Resolving employee conflict and improving morale is about digging deeper than the superficial feelings of anger, frustration or distrust, and actually addressing the cause of these problems. But saying that shops need great leadership means that shops need a leader who will set down clear policies, follow those policies themselves and hold employees accountable for following them 100% of the time. Any time you step away from the shop — to spend time with family, to relax or to work on your favorite hobby — things will quickly slide back to how they were.
More than that, if you act like Patton 100% of the time, you limit how much your business can grow. At the end of the day, if you can’t hire people who are smarter or more skilled than you, you’ll never really succeed.
The truth is, shops don’t need a ­dictator any more than they need a therapist, which is why leadership is about striking a balance. In our shop and through our training, we call this balance the “Two Critical Faces of Leadership.” One mask — the concerned, caring side of leadership — is what you wear when your team is doing what they need to do.
The other mask — the drill instructor side of leadership — only comes out when things are broken. If you’ve seen the movie ­Patton, you’ve seen what it means to wear one of these two masks of leadership.
In other words, until you know where you shop stands, where the holes are, where your employees need to be trained, how to fix these problems and provide the necessary training, you can’t be an effective leader.
Similarly, if your staff is in turmoil ­because of cliques and divisions, the fix may include a shop therapy session, but the fix begins with the kind of leadership that provides clear expectations and accountability. It may not be easy to hear (or read) that we have to learn to be great leaders before our shops can have great teams, but it’s the truth. The good news is, the path to ­becoming a great leader is straightforward: measure, hold accountable, train, ­adjust and ­repeat. The Engine Builder Buyers Guides will put you in touch with suppliers of parts, equipments and services.
Update: After over 100,000 people read our original team building games post, we decided to make an updated version that’s even more epic than the original. Here are 32 team building games to choose from, and none of them involve trust falls (whew). You could think of this as “what makes you ticked off”, as this is an exercise in learning about each other’s personalities and seeing what kind of personalities will clash. Have them pass the paper to the person on their left, and instruct them to use the new idea to build another solution upon. The goal is to complete their puzzle before the other groups, and that they must come up with their own method of convincing the other teams to relinquish the pieces they need, whether through barter, exchange of team members, donating time to another team, a merger, etc.
Purpose: This exercise is time-consuming, but it accomplishes creative teamwork on several levels. Then give each team the same supplies to work from, or create a pile of available supplies in the middle of the room.
Purpose: Problem solving as a team, with a strong mix of creativity, is exactly what this exercise accomplishes. In the book Weslandia by Paul Fleischman, the young boy Wes creates his own language, culture, and economy one summer.
Get your team together and decide if you want to create an economy or some mini-aspect of larger society. Purpose: By creating a “mini” society, your team naturally creates problems and challenges that force them to work together. Leave pens, markers, tape, and other items that your team can use to write and draw in the book.
Purpose: This team exercise creates a kind of living history of your business that you can keep adding to. Divide your team into equal sized groups, and send them out with a list of items to locate and bring back.
One variation is to make it a digital scavenger hunt in which they must find examples and specific information or web pages online.
Much like a scavenger hunt, a geocache adventure relies on clues but has the added level of using GPS coordinates to find an item. A variation of this might be to use QR codes placed around the office or neighborhood, mixing GPS locations with other clues found in QR codes.
Purpose: This exercise helps team members work together to achieve a specific goal using a specific and narrow process in which close enough is not good enough. Purpose: Most people are eager to let others know interesting things about themselves, but not all team members are able to make that happen. Purpose: The idea is to force your team to confront the foolish nature of stereotypes and how, if people really behaved as we casually write them off to be, the office would be much different.
In groups of two, have one team member ask for the correct type of word and the other team member supply the word. Purpose: Mission statements can sometimes sound great but miss the mark, particularly if your team doesn’t feel it represents them, or that they even understand it. Using wooden blocks or an actual Jenga game, mark blocks according to the hierarchies present in your company. On name tags or similar labels, write down the name of a famous person, or write down people types (e.g. Purpose: By confronting stereotypes in both how people treat us and in the questions and answers used, the team can get a better sense of how we mistakenly see people as well as how it feels to be so narrowly defined.
At least two at a time, each person on your team must make their way from start to finish blindfolded.
