We went on a Team-Building activity this past weekend, payed by the company. There was a swimming pool there and a few of my coworkers thought it would be a good idea to pick people at random and throw them in the water.

I was one of the "victims", obviously, and I can't get upset about it since I do understand the entertainment factor that something like this provides.

The problem was that I had my smartphone in my pocket, a fact that I forgot to mention during those moments. It instantly died...

I immediately got out of the pool and got the phone out of my pocket. Everyone there saw this and acknowledged that the phone might be dead.

Now, obviously, it wasn't my colleagues's intentions to damage it, but something has to be done about it; after all, it wasn't a $50 phone... I don't have any insurrance or warranty for this phone, otherwise I wouldn't bother with the whole situation.

Some alcohol was consumed, but people were not drunk, they were just a little heated. The alcohol was not provided by the company, everyone bought their own.

Do I talk to my manager about it ? If yes, what should I ask for ? Should I ask that the company buy me a new phone ?

Or should I instead talk directly to my colleagues and try to leave management out of it ? The problem is that, due to the "heat of the moment", I don't remember with 100 % accuracy which colleagues were involved in this and I really don't want to wrongfully point fingers at people.

Who should I talk to ? And what exactly should I say ? I want to solve this but without damaging my relationship with the people involved.

I'm interested in solving my personal situation, obviously, but I would also like to see some general guidelines about how to approach such issues.

PS: I dried the phone as best as I could, I even let it stay covered in rice for about 48 hours. After a total of about 5 days it still doesn't work. I don't think it can be fixed with a cost that is smaller than a new phone...

To see how this situation was solved, hover over the box below:

I discussed with the coworkers involved and they paid in cash the equivalent of the phone's market value. I will use that cash to buy a new phone.

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    possibly relevant: was attendance at the team-building activity required by management? Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 18:38
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    Personally I'd find the individuals who did the throwing, tell them the incident was "hilaaarious" right up until it killed your phone, divide the cost of a new phone between them and ask them when you can expect a check. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 18:54
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    If it wasn't a required event, I wouldn't bring management into it. I'd treat it as if I'd gone out drinking with friends and a similar mishap had occurred. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 18:56
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    crowdfunding under the guise of teambuilding.
    – bdimag
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 20:03
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    Personally I would fire anyone who did that at a company party. That is totally out of line and dangerous. It also makes the company liable if someone gets hurt. People die or get paralyxed from such stupidity (someone I was in college with did get paralyzed this way) and your co-workers think it's funny? You work with some total fools. I would report them and hope management fires them and takes the cost of your phone out of their last paycheck.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 20:28

5 Answers 5


I am of the opinion that it is the responsibility of the colleagues who threw you into the pool (the "culprits") to reimburse your phone. My advice to you would be to directly approach the culprits with your damaged phone and request they reimburse you for a new, equivalent phone. They can split the bill however they please, but you are already going to be out

  1. your old phone
  2. possibly the data on your old phone
  3. your time
  4. your effort (my mobile store experience is equivalent to that of a car dealership)

As you have indicated you are uncertain who threw you in, check with coworkers, since you indicate they (and the culprits) witnessed both the incident and your damaged phone; there must be someone who can identify the culprits. Check outside of management if possible; get at least one coworker you trust to identify the culprits, possibly confirm with a second coworker.

If you are unable to find a reliable witness, work up the management hierarchy of witnesses to help identify the culprits. If you are involving managerial types, stress that you do not intend any company repercussions for the culprits; you simply want reimbursement for your phone in the form of payment for your replacement phone.

As you will need to buy a replacement phone, you should immediately pursue an equivalent replacement phone so you have an estimated bill of sale to back up your expenses. As you have no original sales receipt, check online for retroactive market values of the model of your damaged phone for the year it was purchased. Do not switch phone providers if you can. Track any plan transfer charges as well; the culprits are culpable for those charges since they are part of the expense of having to change phones, which you wouldn't normally have had to pay since you weren't switching phones.

Once identities are confirmed, you can approach the culprits.

What should you say (assuming you also budgeted or purchased an equivalent replacement phone) is:

"Hello {name} , do you recall the incident at {company event} where my phone was damaged when I was thrown into the pool?" {present phone} "This is the damaged phone. It is a {phone model} and replacing it with {new phone model} cost me {amount} ." {present a copy of the estimate that he can keep} "I would prefer to conduct this as individuals; how would you [and] {name the other culprits} prefer to handle this?"

The alternate "ballsy" approach would be to end the final sentence with:

"how would you [and] {name the other culprits} prefer to handle this, cash or check?"

Adjust the conversation depending on your ultimate situation, but conduct the encounter as soon as possible.

I do not see the need to involve superiors if individual employees can handle it themselves, however if the culprits declare no responsibility on their part, then you should involve management in the way that @Leigh's answer suggests.

