Putting a Positive Spin on Team Venting

Whether it’s frustrating feedback from a client, heated discussions with our co-workers, or dealing with tough project requirements or constraints, we all experience moments at work that make us feel like this:

Venting about those moments can come across as negative and unhelpful; but boy does it feel good.  It can also be incredibly valuable in order to keep moving forward with a positive outlook.  Catharsis is important and can help bring a group of people together; ultimately allowing them to feel more supported and do better work.

One of the key goals of our annual UX team offsite is to provide an outlet to reflect on both the highs and lows of that year, as well as plan for ways to improve over the coming year.  At a recent offsite, I was in charge of organizing a team-building activity.  I decided to use it as an opportunity to experiment with having a group create and play their own version of an Apples to Apples style game.

For years now, Apples to Apples has been a fun group game to break out at parties.  Cards Against Humanity, a more sinister take on the game concept, has gained popularity recently as well.   The concept of these games is simple.  Each player is given a set of cards that feature a noun.  Everyone gets to take a turn being the judge.  The judge presents a card to the group with an adjective on it.  The other players lay down a card with the noun they feel best fits that adjective.  The judge reviews all of the options and then selects a winner for each round.  The person with the most adjective cards at the end of the game wins. 

Before we could start playing the game, we needed to make it.  Rather than creating cards with nouns and adjectives, each member of the group created 5-7 cards depicting situations and 25-30 cards with potential responses to those situations.  The situations were all things that we experience and could relate to as UX designers.  The responses were all over the place but most of them were intended to get a laugh rather than to provide a legitimate solution for the situations. 

We spent about 10 minutes creating the cards before we started playing.  We each took turns being the judge, laying down the situation card and picking the most ridiculous response.  The activity was such a success that we made additional cards and ended up playing multiple rounds.  Laughter was had by all.  I may even have seen a few tears of joy.

Playing this game provided the opportunity to vent in a non-traditional way.  We were able to share the interesting and challenging situations that we were placed in over the past year.  Rather than dwelling on those negative moments and complaining about them, we put a funny spin on them and turned them into something positive.  We all quickly realized that we deal with many of the same situations, helping to build team camaraderie along the way while also having fun.

This is an easy and low-cost activity you can run with your own team.  All you need are some index cards and Sharpies.  Throw in some beer and it turns out to be quite a bit of fun.  If you try this activity out with your team, I'd love to hear how it goes!

Laura is a senior user experience designer in our Boulder, CO, office. She helps clients such as PUMA, the Lupus Foundation of America, and Craig Hospital understand the needs of their users and create captivating experiences.

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