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The company I work in is currently organizing an after-hours team building event, which consists of 4-5 hours of some kind of fun activity off-site. Over 20 employees are invited, but not everyone is a part of the same team. I am pretty confident half of the invited employees have never met (and will not meet under normal working circumstances), due to nature of the work.

However, there is a restriction I find to be quite odd: no family members are permitted, meaning spouses and kids are out of the picture. I can not say I agree with this (since the event is biting into employee's spare time).

What is the benefit (besides obvious monetary savings by the company) of not allowing family members to attend team building events? Is this a common practice?

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    I'm in the US, and I have difficulty understanding how such a question would even be conceived by a working professional. I suspect that you and I are from very diverse cultures. Where are you located, and is family commonly involved in work-related events in your area? – user20914 Jun 11 '14 at 1:20
  • If the company sent you on a business trip to meet with a client or another company office, would you expect them to include the family because you're staying overnight? Even if you pay for their travel expenses, are you going to bring them to a client diner? – user8365 Jun 11 '14 at 15:39
  • @jt0dd It is in the US. I assume it makes sense. – Ruslan Osipov Jun 11 '14 at 17:19
  • @RuslanOsipov Perhaps then, a very different culture within the US. (Maybe in your area, business and family often merge -- here, the thought doesn't even occur.) – user20914 Jun 11 '14 at 17:22
  • @jt0dd Maybe I am just enjoying my job too much :) – Ruslan Osipov Jun 11 '14 at 18:23
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What is the benefit (besides obvious monetary savings by the company) of not allowing family members to attend team building events? Is this a common practice?

You need to face facts: In the scope of the workplace, your regular life family is not a part of that “team.”

Now you say this:

I am pretty confident half of the invited employees have never met…

Bingo! The purpose of “team building” events is to get a lot of disparate people together who work together in various capacities & get them to work together in a team. Basically, get everyone to know everyone in some way outside of the workplace that—key point—encourages you to bond with each other.

Now, some people there might be support staff you don’t deal with directly. But the point is your organization wants to make you feel that if/when you reach out to support staff that there is some kinship in place. Some respect for who people are & what they do & how they all work together.

However, there is a restriction I find to be quite odd: no family members are permitted, meaning spouses and kids are out of the picture.

Yes, exactly. Like I said before, goal is to build an organizational team. Not have a “meet & greet” with extraneous family members who might inadvertently interfere with the process.

Now I’m not saying your spouse & children will deliberately meddle, but the fact they are there at all might simply get in the way of co-workers being co-workers. For example, let’s say part of the team building includes co-workers being profoundly honest about how each other works? Who wants to say, “Look, I don’t think you are doing a good job…” while someone’s spouse & children are around?

You need to look at these “team building” sessions as a mini boot camp. Yeah, their are families & children on military bases. But they don’t show up at boot camp to cheer someone on, right? It’s only before & afterwards.

During “team building” there is nothing but you & other team members. And that is the way it goes.

Also, for some reason I glossed over this when I initially answered the question:

The company I work in is currently organizing an after-hours team building event, which consists of 4-5 hours of some kind of fun activity off-site.

4-5 hours off-site for a “team building” event is really a short amount of time. Many times these are weekend—or even week-long—activities taking place off-site. So I would not get too wrapped up in this being an imposition.

  • I am not talking about support staff, but about unrelated teams of software engineers who never cross paths. – Ruslan Osipov Jun 10 '14 at 23:16
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    @RuslanOsipov “…unrelated teams of software engineers who never cross paths.” Yet. This might be a way for management to see if they can create new cross-team initiatives. – JakeGould Jun 10 '14 at 23:17
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    I have trouble understanding why this answer is not obvious to begin with, especially from the perspective of a working professional. – user20914 Jun 11 '14 at 1:18
  • @jt0dd People tend to forget that no matter how friendly an office environment is, it is a “workplace” and people have to work together and if they are forcing teams that never worked together to “team build” it is for a reason. – JakeGould Jun 11 '14 at 1:19
  • +1 Good answer. The only thing not addressed is the 'spare time' issue. But that may be a cultural difference and worth a separate question: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/27146/… ;-) – Jan Doggen Jun 11 '14 at 6:45
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Here's the points to consider:

  • Are some employee's "+1's" being invited while others are not? If so, bring this up to your manager. "XXX mentioned that they were bringing YYY, can I invite someone?"
  • "Team building" is generally for the employees only. If an employee brings their "+1" then they would spend a lot of their time with this person instead of mingling with the team.
  • "Team building" is precisely for members of teams that do not normally interact. For example if you are in marketing and you eventually encounter a problem that billing can solve, then having met someone from billing might smooth the way for you to get the issue solved quickly.

All that said, if you are not being paid, it's probably optional. But then again there's a lot of optional things that you do (or don't do) to cultivate relationships at work.

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I really have no idea what the management of your company is up to. Seriously.

  1. If the company wants to establish that it has a family-like culture, inviting the employees' families sends a message that the company is family-friendly. Theory - at least mine, is that if the company establishes itself in he minds of its employees as family-friendly and pro-family, employees are less likely to jump ship because they will factor other factors than money in their career calculations.

  2. There are functions such as corporate boot camps that are modeled on the military ones and whose purpose is to train employees who may not know each other to quickly build effective teams to solve specific physical challenges. These functions are employees-only.

I'd say that it'd be wise of management to run both types of social functions.

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    -1 : In it's current state, this answer doesn't address the actual situation. This question is about a team-building exercise, not an event designed to promote "family-like culture". – user20914 Jun 11 '14 at 1:13
  • Company social functions can have a number of objectives. Recognizing families of employees can be one, so can establishing the company as 'family friendly'. But 'team building' is something different. – DJClayworth Jun 11 '14 at 1:20
  • @DJClayworth They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are probably complementary. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 11 '14 at 2:14
  • @jtOdd My answer addresses the question, which is "should families be invited?" The answer is that it depends upon what objective the company is trying to achieve. Yes, if the purpose is to build a family-like culture. No, if the immediate goal is team building. And I further say,it'd be wise to do both. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 11 '14 at 2:19
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Depending on the organization, it could be a common practice. For example, at my workplace family is never invited to outings--even if they are social in nature.

There primary legitimate reasons to keep from inviting family would be that the purpose of the function is primarily work-related. Family is not relevant to the purpose of the function. Is this activity a team building one? Then it may be more appropriate to limit it to employees only. In these cases, family would only be a distraction or could get in the way.

In addition, if this is not a common occurrence, then I recommend to let it go.

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