In Defense of the Office Icebreaker
By Emily Smith
At Double Forte, we end our weekly staff meetings with a team member conducting a ‘Rally Cry.’ It’s a fun ritual that brings the meeting to a close and allows us to continue to get to know our colleagues better.
Over the years, the rally cries have ranged from industry specific questions, “What’s one of your all-time favorite brand campaigns and why?” to the more playful inquiries, “If you were a professional baseball player, what would you choose for your walk-up song?” to questions that reflect the current news cycle, “How do you calm down after a challenging news day?”
Now, I think it’s important that I mention I do not consider myself to be a fan of team Icebreakers. And yet, I’ve always been a staunch supporter of, and an active participant in, the Double Forte Rally Cry. It is a simple exercise, but it carries a lot of weight. I like the routine of it, and I am genuinely interested in what people will ask, and how everyone will answer. Rally Cry is also uniquely ‘ours;’ something that makes Double Forte stand apart from other groups, which I think contributes to our team spirt and camaraderie.
Now that I consider it, our rally cry probably does fall into the category of Icebreaker.
But why is that term so corny? How has the trusty office Icebreaker endured decade after decade? How can something that causes some employees to cringe and others to thrive withstand the test of time?
Here are three reasons why icebreakers are beneficial.
- Icebreakers build empathy. Believe it or not, learning about a co-worker’s favorite book or most embarrassing memory offers more than a chuckle and a new addition to your reading list. It builds trust and helps us develop a deeper connection with each other, which leads to a more empathetic work culture. Building an empathy-first office culture has been reported by dozens of outlets – especially as workplace culture dramatically shifted during the pandemic. Last month, Fortune published an article that underscores empathy, not efficiency, as the trait that will fundamentally change business. And Sherry Turkle recently wrote an article titled, “Empathy Rules” for The Harvard Business Review, in which she defined empathy as ‘helping people feel in community… and helping people feel seen and known for who we are,” which brings me to reason number two.
- Icebreakers create community. It’s true! As I mentioned above, the ritual of Rally Cry makes me feel uniquely connected to my colleagues. Studies have shown that when you share a sense of community, your impact can increase. There is a terrific article in Forbes that outlines the effect community building can have on productivity. When we feel like we are part of something larger than ourselves, it provides more meaning to the work that we are doing for our clients and teams.
- Icebreakers equalize the playing field. No one is above or below the Icebreaker or the Rally Cry! We all hear the question at the same time and are expected to provide our own perspectives; no one is privy to the question beforehand to prepare their thoughts. Double Forte is small and mighty so for the most part, each of us has interacted and worked with the other at some point. But imagine larger agencies with various departments. How great is Rally Cry as a tool to get more familiar with people of all titles and departments? It bridges a gap, identifies common ground and makes everyone feel more comfortable and relatable. Instant productivity boost for those of us who collaborate daily in our jobs.
So, embrace the hokey! It just starts with a question. What would your first rally cry be?