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If I make my team pay for a team bonding activity after work, can that be considered ethical?

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, sleske, Erik, Rhys, paparazzo Mar 23 '17 at 10:10

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    It may or may not be ethical, but making your team pay for it will either defeat the purpose of the activity, or bond the team against you. This will be doubly so if the activity is compulsory. – Jon P Mar 23 '17 at 3:41
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    Is the event mandatory, or optional? – Tas Mar 23 '17 at 5:39
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    This is a win-lose situation which will demotivate employees. The way to do it is to do these events during company time with company funding, that will show your employees that the company is willing to make an effort. – SBoss Mar 23 '17 at 6:42
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    They will put your head on a pike in the lobby as a warning to the next 10 generations to show what a stupid idea this is. (Paraphrasing obscure SciFi). Seriously - this is about as stupid as it gets. – Wesley Long Mar 23 '17 at 6:45
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    For me, "Activity After Work" is an instant turn-off, regardless of who pays for it. I'm too busy after work to want to spend unpaid time with colleagues... – PeteCon Mar 23 '17 at 7:34
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If you are proposing to

  1. Hold a team-building activity,
  2. Make it mandatory, and
  3. 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.

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    Even if it's not illegal, your employees will resent being forced to pay for the team building activity. It will certainly help them bond over their resentment of you, but that's probably not the outcome you want. – Mel Reams Mar 23 '17 at 4:40
  • If you're making it mantadory and after hours, it's probably also illegal in many places. – Erik Mar 23 '17 at 5:50
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    And by the way, "strongly suggested", or any difference in the way OP will treat team members who didn't go, equals mandatory for most intents and purposes. – Mołot Mar 23 '17 at 5:59
  • @JoeStrazzere sounds like coercion/extortion to me. "Buy this service you don't want or else". – Erik Mar 23 '17 at 15:32
  • @JoeStrazzere if you took it to court, this is probably what it would end up as. I can't imagine any company trying to ACTUALLY force people to show up and then pay for it themselves, though. – Erik Mar 23 '17 at 15:56
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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.

  • Gee, I didn't know you felt like you had to lose some rep for some reason? – Weckar E. Mar 23 '17 at 10:16
  • +1 for making me laugh and hopefully getting the correct point across. – Stian Yttervik Mar 23 '17 at 11:25
  • Why so negative? There might also be a far different effect: It might unite the team in their hatred for fdskjhgfkj8o7. A common enemy is a great way to bind a group of people together. After such an experience they might show extraordinary teamwork and camaraderie when it comes to sabotaging fdskjhgfkj8o7's leadership. – Philipp Mar 23 '17 at 13:21
  • @Weckar The answer is deliberately sarcastic to rub in the point strongly. In some cases like this, that is a lot more effective than writing a thesis. – Masked Man Mar 23 '17 at 13:23
  • @WeckarE. Lose rep? That's +66 right there. – Chris E Mar 23 '17 at 14:28
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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)

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