her to this place.

Last few month I have skipped some activities with my team and colleagues, because of personal projects. I really want to go but at the same time I don't want to if can't take my girlfriend with me. I feel like not going it would somehow damage my relationships with team members, because there will be some kind of game activity and I have been placed in on of the teams, so if I won't go there will be team without one member. But in the same time, I feel that if I go I will damage the lovely bond I have with my girlfriend, because we mostly go places together, especially if one of us really likes that place.

How could I resolve this without any damage to both sides?
I have few options, but I want to hear other people ideas and answers.

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I like meeting family of my coworkers at events but the atmosphere has to be right for that. Teambuilding workshop doesn't sound like the right atmosphere to bring your girlfriend or spouse. Btw the excuse about the budget thing is nonsense. The organizer was probably trying to be indirect about telling you no. –  Brandin Jul 30 at 12:31
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If your girlfriend can't understand that it's out of your control, I would say that your relationship is already damaged. –  David K Jul 30 at 12:34
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i am not talking about not understanding, i am talking about me not wanting to go without her ;) –  Cardiner Jul 30 at 12:35
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As much as I personally dislike 'teambuilding exercises' and sympathise with you preferring to spend time with your girlfriend instead, I think you need to get over the idea that it's somehow weird for an employer to say that partners are not invited to internal corporate training sessions. It's not weird at all. –  RobM Jul 30 at 20:41
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@RobM I think there are some important unstated variables. If the OP has to give up his weekend for a "fun" work activity that his girlfriend is explicitly not invited to, then there is some cognitive dissonance. –  emory Jul 31 at 0:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 81 down vote accepted

How could i resolve this without any damage to both sides?

You have been told that girlfriends are not invited to these events, so even if it's a really pretty place, and even if your girlfriend likes it a lot, stop asking if she can come along to this company event - you've already gotten your answer.

Instead, bring your girlfriend on your own time - perhaps immediately following the team-building event. Explain to her that this is a company event, not a family-and-friends event, and that you need to pay attention to the team building activities for a while. Find another time that works well for both of you where you can pay attention to her.

Separating work life from home life is something we all need to learn to do as we grow up and mature professionally. Use this event as an opportunity for both you and your girlfriend to learn how to accomplish that without damaging any bonds.

(As David Mulder points out in the comment below, some cultures separate work life from home life more than others. Based on what you wrote about your discussion with the activity coordinator, I'm assuming you work in a culture that permits such a separation.)

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You could consider taking a day off (or the weekend if the team building even ends on a Friday and having your girlfriend come up then and the two of you staying on together for a day or two. So she isn't there for the team building event, but she comes after and you share some time together. –  HLGEM Jul 30 at 14:38
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What HLGEM suggests is very common and the best way to deal with this: lots of people I know have been to company events, conferences etc in nice locations, then stayed a few extra days at their own expense in their own time being joined by family/partners. It's best for everyone: during the work event, you're focussed on work related matters or getting to know your colleagues, and during the time with your partner, you're focussed on enjoying time with them. –  user568458 Jul 31 at 8:29
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"Separating work life from home life is something we all need to learn to do as we grow up and mature professionally" That depends a lot on company culture and is not necessarily a thing to strife for, despite being popularized in western culture in recent periods. –  David Mulder Jul 31 at 13:08

Team building activities are just that: team building activities. The idea is that you spend time with your team away from your normal office and work.

If you take along your girlfriend, you will change the dynamics heavily. You will spend time and attention on your girlfriend (otherwise, why bring her along?), so you will naturally spend less time and attention on your team.

Your employer is sponsoring this event, and this happens on company time (or should, at least). Who pays the piper calls the tune. Your employer is very much in the right if they want you to concentrate on the team during these activities. You twice call it "weird" when your contact person tries to gently hint at this. I suggest that you think about this attitude and try to change it.

In addition, you mention that you already skipped some team events. I recommend that you be very careful about the image you project at work. Do your best to communicate that your team is important to you - at least during work hours. Frankly, pressing this exact issue is not the best way to make a good impression along these lines.

Finally: I'd recommend that you take your girlfriend to this place some other time. This will be more fair to her, too, since that way you'll be able to concentrate on her, without having to divide your time and attention between your colleagues and your girlfriend.

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It may just be that the OP would be happier at a place that skews more toward "life" in work/life balance. –  Amy Blankenship Jul 30 at 18:35

A team building event is a professional event, however in a casual setting.

This is still work time.

Although the location is different, the tone is more fun, and people behave in a more relaxed way.

However, don't confuse official teambuilding events with your own free time. This is different from the occasions that you spend with your girlfriend, friends, and family, or with the times when you go for a beer with colleagues after work, which is also your own free time.

Not "doing your job" during the team building event could the same way end your career, as not "doing your job" in the office/workplace.

I recommend to be professional. Give your best the same way during the team building event as you would do in the office/workplace, independently from the location.


Note: When significant others are welcome, this information is usually explicitly given. Like a business dinner where husband/wife are also required, or a fund raising event. However, these are still "part of the job", and family members are expected to behave accordingly - i.e. to support you in your work role.

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This answer assumes that the event is during working hours. That may or may not be the case, as pointed out by others. –  sleske Jul 31 at 9:34

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