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I've been in this company (and team) for almost 10 months now. Everything was O.K.: project, team, team-leader etc. But our TL (team leader) got a better offer from another company and of course, he accepted it. For few weeks we had no TL, but we managed somehow to keep working at the project, everything was cool and I'm quite sure we could keep it that way.

But, as every team needs a TL, we have been assigned one (he is the leader of 2 teams now) and he and his first team decided to have a team-building trip for 2 days somewhere close to a mountain. Of course, now that we are his team, he invited us to join. It was very nice of him and all my coworkers accepted to join.

I don't have something else planned for that weekend, it's organized by company so expenses would be from my behalf very low, it's not that I don't like my colleagues, I do, but I don't want to go for a few reasons.

Since the other team will be there and they are about 30 people (compared to us, 6) I won't feel good. I don't want to meet new people, or make new friends. I'm comfortable with my friends and my colleagues (to whom I get along quite well). Also, there will be drinking, drunk people, smoking and loud music (things that I can't stand).

The thing is that I've avoided until now a few team-building trips or hang outs and had reasons (except the ones above). I also did it this time (and want to do it further) but now... there was quite a wonder for the TL and team, so they started with questions. My final answer was that

I have things to do and I wouldn't give up on them since it will be harder for me to do it later.

They were surprised of my decision (probably of my reason too), especially the TL.

Now, my question is: how do I avoid going with them in team-building trips or hang outs without causing bad feelings for my coworkers?

I wouldn't like to be tagged as the "asocial-guy" or make them think "He doesn't want to hang out with us". I want to make them understand that it's not that I do not like them or something like that. It is O.K, and even a pleasure for me to work with them or to chat when we're in break, but I just don't want to go in team-building.

So, how to I avoid the team building trips, but assure my colleagues it's nothing personal? I would like them to accept me as a "don't want to come" person, but without having bad feelings towards me (if that's even possible).

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    relevant "workplace" answer: workplace.stackexchange.com/a/27156 – Imus May 29 '18 at 13:50
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    So, do you actually have something planned on that day, or was that just an excuse? Its not really clear from your text. – Polygnome May 29 '18 at 14:13
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    Two more relevant Workplace posts: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/93482/… and workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/33905/… – Em C May 29 '18 at 14:21
  • @Polygnome, I had nothing to do, as in being able to say something concrete: for example I have planned a visit to my parents. But I do have things to do in weekend usually and I wouldn't delay it. – lukuss May 30 '18 at 5:57
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    "I don't have something else planned for that weekend". That's your problem, find something super-important that you need to be doing that weekend. I can sympathise, I also detest team building events, and drinking, smoking etc. – user1751825 May 31 '18 at 8:02
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If the team building event occurs outside of normal work hours such as at night or on the weekend, it should be considered optional (Legally, it might be). The team lead (TL) should understand that building a strong team morale isn't about forcing team members to do activities outside of the job requirements that they aren't comfortable with.

You have a couple of options here:

  1. Make an appearance at the team gathering. Say hi to some people and skip out before everyone gets drunk.
  2. Decline this event and suggest another event that you'd be interested in for the future.
  3. Decline this event and say that you prefer using your weekend to recharge and do your own thing.

I recommend that you pull the TL aside and talk about having a team building event just for your team only. I work on a big team of introverts and we can always agree on going out and grabbing lunch together (paid for by the company).

  • Thank you for this answer! I have chosen it since it seems to me honest and direct and all options could be applied in different situations. I like the part with pulling TL aside and talk about having event only for team. Definitely will do! – lukuss Jun 13 '18 at 10:29
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Option 1. A credible excuse

If you do not want to hurt their feelings, you need to give them an excuse that would also make them not going at your place. Since it's not true, it has to be credible : wedding, best friend birthday, family event, etc.

Since your excuse was pretty vague, it could still work but I'll go with something more personal to justify that you were vague about it.

Option 2. Tell them the truth

If you are comfortable enough with some of your coworkers, you could explain them the situation - that you don't feel good when it's too crowdy and that you can't stand being around drunk people, loud music and smoking. Moreover, you really don't want to be a fun breaker.

Dont hesitate to tell them that it's really not about them, that you like working with them and it's about you.

If you go this way, there is high odds that they try :

  • To know why you don't like crowdy places
  • To make you at ease and convince you that you're not alone in this situation (X is not drinking as well, ...).

So you need to prepare your arguments if you really don't want to go.

I already had a coworker that I got along with well, he was a bit like you and was always avoiding events for the same reasons. One time he chose the option 2 and I tried and succeed on convincing him to join us, and fact is he was happy about it in the end because he managed to be himself with others and everyone respected his privacy.

I think that diplomatically confronting your way of thinking with others benefits to everyone.

