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A Simple Teambuilding Exercise for Stressed Groups

    When work is intensely busy and there are many challenges to overcome, we may experience stress and negative feelings.  If stress gets too high, it can negatively impact morale and productivity. 

    The following team building exercise helps teams express negative feelings about a topic and then take action to move past the negativity.

    Time Required: 60-90 Minutes

    You will need a topic that you think people are stressed about, index cards and two containers.

    The Topic - Pick a topic that people are worried or stressed about. Examples include "Team Morale," "Our Customer Service" and "Our Sales Process." Choose something specific, but phrase it broadly enough to capture a variety of perspectives.

    Supplies - Get two containers. I like to use big colorful buckets, like you might bring to the beach. You'll also want a thick stack of index cards and some markers or pens.


    Before the meeting starts, label one bucket "Hopes" and one bucket “Worries."

    Tell your team that you know they have some concerns about “Topic” and you wanted to have an informal discussion about it to see if the situation can be improved.

    Ask your team members to write down what is worrying or concerning them about the topic. They should write down one worry/concern per index card and put all cards in the bucket labeled “Worries.”

    Next, ask each person to write down what they hope will happen with regard to the topic.  They should write down one hope per index card and place all cards in the bucket labeled “Hopes.”

    DO NOT ask people to put their names on the cards.

    Dump out the cards in each bucket, keeping the piles separate.  Have the team sort each pile to see if there are any themes/patterns emerging.  Use the following questions to explore the topic further.

    Tip:  Don’t dismiss or argue with the perspective of your group!  Emotions are not always rational.  Instead, use this conversation as a chance to explore the issues in a non-judgmental way.

    Talking About Worries

    - What kind of things are we worried about?
    - Are these realistic worries?
    - Which ones can we take action on and which ones are out of our control?
    - What steps should we take (if any) to address these concerns?  (Write these down)

    Talking About Hopes

    - What are our hopes?
    - Are our hopes realistic?
    - How can we make our hopes a reality?
    - What would be some good first steps?  (Write these down)

    While you do want to get the team to discuss action steps, do not rush the process.  Give the group enough time to talk about hopes and worries in some detail.  When they have done so, gently guide them towards talking about what kinds of actions would be helpful, then write them down.  Next, write down who will put those actions into place, or what the next steps are.

    If your topic is extremely touchy, you might consider using an outside facilitator for this activity. For most common frustrations however, this exercise can be a structured way to tackle frustrations and move from negativity into action.  Good luck with your teambuilding activity!

    Reprinted with permission from the Enlightened Manager Blog

    By Cheri Baker of Emergence Consulting