  • I marked your answer as accepted. To see what happened with the whole situation, see the spoiler segment in the question body :) Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 12:27

In such a situation, I would first go to the supervisor/team lead and explain what happened, saying that while you really enjoyed the event and were glad to spend time with your colleagues, this accident occurred and killed your smartphone. (I've had people try and chuck me in a pool even without alcohol involved - so I personally would not be the first one to bring that up.) Then I would ask about the policy for reimbursements for this damage of property that happened on company time. Possibly ask if you and your boss can come to a solution with the person who did the throwing. If the supervisor/team lead doesn't know, or doesn't want to handle the situation, then start moving up the chain, asking questions (your boss, then HR.)

Speak up soon, though - because waiting a few days to try letting the phone dry out, is one thing. Waiting too much longer, they can claim that "if you had spoken up sooner we could have done somthing, but now it's too late so there's no option and no reimbursement policy."

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    You can ask the company, but I think they're going to say, correctly, that it wasn't their idea to throw anyone into the pool and in fact that doing so was a violation of company policy. Though anyone stupid enough to put drunks anywhere near a pool was asking for it. Then again, the same might be said for carrying expensive electronics near a drunk-infested pool... Frankly, outside of posting a sob story and soliciting donations, I suspect you're going to wind up paying for the replacement yourself or get your own insurance to cover it.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 18:45
  • @keshlam if the company wants to claim that they have no responsibility because what happened was "against company policy" then Radu could certainly ask why it was condoned at a company sponsored event. It doesn't sound like management did anything to stop people from throwing others in the pool. Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 21:43
  • You could try that argument. It might fly if you insisted on taking this to court. It might not.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 2:28
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    I don't think op should bring management or HR in before talking to involved coworkers. Even if he isn't sure who they are they might come out on their own if asked. And offer some kind of agreement. Involving hierarchy, however, may look like an overreaction or desire for punishment and make responsibles less willing to fix what they did
    – ero
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 11:19

Do I talk to my manager about it ? If yes, what should I ask for ? Should I ask that the company buy me a new phone ?


Since this was a company event, you can take the stance that the company should be responsible.

State the facts as you see them. Then listen.

I would expect a good manager to respond with something like "Let me see what we can do about that." And then I would expect your manager to find a way for the company to get you a replacement phone.

If the manager doesn't respond along those lines, push a bit and ask "I'd like the company to pay for a replacement phone. Who should I talk to about that?"

You may not get what you want, but you should ask anyway. If the company refuses, you can always approach the offending colleague.

All of this assumes that you weren't drunk, and were acting responsibly at the time of the incident (i.e., that you were an innocent victim in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were not throwing people into the pool yourself). If that's not the case, then you must expect to assume at least part of the responsibility.


The civil law generally states, that whoever made any damage to anyone's property, is required to fix that damage, which includes paying full compensation. The civil law doesn't operate on guilt factor. Guilt is important in criminal law, but doesn't matter in civil law.

Even if it was not your collegue's intention to damage your cell phone, it should be obvious to anyone mature, that people are wearing in their pockets valuable things like cellphones or wallets with money.

Throwing people at the pool is also very childish and irresponsible behaviour. What if someone has no clothes for change, and he/she must walk an hour home or wait for a bus, which can be half an hour late, and there's cold outside? Such an incident could result in serious health issues, for which that collegue would be also fully liable.

From what you have written, it was very lucky that the only damage made was the cellphone. Of course, your collegue should pay for it. It would be a valuable lesson to him.

Of course things get complicated if you can't remember who was throwing people into the swimming pool, but in that case the organisators of the event should actually be liable, because they haven't reacted to such behaviour. In fact, their responsibility should be to immediately stop such incidents, and make sure, the responsibles are punished.

Of course, you can resign from reacting, but if next time because of such 'fun' somebody will get pneumonia or get sexually harassed, wouldn't you fill a bit guilty you haven't made anything to send a signal that not everything is allowed only because it's evening and everyone is drunk?


Oh that would just get me pissed off too. And what if the people that got chucked in the swimming pool couldn't swim. Your colleagues are Bast@*^% if you ask me, spirit or no spirit.

Well If you don't remember who done it, then the direct approach goes out the window. And i don't think you will find out either because no one is going to take responsibility especially once they find out your expensive phone got knackered.

So were does that leave you. Revenge? Email to the Boss? A Punch up?

If the Manager/Boss is a nice person then Tell Him/Her about what happened, and then will probably get petty cash from the company and reimburse you or send an email out to everyone to have a wip around to raise the cash to get you a new phone. In the like hood that the people will come forward and say "Yep it was me" then they probably reimburse you.

Also, check your contract (if its not prepay), you may be able to call the provider to send you a replacement phone.

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