Give your team members four slips of paper, and ask them to mark down four important moments in their life. Purpose: This exercise helps show, in a visual way, the different generations and experiences of your team.
Once the time is up, allow each person to present the item and give a two minute presentation on their “product” as if they were selling it. Purpose: For marketing and design teams, this exercise presents the challenge of seeing old things in a new light. Purpose: This exercise promotes teamwork and creative thinking, but it also encourages your team to rethink how they view everyday objects. The key to this exercise is to make the scenario complex enough that it isn’t immediately obvious which objects are best. Purpose: This exercise helps your team break down a scenario or problem and figure out which things are the best fit. When the thirty minutes is complete, the team will choose from one of the problem-solving challenges and actually do the activity. A variation is to use all of the challenges over a period of time so that your team-building activities come directly from your team itself. Purpose: This exercise puts leadership responsibilities back on your team, showing them that they have the potential to come up with solutions, too. Purpose: This exercise touches on conflict resolution with the idea that many conflicts arise because team members don’t really listen.
Most of us played the game “concentration” as a child, where you’d have pairs of cards randomly mixed and turned over, and you’d take turns flipping over two at a time. Divide up into teams and see which team can match the most pairs in the least amount of time. The idea is the same as the “Company Concentration” format, where pairs of cards with visuals on one side are used.
Teams can get a point for matching up cards, but they can get two points if they choose to successfully debate and argue why the two cards the turned over are associated. You might use cards illustrating user personas, products you sell, procedures you use in development, customer support problems, known issues you’re trying to solve, and so on. Purpose: This game can help in brainstorming (associating two problems together, for example, that hadn’t been) as well as getting team members to think on their feet and spot connections they hadn’t before.
Purpose: To show that assigning an attitude or telling someone they are “acting grumpy” can actually affect how they view themselves and how they act during the day. This continues, where each pass alternates between determining what the picture was and drawing what was described.
When the paper is back to the original owner, each member reveals what was written and drawn.
Purpose: This activity tends to create a lot of laughter and is an excellent ice-breaker at parties or before long meetings where you want people to be comfortable with each other. Give each member of your team three cards with the same number on them so that every team member has a set of numbers different from every other player.
However, in order to “do” the task, they must get people together whose numbered cards add up to the value on the task. Ideally, there are more tasks and values than can be fulfilled by the cards your team possesses. Purpose: This rather painful game helps your team work together, understanding both strategy and self-sacrifice. Next, have them write below that, leaving a slight space, two things they think causes that problem (again, not mentioning specific people but finding a way to focus on systems, ideology, or procedures that people use). The exercise could stop here, allowing the team members to simply enjoy personal discovery, or they results could be discussed as a group to see if there were small underlying problems that popped up on multiple problem family trees.
Purpose: To help team members to see the real problems they deal with, and what causes them, not as specific people who cause trouble, but as often seemingly small issues that mix with other small issues to create larger problems. Purpose: This activity is a great way to get the blood-pumping and to get your team to work together.
Gather pennies (or any other coin) so that you have one for each member of your team, and so that the year on the coin is within your team’s lifespan (i.e. Purpose: This activity is a simple way for your team to get to know each other, and it’s a quick ice-breaker to loosen up team members before a meeting.
My wife and I are small business owners and we have been wanting to do some team building activities with our employees.


A team of up to 5 players needs to control a spaceship using their smartphone as the controller.
Start a free trial and find out why 35,000 other businesses are usingWhen I Work to schedule and communicate with their employees. Make Scheduling EasierStart a free trial and find out why 35,000 other businesses are using When I Work to schedule and communicate with their employees. Online fundraising through a Corporate Giving Portal is really easy, fun and engaging, offering employees the ability to build an online Supporter Page and ask for donations by sharing it with friends and family.
Just like their Facebook page, they can regularly upload photos and videos about their efforts to their Supporter Page and post updates anywhere, anytime and from any device (computer, smartphone, tablet).
