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10 Worst Corporate Icebreakers

Guess Who
One of the downfalls of the "guess who" game is that it can inadvertently reward office gossip.
One of the downfalls of the "guess who" game is that it can inadvertently reward office gossip.
┬ęGetty Images/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

Have you ever thumbed through an entertainment magazine or Web site and found a "guess who" game revealing little-known facts about a celebrity? It might have a childhood photo and some hints with the question, "Who is this person?" It might have a factual statement and a multiple choice list of celebrity names, and you have to choose the correct match.

This same "guess who" game is also a popular icebreaker activity in the business world. For this icebreaker, the activity leader asks you and your co-workers to complete a survey in advance for some random profile information. These are often simple things like where you were born and what sports you liked to play in high school. It might also include some more open-ended queries like, "List three things about you that people might be surprised to learn."

This icebreaker can be fun, especially in small companies where people are already developing friendships. However, in larger corporate settings where people rarely interact beyond their work responsibilities, it could stir up trouble.

To start with, "guess who" has the same challenges as "two truths and a lie" when it comes to balancing private and expressive participants. The difference is that the activity leader has control over what types of facts are revealed. The private people may not want strangers to know about their childhood, and expressive people may want to go far beyond what's asked in the survey.

Game day brings more "guess who" shortcomings to light. The leader selects interesting or challenging facts from the surveys received. Then, the leader becomes the emcee of a game with prizes for guessing the correct co-worker matching the fact. If it seems like an innocent game, think about who's getting the prizes: those who have socialized a lot with their co-workers, or those who are just nosey. Thus, this icebreaker might be like a silent punishment to private people who prefer keep to themselves.

Want to learn more about the quirks of office work? Take a look at the links and related articles on the next page.