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Submitted by ghilios on


Hey folks, I work in a mid-sized software company that likes to have fun in the office. This comes in the form of billiards, table tennis, beer, etc. In our Seattle office people started bringing in nerf guns several months ago and a "war" breaks out for 5 minutes or so once or twice most days. The office is completely open (and not very large) so this is understandably a bit disruptive when it takes place. Most people in the office seem to enjoy it and look forward to the break.

Last week, a recent hire (~2 months) sent a broad mail out stating that they were in constant fear of getting hit in the crossfire and that it needs to stop.

What do you all think about this situation? I'm in a spot now where telling people to stop or setting rules around it may alienate many of the people who look forward to the nerf wars, and not doing anything will effectively call this person out in front of the organization. My sense is that I should at least give some feedback around the way they went about stating their dissatisfaction (start with management or HR). Does that also make sense?


JonathanGiglio's picture
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Hire for fit!!

I suspect that this person is "one of those" people. It's a shame such  this didn't come out during the interview process. If this person isn't trying to fit in with your culture, what other things do they want to change? What if you have a 2pm Table Tennis tournament and they get frustrated that they can't schedule meetings at that time. And what if your team prefers to work until 7pm because they work a little more leisurely during the day? I think you have the right track though - focus on the inappropriate behavior in communicating with the organization.

You might also explain a bit about the culture here and ask them to consider if this is the right place for them. If not, no hard feelings, better to find out early.

Good luck!

pjay's picture

You've got to admit that nerf gun wars are different to a billiard table or table tennis table - those are contained to a limited area.

I agree there might be a culture mis-match - but maybe they're just uncomfortable with a gun culture?


Loving the Swiss flag solution though.  Fun solution for a fun-loving company.

Gahddenbooi's picture

Tell him to get a bigger gun.

edcrawfordlv's picture

Is there more to the story? When I hear of one sided reports I always wonder what the other side of the story is.

The employee does seem to have a communication problem that needs to be given proper feedback and training.  Complaining about something in a broad email doesn't seem to be the right way to build relations - I'd want to shot the nerf gun at them just because of the email.

But as a manager, I would want to find out why the nerf war is causing stress with the employee.


pucciot's picture
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A - I agree that this employee needs some feedback about their communication with the group.  Obviously, they are not in the position to make demands and rules for anybody.  They just burnt some goodwill with fellow employees by openly trying to control them.

B - For your part it would be good to find out why they feel so strong about it. And you can work with them to see if there is a way they can deal with the Nerf Wars without resorting to trying to control.

Move their desk ?

Maybe use a little humor - to diffuse some of the tension this has been created-  Suggest that they print up a little flag that says 


You could make up a very simple rule of engagement at a staff meeting ... anyone with the Switzerland flag is not part of the Nerf Wars.

You may be surprised that other staff members may fly the Switzerland Flag.

Here - get them a Swiss Umbrella -

Those that like the Nerf Wars may see this a an extra challenge - to seek and find non-Swiss people to shoot at.  Others may then start flying other flags of various countries - and try to create alliances, etc.

I don't how this kind of culture works.  I've never worked in a work place like this.

There also a little bit of culture change when anybody new is hired.  

Yes, they need to fit in,and they are also allowed to subtly influence the culture in their own way. The key here is subtle. And within positive relationships.

Good Luck.





ghilios's picture
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These are some excellent pointers, thank you all so much! I particularly liked the suggestion to use some humor - that certainly helped to defuse the situation. It enabled us to keep the nerf guns and respect the wishes of the vocal individual, all while giving folks something to laugh about and get past the awkwardness.

One interesting thing that came out of this is that the employee was not alone in how he felt. There were a few others (still a minority), and this also gave them an opportunity to feel more relaxed.

I haven't yet delivered feedback about the communication method, and will wait for a good time to do it since it is tough to find a private moment in a fully open space office.

Thanks again, this all went very well!