I have recently joined a company and after a few months of settling in, there is now a habit for the senior guys to fire 'nerf' gun bullets across the room. What's alarming is that they all (the senior members) have joined in. Speaking to some of them they seem to think it is fun and lightens the mood in the office. As a developer it just ruins my concentration. It is difficult to say anything as I fear I would be a lone voice.

Most of the juniors don't have anything to do with it. There are about 7 seniors and 9 juniors in the office.

Ideally I would like it to stop but perhaps it is ingrained in the culture of the place and perhaps I would be better off looking elsewhere. It's not a situation I have been in before so if anyone has had a similar experience, I would be interested in how it panned out.

Could asking for a change in office culture damage my reputation and would it be considered inappropriate? Would someone who finds themselves in this situation be better looking elsewhere for a more suitable office culture?

  • "Should I quit?" polling for how others have dealt with the situation are not questions that work well in our Q&A format. If you wanted help with addressing the issue, or some other goal we may be able to help there. But a poll of what other people have done is not something that is good for the site or likely to help others in the future. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 17:40
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    Hey Johnny, is it possible to edit this and make it more clear what you're question is. Polling questions (i.e What did YOU do?) don't really work too well here. Thank you.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 19:51
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    Good edits, @Jimbo. Thanks for helping out. I'm reopening this post since the question is more direct and clear. However, it's up to the community now whether or not it stays open. Hope this helps.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 1:47
  • comments removed: Comments are intended to help improve a post or seek clarification. Please don't answer the questions in the comments. These can't be easily voted on as the best answers, and they may inadvertently prevent other users from providing real answers. Please see How should I post a useful non-answer if it shouldn't be a comment? for more guidance.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 1:49
  • As a follow up, I am still working at the same place and the nerf gun fights have stopped - most of the culprits having moved on to other jobs. The way I helped stop it was stating that I would leave if it continued to other members of the team and getting one of the seniors to send an email stating that it wasn't acceptable. My advice to anyone would be to say something rather than leave things to fester or get worse. At least you will know where you stand. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 13:47

5 Answers 5


You're clearly not a good fit for the office. That's pretty much it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just not your cup of tea.

We have the same sort of thing in our office, although on a smaller scale (and with a crossbow instead of a nerf gun). Personally I think it's very important to have a relaxing atmosphere where everyone can be themselves and have a laugh, and it doesn't affect my concentration. I enjoy my work, but I also find it very important that the atmosphere is a relaxed one - we are (or should be) paid for our brains and thoughts after all, and not on the hours sat at a desk.

If you don't like that sort of atmosphere - the 'culture' if you will - then perhaps you should find another place that doesn't have this sort of fun. You're a newbie and can't expect a whole team to change as soon as you arrive - and you shouldn't want to ruin it for the others either.

Final thought: if you can't enjoy both your work and where you work, which is where we spend a significant proportion of our lives - then you should do everything you can to be somewhere where you want to be, doing what you want to do. The same goes for the others in your team, who seem to be where they want to be right now.

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    I like this answer the best. I was in an office for a while where the work was very stressful. 'Tomfoolery' to me was as essential as the computer I was working on to getting things done. I didn't hate coming to work. We brought some new people on, they complained and the net change on the department was down. I work in a different area where the job requirements are different. It's really quiet and I would be upset of people acted out here. I think the OP needs to find a place where they feel comfortable given the work requirements.
    – Bmo
    Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 11:30
  • ****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. On Workplace SE, comments are intended to help improve a post. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 14:41
  • This should be reworded as "The office is not a good fit for you". An intentionally distracting and anti-inclusionary workplace under the guise of "fun" and "relaxation" to please some of your inconsiderate (and young) coworkers is unhealthy long term. But more importantly, you CAN ABSOLUTELY change office culture as a new employee, or at any time.
    – Andy Ray
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 5:50
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    "But more importantly, you CAN ABSOLUTELY change office culture as a new employee, or at any time." I massively disagree - you don't just turn up somewhere with it's own culture and rules and try and change things unless you are a social justice warrior. You are entitled to your opinion, however.
    – James
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 12:19
  • It is an opinion that you shouldn't attempt to solve a problem. It is a fact that you can. Thank you for your opinion.
    – Andy Ray
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 7:18

I would speak up. You can recognize both parts [I know that] "it is fun and lightens the mood" [but] "it ruins my concentration", and then make a request that they stop doing that with you.

"Shoot me in the breaks and in the hallway, but not while I'm trying to think".

Humor is very personal, what one persons likes, the other dislikes.

  • ****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. On Workplace SE, comments are intended to help improve a post. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details.
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 14:40

Ideally I would like it to stop but perhaps it is ingrained in the culture of the place and I would be better off looking elsewhere?

Are these gun battles a new occurrence?

If so, then try to ignore them and hope they will go away soon. These things often peter out quickly.

If they have been happening since before you arrived, then perhaps "tomfoolery" is an ingrained part of the culture there.

Every company has a culture. We all have to decide if the company's culture is something that fits our personal needs or not. Once person's "active, engaged team" is another person's "team of clowns".