An Everyday Hero Corporate Giving Portal also offers best in-class team functionality, which makes fundraising with others a collaborative, connected and engaging experience – and something your employees will want to do again and again! It also makes promoting the efforts of staff internally and to the wider community even easier through the use of Leaderboards and tally widgets, creating friendly competition between employees and departments. Days for employee bonus schemes, sales target rewards, boost to teams morale, fun, yet professional to build a team spirit in your company a team building excercise with unrivalled facilites for your function. Even if we look only at generational differences, it’s not hard to see why employees can butt heads and morale can suffer. If we could overcome ­employee conflict and improve morale simply by holding a shop therapy session and walking a mile in another man’s (or woman’s) shoes, there would be no need for an article like this.
If that were the case, we could just change tactics, from role-playing to a different kind of classroom workshop.
If you can control every ­element of what goes on in the shop, you can eliminate the chaos and conflict, and micromanage the outcome. Even after years and years of learned experience and training, most shop owners don’t have all of the knowledge they need.
That means you need to build a team that wants you to succeed, something that won’t happen if you’re leading like a dictator.
In this role, your job is to make it absolutely clear that you’re happy with their performance.
When employees aren’t following policies or procedures, your job is to make it ­absolutely clear that you’re unhappy with how they’re performing and how they can fix it. If you naturally fall on the side of the spectrum where you prefer playing a caring, compassionate leader, you don’t have to change who you are. If your team doesn’t know when they’re performing well and never sees you happy and ­content — if they don’t see you wear the mask of a shop owner who is pleased with their performance — they won’t want to help you succeed. The truth is, unless you have reliable, daily production numbers, it’s hard to know who is following your policies and procedures, much less which of your two critical faces of leadership to show. Bedrock principles like chains of command, daily accountability meetings, setting appropriate targets and daily team building are fundamentals of both employee conflict resolution and great leadership. Downloading a chain of command resource from the Internet can help in resolving employee conflicts, but without good leadership to enforce a chain of command, it’s just another document in the ­employee handbook.
Truly resolving employee conflicts and fixing morale issues doesn’t boil down to a policy or a procedure, but to great leadership. We’ve added 8 new games—over 1,500 words of fresh ideas that you can use to build a stronger, happier team. Finding the right exercise can be challenging; not every team is comfortable certain types of activities. By establishing how each team member works best, and how they react in different situations, they can learn how to approach each other differently to succeed in work and personal interaction. It could be a theoretical product, a brain teaser, a riddle, a design challenge — anything that needs a solution. As you work as a team, brainstorming sessions often sway towards the vocal and dominant personalities even though other team members have valuable ideas, too. Extroverts have no difficulty in making themselves known, but introverts often remain an enigma, bowled into silence.
Give them a specific time to complete the project, making sure to mention that they can only use what is available, though how they use it is completely up to them.
A new startup created a small economy and ended up having a great deal of fun as well as learning about what motivated other team members. Set up the rules you will abide by, leaving enough wiggle room to experience problems that need group agreement to solve as the system is put into action. Make a large, blank journal or scrapbook available in the break room or other common areas.
Encourage them to write down quotes from things they are reading or from team members, to write about a fun event that happened at work, tape or glue ephemera or anything that helps record the team’s culture.
It is somewhat similar to the Zappos culture book, but allows your team a chance to build it more directly. You may wish to restrict which search engines or methods they use to complete the challenge. Whether your interest is in the code you’re writing or ham radio, there are things each person would like to share with the group. For example, they might be “Roller Coaster Buffs” or “Jane Austenites.” For the rest of the regular staff meeting (or the day, if you’re daring), group members must fulfill the stereotypes they listed.
The game also reveals the ability of a seemingly random group of people to find a commonality.
Or, if you do not want to break the team into groups, ask the team as a whole to supply one word at a time. So, tell them you are looking for words that apply to the team without telling them you are working on a mission statement. By stripping away the jargon and stiffness and allowing the mission statement to go through several rounds of nonsense, you allow your team to help you craft a statement that is more relaxed and honest. From here, either specify the type of structure each team must build, or provide guidelines and allow them to build any structure they want. The description cannot be “draw an elephant on the ball” but instead must use other adjectives and directions. While the final drawing will seldom look like the picture, it is revealing to participants to see how different the interpretation of instructions can be even when they are supposedly talking about the same thing. There will inevitably be team members who want to take charge, and others who want to be given direction.
They should treat each other according to the stereotypical way based on what kind of person they have been labeled.