Caution

In a lot of jobs, team building is part of the work and can be a high matter. So you need to be sure that your TL won't think your going against his lead and damaging the team-work of the company. In most of my jobs, organized weekends like this were mandatory because we were actually working during the day with some extra activities. In that case, and if you really can't take upon yourself, I would go for option 1 in order to make sure they don't think I'm unprofessional.

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    If it's a mandatory team building activity and the lead picks something that makes one or more team members really uncomfortable, then the lead is doing it very wrong and it becomes all the more important to talk to them about finding something everyone enjoys. – Erik May 30 '18 at 5:31
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how do I deny going with them in team-building trips or hang outs without causing bad feelings for my coworkers?

I really don't think this can be done without a solid, credible, medical excuse or legit family emergency. These team building activities are very important to the company and your team.

I think you should go so that you don't negatively impact your social game at the company. I am a lot like you in that I don't care for these types of activities for lots of reasons. But in the end I bite the bullet and go.

In the end the pain of going does not out weigh the cost of not going. And sometimes doing these activities forces you to improve your social skills and helps you be part of the team too. You can always go to bed early before the drunks come out.

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    Just because you're there, doesn't mean you're not hurting your social game. I've gone for these reasons and I just end up being "the weird guy who doesn't talk,drink, or enjoy himself." – Erik May 30 '18 at 5:32
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    @Erik Your right, you can hurt yourself in that way. By not showing up you almost certainly do. – Mister Positive May 30 '18 at 11:47
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    It's a matter of intensity, though. Not showing up might hurt less. – Erik May 30 '18 at 12:21
  • @Erik It might, but I highly, highly doubt that. – Mister Positive May 30 '18 at 12:22
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I totally get your stand on this. I also find the things you mention objectionable. In fact, if I were to actually see some of my colleagues drunk and acting like... well, like drunk people do... I think I would probably lose respect for them, and surely that is the exact opposite of what a "team-building" exercise is supposed to accomplish.

If all that is involved is drinking and partying then really this "team-building" exercise doesn't sound much different from the annual office Christmas party. I don't attend these either and I know that I don't miss anything important. There is no real bonding or building - in my experience the people who were already friends just have a few new funny stories to share, and the only new or surprising developments are usually negative. Last time my work colleagues went out and got drunk somebody yelled an obscenity in the manager's face.

Despite all this negativity I am going to suggest that IF there are genuine, work-based team-building exercises going to be held during the daytime, and it is just what happens after-hours that you don't want a part of, could you consider going along to the event and then just retiring to your room in the evening? That way you are not missing out on anything that may be useful for your work, but you can still make a stand and avoid the atmosphere you don't like. Worth considering.

Otherwise, if you don't have a good excuse not to go then create one. Saying "I have things to do" always sounds like a made-up excuse, so give a more detailed reason. I don't mean tell a lie, I mean really make some plans! You said that you are comfortable with the friends you have, so call your friends and organise something noteworthy on those dates so you have an excuse. Your workmates can hardly call you "antisocial" if your genuine excuse for not going is that you have something social planned with your actual friends!

Tell them what you are doing instead, tell them who you are doing it with, and when they get back and talk about what a great time they had on the team-building trip tell them what a great time you had with your friends. Get your phone out, show them some photos.

My personal experience is that while it may take longer for people at work to understand and appreciate you on a personal level when you keep your private life and your work life separate, in the end it is more worthwhile and valuable. True, I have seen people gain promotions and advantages because they were smoking-buddies with a manager, but these things tend not to last because they aren't really built on anything worthwhile. Keeping your dignity and reputation (which are always at risk on drunken nights out) are worth a lot more long-term.

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    "tell them what a great time you had with your friends, show them some photos." - I feel like this could easily come off as "that's cool but look how much better my weekend was, so glad I didn't have to hang out with you losers"... Have you done something like that before and if so can you explain how you did so tactfully? – Em C May 30 '18 at 12:12
  • @EmC I believe I put quite a lot of personal experience into the answer so I don't feel I need to qualify it any further. I do show my colleagues photos and tell them what I do in my spare time. I feel it helps them know and understand me a bit more without having to spend forced time with people I have little in common with. The goal of this question is to avoid the activity whilst not being perceived as antisocial. Sharing their own weekend experiences is not antisocial. It acts as "proof" of their reason for not attending. And it gives insight into what they do with their spare time. – Astralbee May 30 '18 at 12:21
  • I understand the point of it, what I'm curious about is how you bring up the "proof" without seeming defensive or arrogant? Personally I have no idea how I'd interject that into the conversation naturally, which is why I asked if you had an example. – Em C May 30 '18 at 13:16
  • @EmC In the same manner as the colleagues discuss their weekend. – Astralbee May 30 '18 at 13:33
  • So the colleagues are discussing a shared experience, and you interject with your stories about the thing you decided to do by yourself? – Em C May 30 '18 at 14:20

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