“We do not like Touchy Feely stuff”.


I was recently honored to be the speaker/facilitator for a team building holiday celebration of a respectable high tech company in Silicon Valley. The HR contact advised me that this group did not like touchy feely stuff.

Although I understood her intuitively, I wanted to ensure my facilitation reflected her concerns.

What is “touchy feely?” We hear this term often mentioned in a negative or pejorative way. Business people typically don’t like it and, sadly, HR work is often referred to as touchy feely work.  Touchy feely is attributed to a group exercise, activity or workshop where people share their feelings and innermost thoughts that make them vulnerable.  The formal definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary says: “touchy feely is characterized by interpersonal touching especially in the free expression of emotions; openly or excessively emotional or personal.”

Understandably, nobody wants to feel vulnerable in the workplace. No one wants to lose control, lose face in front of his or her co-workers or be uncontrollably emotional. I’ve had a successful career in HR, both in a corporate setting and as a consultant, and I have never wanted to engage in these kinds of touchy feely activities.

I covered this concern early-on with the group. I said I was cautioned not to make this session touchy feely. “Let me assure you”, I told them, “that I don’t like to be touched and I don’t like to be felt”.  I got laughter from that comment.

Seriously, while achieving results is very important, there is a personal/human side of business when we work with people, and whether we like it or not, we need to develop effective interpersonal and communication skills to develop teamwork, but it does not need to be touchy feely at all.

When we work virtually or in person, we need to use positive behaviors that bring out synergy in our teams.  Synergy, as defined by Human Synergistics, “occurs when the interactive efforts of two or more people produce or fully utilize their resources.  Synergy within groups improves the efficiency and effectiveness of individual and group decision making”.

Synergy happens when people collaboratively work on the best possible approach and solution to work problems without voting on or imposing one person’s point of view.  Even if there is disagreement, each member of the team can voice their thoughts, will feel heard and can stand behind and align with the team’s solutions.  Synergy is hard to achieve, not all teams reach synergy.

Most leaders I know wake up in the morning with the best intentions. As they go through their day, things happen that causes their behavior  to unknowingly turn negative. Sometimes our intent does not automatically create our desired impact.  It is important to remember that we have a choice in our behavior; we can use appropriate behaviors to create a work environment that is positive and supportive, and brings out the best in others.

Breaking down the necessary elements of effective team building, and achieving synergy in a fun interesting activity using language that the team can relate to, will ensure that the team building activity is not touchy feely.

Liza Sichon of Executivehrcoach.com is a Coach, Speaker and Consultant who helps clients transform their culture and build a positive workplace.  She can be reached at liza@executivehrcoach.com



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