If I make my team pay for a team bonding activity after work, can that be considered ethical?
If you are proposing to
- Hold a team-building activity,
- Make it mandatory, and
- Make employees pay for it,
Then I'd say this was a crappy, and possibly illegal, thing to do. If it's entirely voluntary, or if it's mandatory but company-paid, there are no problems, of course. But requiring employees to spend their own money is always shaky ground.
This sounds like a fantastic idea for team bonding ... except that it will work differently from what you expect. To make it more effective, choose an activity that costs an exorbitant amount but nobody likes, make it mandatory and do it after work hours.
This would ensure that the team members are either so annoyed that they leave on their own, or so demotivated that their work suffers and they would be fired. Then you can hire a brand new team which you can build from scratch.
In addition, depending on what the team thinks of the boss now, the team bonding event can produce great results in a different way. If the team members already hate the boss individually in secret, the team bonding event may cause the hate to spill over and encourage team members to
bitch about praise the boss publicly. Nothing unites a team better than praising the boss.
You want the team to bond. You're doing this to benefit the company. Therefore, it should be considered part of "work" - i.e. the company pays for it, and it's done - if possible - during working hours.
What you're proposing is like asking them to work overtime, and to pay for the heating and electricity they use during the overtime! OK the team-bonding activity might be a bit more pleasant than the usual work they do, but it's still part of work.
Having said that you don't give us enough detail. If your "team-bonding activity" is simply you inviting them (i.e. optional) for a night out in the pub or something, then it might be reasonable to expect them to buy their own drink. (Though many companies might pick up the tab or at least some of it even in this case! Depending on culture of course)