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How to Get Past the “Us and Them” Attitude

By November 1, 2011No Comments

Dear Kathleen:

We’ve recently merged two companies and have had come difficulty with the “us and them” mentality. We usually have a joint monthly meeting and would like some team building ideas on how to bring these two groups together. Can you help?


Doris R.

Dear Doris:

You’ve asked about one of my favorite subjects. Team building is one of the most overlooked and neglected subjects in many businesses. During mergers and acquisitions, loyalties run deep. Employees are afraid of layoffs, changes in management and the unknown. Human nature dictates that we hold on to what is familiar and cling to those we empathize with.

I have a few very simple activities that will work great for you. However, the objective is not necessarily to get them to work as a team. I assume they already do that well within their own group, but in your case, you would rather get them to identify with the “other” team members as individuals, find common ground and pave the avenue to build new bonds. Try these team building activities and don’t be afraid to thrown in your own twist.

Truths and a Lie. As the meeting begins, ask each individual to share two truths and one lie about themselves. John might say, “I collect sea shells, I’m 42 and I was Superman in my last life.” It can be a serious or as silly as you like. This will not only prove to be very enlightening, but can also inject some hilarity into the start of your meeting. Nothing brings people together better than laughter.

Speed Mingle. Another game that really gets people up and moving around. Each person starts with a piece of paper with a list of all the names of the people of the other team. The paper has three columns next to the name: “Similar, Different and More.” When you say “go!,” each employee is to meet and mingle with as many people as possible to complete the information. They are to find one thing similar, one thing different and one thing they would like to know more about this person. You can change the last column for variation with options such as “Like,” or what you like about the other employee. You could also use “Passion” and have the employee inquire about what the other is truly passionate about. This will help both teams get to know the others on a more personal level.

Another great choice is the Name Game. Give each employee a pen and paper, and no more time than 5 minutes, they are to write their name on a piece of paper and use the letters to describe themselves and their interests. For example, using my name:

K – Ketchup – Only Heinz for me! Go Pittsburgh. A – Love collecting art. T – Teamwork. Something I believe in. H – Heritage; I am a genealogy buff. L – Listen – I try to be a good listener. E – European cruise. A memorable trip of a lifetime! E – Employees –The reason I am here. N – Nicholas Cage is one of my favorite actors.

After everyone has completed their list, they are to share it with the group. You also might want to consider posting their lists randomly around the office. Either way, it will start to build common ground and bring them together.

The more the employees get to know each other on a personal level, the more they will be likely to work well in a team. The “us and them” mentality should, and will, wane. Wishing you the best of luck!

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