This is also a good ice-breaker activity if you have team members that do not know each other yet. The timeline should start as far back as the oldest member on your team was born or when the company was founded, whichever came first.
It leads well into talking about cultural and generational differences and the effects that has on how people work and communicate.
Then, tell them that this item is going to be their new product, and that they must come up with a name, logo, slogan, and marketing plan for that object. When combined with groups working together to sell a common object, you introduce teamwork and crunch-time brainstorming. For example, it might be a new job hire, marriage, leading an organization, or commanding an army. The perfect question that each comes up with will reflect their motives and what they think matters the most. This dovetails directly into discussion on current projects or challenges facing the group, in which you can, as a group, write a scenario for an actual project you are working on and decide which solutions are the best fit.
Tell them they have thirty minutes to come up with a group problem-solving challenge that would make use of: teamwork, creativity, communication.
It also gives your team a chance to challenge other team members in ways they might not otherwise find the opportunity to do so in regular workday activity. Have a long document filled with mind-numbing but coherent jargon-filled speech that talks vaguely about sales and marketing goals.
It shows the importance of listening to verbal communication, but also non-verbal communication. You might set additional rules, such as requiring the name of the person to be said aloud when the card is flipped over, or some other related bit of information connected to the image on the card.
This is particularly effective if you have a lot of new team members and you want everyone to learn their name and something about them. However, the goal here isn’t necessarily to match up cards and remember where they were, and the images on the cards will not depict team members but will instead depict discussion-worthy concepts. It also forces them to decide what is worth debating or not, as well as whether or not someone has provided a good argument. Your team could wear them during a typical meeting or brainstorming session to show how good and bad attitudes affect outcomes. If they switch name tags, they will see how behavior and action often defines feeling, and not the other way around. Hopefully, once the game is over you’ll see that everyone has some kind of prize or reward, but it’s best to allow the team to not know that during game play. They should be facing into the triangle, standing side by side to create the outline of the shape. Let them choose to face whatever direction they want to, and instruct your team to remember exactly where they were in relation to the spinner. They need to remember where they belong on the triangle, and help others, too, in order to finish in time.
We all work really well together but there are definitely some areas that could use improvement.
The problem is that we simply can’t cram employees into behavior models that predict how they will react in every situation. Great leadership also means being consistent and requiring follow-through to create great results. Employee conflict wasn’t simply about a generational divide or frustration between cliques.


It’s what happens in any shop when the frustrations and differences of opinion are ­allowed to fester and grow into an open wound. Controlling every aspect of the shop means every aspect of the shop can grow only as far as you know how. You just have to be willing to wear the mask and play the role of command-and-control leader when people are acting ­incorrectly. Bring in a speaker, if time allows, to expound on the different personality traits, their strengths, their weaknesses, and a plan on how potential clashes can be alleviated. You may want to choose a fictional problem that allows you to reveal one aspect of the challenge each round. By forcing these ideas to have equal footing, each team member’s ability to contribute is established.
This exercise gives them equal footing to reveal facts about themselves as well as expose the assumptions others have made. For example, you might have your team create a device that involves movement without electricity, and moves a golf ball from point A to point B.
Some team members will reveal themselves to be rule-abiders and others as creative rule-benders.
The book may have prompts on each page, asking questions or suggesting things to write or draw. Using regular “show and tell” sessions gives all team members a chance at center stage while also becoming familiar with giving a presentation and fielding questions. It might be a hobby or an interest they all do, or having the same favorite genre of music or favorite food.
The Roller Coaster Buffs, for example, might periodically raise their arms and holler, or the Jane Austenites might rephrase all of their speech to co-workers as quotes from Jane Austen books. Create a worksheet in which the removed words are shown as a blank line with instructions on what kind of word is needed.
When the time limit has been reached, each team, taking turns, must begin to remove a block at a time without destroying their structure.
After a set time limit, the drawing time ends and both team members view the original picture and the drawing. Taking a long rope with its ends tied together, place the rope in each person’s hands so that they all have a hold of it. The team will have to work together to create the square, and find a way to communicate without being able to see.
Place these nametags on a team member’s back so that they cannot see what they are, but the rest of the group can. Each team member can use that treatment, as well as the answers to questions, to figure out what the label is.