  • What the hell is "tom-and-tanya-foolery?
    – user9158
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 20:13
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    I have never seen nor heard of that term before, nor has Google and to suggest tomfoolery is a gendered term is patently ridiculous.
    – user9158
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 23:10
  • I laughed at the joke. But I laugh at every dumb thing anyway, so don't take my word for it.
    – rbwhitaker
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 23:41
  • @rbwhitaker: you're a good fit for this answer's culture. I guess Lego Stormtrooper just isn't ;-) Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 10:55

This is what the probationary period is for. You have already correctly determined the often overlooked fact that this is for you as well as your employer.

The atmosphere in the office is usually discussed in most interviews, where the team is described as "quiet", "relaxed", "fun", etc. This is where you will need to read between the lines a little, and possible outright ask the question to clarify.

Frequently, it is assumed that everybody works in the same way in the same conditions, and this is not clarified.

You might want to have a conversation with your immediate superior, or the person that hired you to discuss your concerns, and establish that you are not fitting in well with the organisation's atmosphere/culture. It may well be that the company isn't right, and it might be best to leave to find something more suitable.

The other often over-looked fact about a probationary period is that it can be extended, again by either your employer, or by yourself. If you have the conversation about this matter, and you are told that it will calm down, and this is temporary, you can ask to extend your probationary period (assuming that your employer has no problems with you of course), and you can use this time to reassess and possible search for a new job if things don't improve.

Either way, good luck.


If the problem is just the distraction

If you think this isn't going to go away then you should raise it with your line manager as a difficulty you are finding with your workplace environment. Any junior employee should get some help and support with this kind of difficulty. It would be the same if the distraction comes from company-critical activities or building work in the street outside, although the options to deal with it are different. Your line manager could move you out of the crossfire or at least give you advice how to work through or around distractions.

You should accept that it's possible nothing will change. Your employer is not obliged to give you a workplace that is free of distractions, and you are not required to remain un-distracted no matter what goes on around you. It's not up to you whether nerf guns are fired about the place, it's up to whoever manages the team. But there's no reason your line manager shouldn't take into consideration that it's a problem for you. One option, therefore, is to accept that this activity is distracting, accept that once it starts you will get no work done until it stops, and join in! Check with your line manager that it's OK to timesheet it as "internal communications meeting" ;-)

Managers make a decision on a compromise that suits their goals, depending on the preferences of various members of the team. They are obliged (by common sense if not by law) to take into account the effects of their decision. Some managers will duck this responsibility -- dealing with bad managers is a whole separate issue from dealing with annoying colleagues. So, if you find your line manager totally unsympathetic and unwilling to engage in the issue then you have a new question on your hands.

You say in a comment:

It just gives us the perception for being a team of clowns.

You shouldn't worry about this, it's not really your concern unless you think the rest of the company will judge you primarily by this one aspect of the behaviour of the team you belong to. If your team truly is perceived as clowns by the rest of your company then it's unlikely that of your team, only you have noticed this. But just in case, you could think about cautiously reporting some of the comments you've heard from others. If your team is not generally perceived as clowns, but you perceive them that way, then think about who is more likely to be right (and who has the right to decide what's an acceptable level of clowning around) -- one junior employee or the whole rest of the company. So, they're clowns. When you build a team from scratch, you can decide that you want it to be a team of non-clowns. This is not that team.

If the problem is senior colleagues are shooting at you

Unless there's something peculiar in your contract or your job description, you are entitled not to be targeted yourself if you don't want to be, so do not feel that you must tolerate stuff being thrown/fired at you. If they're shooting you and you want them to stop that aspect of it, then you can ask them (calmly and politely) to stop. Most people are not such jerks as to continue after that, so in most places that will be the end of it. If you don't want to address them directly then go through your line manager. If you ask them and they don't stop, again go to your line manager. Remember that you're not trying to stop them shooting each other, your goal is for them to stop shooting you.

Now, it's possible that the team will dislike you for "not joining in" or "not having a sense of humour". This is called bullying. Most people who engage in bullying aren't terrible people, they just haven't really thought through the effects of them imposing their idea of "cool" or "fun" behaviour on people who do not enjoy that behaviour at all. Perhaps they need help seeing that launching stuff at people might make that person feel uncomfortable or threatened. They will generally say that they are not bullies, rather that there is something wrong with you for not enjoying what they do to you. They probably truly believe that, because although everyone knows that the thing called "bullying" is wrong, they aren't necessarily capable of realising when they're doing it. That is all part of the bullying.

If you're bullied there may not be much point telling your line manager or HR in so many words that you're being bullied. You're better off sticking to reporting specific actions and incidents. However, when an organisation supports bullying your line manager will favour the bullies, will say that you need to take a little hazing to fit in, that everyone else puts up with it, etc. It is incredibly difficult to uproot this culture, and one junior member will not manage it alone. Expect to move on one way or another, perhaps an internal transfer to a less aggressive group if the company has several teams. It's possible, but unlikely, that you have simply stumbled into a nest of intolerable jerks. For example, if your company sets its standards by those of professional sports teams, and you don't see yourself buying into that "jock" culture, then you might just have to look elsewhere.

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