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I work for a software product company that has casual work culture. There is a game room that has arcade games, a ping pong table and a pool table.

Every once in a while, I and my colleagues play ping pong for 20 minutes or so to take a break from work, usually after long meetings or coding sessions. There were some new hires in the team who were over using the game room during and after lunch for almost or over an hour daily.

One fine day, we all received an email from my manager stating that we should be using the game room only after 5 PM and stick to the guidelines. There is no guidelines defined as when to use the game room though. Now as we were mailed by our manager, all of our team members including me are feeling reluctant to play ping pong even if we know that it will be for shorter duration. We only have to watch people from other teams using the facility to relax themselves. Post 5 PM does not work for everyone as people have to drive far or have to take care of daily errands like picking children from schools.

Now, since this facility is provided by the company and not my manager, how can he restrict us using the game room? Also, since few members of the team misused the facility, is it fair to restrict everyone in the team?

  • Do you get lunch breaks? – Khalil Khalaf Feb 11 at 19:40
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    Why were the new hires not informed of the expected use of the game room, and why didn't anyone tell them they were overusing it? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 11 at 23:01
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    Sounds like a pretty standard case that the manager was probably reprimanded by someone higher up for not properly managing how much time his reports spend in the game room, and instead of, you know "managing" the situation, they just took the sledgehammer approach. The old saying that people don't quit companies, they quit managers isn't always accurate, but it so very often is. – delinear Feb 12 at 9:11
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    Why was this closed as off-topic? I think it fits within the boundaries of the site; I was just about to post an Answer about asking the manager about flexible work time (e.g. come in half an hour earlier in exchange for half an hour in the game room after lunch). – nick012000 Feb 12 at 12:24
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    I'd vote to re-open. – Jeffrey supports Monica Feb 12 at 14:50
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Restricting game room usage is definitely not something unreasonable. It seems that your team abused the privilege and is now paying for it.

Moving forward, team leads and even regular employees should have learned

  • to not overuse privileges
  • to show leadership by talking to interns about unprofessional behaviour, before it reaches management.

Show contrition, deliver good work and the privileges will be restored.

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  • The question is not about delivering good work. It feels odd and left out when members from other teams still enjoy the privilege given by the company while we are deprived of fun at work. – Darren Feb 11 at 20:50
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    @Darren that's kinda the point of being punished. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 11 at 20:56
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    @TymoteuszPaul punishment should be given based on individual behaviour, not on team behaviour. especially in an otherwise relaxed company culture it seems out of place to punish people that haven't done anything wrong at all. (i assume from the questions wording that the mentioned 20min-break was within the intended usage limits of the game room, of course.) – d_hippo Feb 11 at 21:34
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    @d_hippo I don't disagree, at all, but OP didn't seem to grasp the point. – Tymoteusz Paul Feb 11 at 23:34
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    @d_hippo depends on what you want to achieve. If you want the group to become self monitoring (as in, adress others of your group if they are abusing a privilege) then group punishments are actually far more effective. I do hope that it's only a temporary measure that can be restored after a relatively short period and a clear explanation of what is and isn't allowed. – Imus Feb 12 at 8:08
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Is playing in the game room during working hours that important to you? If so, then talk to your manager and see if you can work out an arrangement so that you can have your play time during working hours. If he won't budge, then maybe this is not the right company for you.

If it's not that important to you, then just drop the issue, forget about who uses the game room, and continue to do your assigned work.

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2

I'm not sure that anyone can answer the "how/why can this happen?" question, since company culture and the reasons and restrictions on stuff like a game room are as variable as the company's themselves.

The best way to get an answer is to start asking w/in your company. Here's how I'd go about that:

  1. Talk to your direct manager face to face and in private.

Try to keep any defensiveness out of your tone/language - I suspect I'd be feeling pretty defensive if I were you, but try to defuse the situation by being relaxed and at least listening. At the very last ask him where his email was coming from? Presumably you and your fellow employees have been playing 20 minute games for a long time, has that always been an issue? If this rule is really because of a few out-of-line employees - would there be an opportunity for mentoring those few and then returning to a more relaxed rule? And where are the guidelines posted?

This could go one of two ways. Ideally, your manager is a reasonable person, he won't name names, but he'll be able to say exactly what the inspiration was, and maybe concede to easing this rule. Conversely (unfortunately) he could be someone who doesn't ascribe to a relaxed work environment and this was just a good excuse to squash the fun. If this manager is someone you can work with, do so - if you and the manager can work together to gently guide the new folks into a better balance, then you can probably turn the status quo in your favor with no hard feelings. Be ready to step up, though, and offer to chime in when you see others abusing the privilege - don't put it all on the manager, if the culture wants to stay relaxed, it has to have everyone consenting to the norm.

  1. If that fails - take it up a notch.

Ideally, find a manager that is at the union of your management structure and the folks to who still play games before 5:00 - that person may well be able to give you some clue on what's going on here, and some insight into how to change things back to a more company-wide balance. At the very least, this person may know why there are different levels of permission here.

At this level, it's a whole lot less controversial to ask a question than demand a change - and often it will demonstrate your point. "Why can XYZ team play ping pong before 5:00 but our team (ABC team) can't?" will make the person really engage and think, instead of putting them on the defensive immediately.

  1. Ask HR or another public person/group responsible for company policy and morale. For example - some companies have an ask the CEO.

Realize that the more publicly you ask, the more generic and political the answer will be. But also it works as a last resort... you really want to get #1 and #2 attempted first, as if your manager is not going with company codes, this would be a loss of face for that manager.

But these are probably the people most in control of the policy and changing it.


I'd be very careful to only take this as far as you need to in order to find an explanation you agree with, or a change in the rules. After you win, stop pushing. ;) It's not a survey.

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  • This seems like a great way to get the game room closed for good. If it causes this much headache it must mean that people are using it a lot. Which means they're not working. Why keep it? – acpilot Feb 12 at 17:27
  • @acpilot i disagree. Management that thinks the way "everything that keeps people from sitting at their desks aand working all time they're in the office has no reason to stay" will not open such a game room in the first place. Why keep it? It helps the employees refresh their minds. It helps creating a friendly and comfortable environment. It shows the employer cares about such things. And with all three of these it's a goody worth a lot when advertising the company to potential hires. – marstato Feb 17 at 2:04
  • We do disagree. I believe that more often than not it shows that an employer wants to be perceived as an organization that cares about such things. Keep it because the space is not yet needed for productive activities and a game room does not cost a lot of money. Good internal PR. Just my take. – acpilot Feb 17 at 2:20
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It depends what authority the manager has been given in your company and if they have any say over how you use your working hours. The manager may or may not have permission to stop you entering the game room during your personal time (lunch breaks).

I would suggest sending back an email asking your manager to further clarify what the guidelines are. Saying that you were under the impression the purpose of the games room was so you could take an ad-hock 20 minute respite from coding. Also mention why you think it's important to have these breaks.

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A Manager citing a nonexisting guideline to back up his decision is a sure sign of trouble to come, doubly so if this is just because of some individuals overuse of the room, not because of a generaly problematic team habit. Thats totally unprofessional behaviour and shows unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions himself.

Get in touch with his Manager asap. If your Company has a relaxed culture, higher up management (who is responsible for said culture in the first place) should be able to clear things up and prevent him from sabotaging it.

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