This is an excellent way to lead into a discussion on how team members determine who is capable and who they will follow or trust. Instruct them to classify the objects into four groups, writing down the groupings on their sheet of paper. This leads to a discussion on how to work outside the box for solutions to problems that seem wholly unrelated. Write up a conversational scenario for each set that outlines what the perfect item would be, in the order of preference.
They can discuss why they tuned you out, and what you could have done to keep them tuned in. Have enough adjectives for every member of your team, and write each adjective on a self-adhesive “Hello My Name Is” sticker.
Separate sheets or pads of paper may be used if that is easier than one sheet of paper, but they should be passed together.
The goal is to accomplish the tasks in a set amount of time so that whoever is left will get a prize based on the total value of the tasks completed. And once a team member has used up all their cards, they are taken out of the game and out of the running for the prize.
They should note who they were standing next to, and how they fit into the triangle shape based on where the spinner is facing. At that point, the team has a set amount of time to reassemble into place so that the end result is a triangle situated correctly according to whatever direction the spinner chose to face. Each group grew up in a vastly different world, and each has their own ideas about work ethic, customer service and even taking direction from management. The disagreement was between a group of employees who wanted to follow the rules, and a group who ­didn’t. But, you’ll be trading your happiness and health for a shop that operates ­exactly like you want it to.
During future teamwork efforts, when conflicts arise, a team member can say “remember, I am orange” and the others will know exactly what she means. Participants learn about others and also learn about themselves through the lies they thought were true. In other words, they must solve both the puzzle and the problem of getting their pieces back. The team will quickly learn how others work, solve, and think outside of the typical work-related realm. It also gives you something concrete to look at in the future to see where your team has been and how far they’ve come.
You may want to set a time limit so that all groups are back in a reasonable time, whether they found all items or not.
Once they discover a commonality they can agree on, they create a list of what might be stereotypical qualities of such people.
At the completion of the meeting (or day), talk about stereotypes that we assign to people.
Or, let the team come up with a plan before putting on the blindfold, but once they cannot see, they also cannot talk. As each team member figures out who they are, they can exit the game and let the rest continue. Make the shape a bit convoluted, choosing a shape that is elongated with the idea that people must make their way from one end to the other. While none of the four objects is an exact match, each have qualities that reflect that perfect list. These sentences should contain instructions or information that they will be quizzed on after you are finished.
Place the name stickers in a container, and have each team member draw a name sticker out without being able to see the adjective. Or, you could have them wear a name tag half of the day, and switch with someone for the second half.
Each team member looks at the drawing they now have, fold the paper in half, and write at the top what they think the picture is of. The goal is to get the highest total task value (for the best prize), and work together to achieve it knowing that in order to do so, some will miss out. These should be complaints about procedure, product, or some other non-human problem they’ve observed or believe exists.
I think that that would be such a fun idea to get to know everyone and really improve everyone’s overall work ethic.
The result will be increased profits and fewer employee disagreements, but in ­exchange for putting aside your life outside of work.
A scavenger hut can be themed, and might involve a variety of clues or other twists that force a team to get creative and work together.
The clues you hide in specific geographic locations could be part of a larger riddle or message that you wish the teams to have revealed to them.
Since instructions can’t be vocally verified, the team member calling out instructions has to trust those who cannot talk to do as they are told. Place a few squeaky dog toys inside the shape, and twice as many full sheets of paper with a large X on them inside the shape.
Their only guidance is the vocal commands of those outside the shape who are not blindfolded. When the time is up, have a spokesperson for each group reveal how they classified the objects, and why. Read this scenario to your team, and instruct them to order the objects from best fit to worst fit.
Have them stick the name tag on their shirt and wear it for a specific period of time, instructing them that all of their responses and interaction for that time must reflect the adjective on their name tag. When they are finished, the team should discuss which they think are the truths and which are the lies. Instead, the are to describe the image without using words that give it away, while the other team member is to draw what is being described.
Once the team believes they have formed a square, they can remove the blindfolds and see what they’ve accomplished. When all scenarios have been covered, discuss the questions as a group and see what each team member thinks would be the perfect question.
Reasons might vary, from the function of the object to how it looks, or the material it is made of. When all object sets are done, have team members explain why they ordered the objects that way. Each person reads the description, folds the paper over to hide the words, and draws a picture of that.



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