Team activity – Calling in team members

This 2-part team-building activity engages the team in developing a process to respectfully hold each other accountable. Calling in rather than calling out invites respectful dialogue rather than hostile confrontation.

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Time required

The activity should take about an hour, but because it asks you to amalgamate feedback and provide a single phrase for participants to use in part 2, you may want to schedule a break in between sections or conduct each part on different days.

Parts 1 and 2 will each require approximately 30 minutes.

Instructions – Part 1

The Team accountability process explains more about why this concept is important and can set you up to respond to questions or concerns from your team members. 

If you feel sarcasm, cynicism, teasing or intimidation is common in your workplace, you may first want to introduce activities that help improve respectful communication. 

Distribute the Calling in worksheet | PDF to participants, to be used for parts 1 and 2 of the activity.

The worksheet includes these phrases:

  • I don’t think it was your intention, but when you said [xyz] I felt [however you felt, for example, dismissed or intimidated or ridiculed]
  • We’ve been working at this for a while and I think we should pause for a break. [Insert name of intense individual], can we chat for a moment privately?
  • This situation seems to have gotten intense. I’d like to chat with you about it.
  • Can we discuss what just happened so I can understand your intention?
  • I think we both want to resolve this situation. I’d like to have a conversation about what we both need in order to move forward.

Suggested wording – Part 1

It’s inevitable that somewhere along the way we’re going to do or say something that negatively impacts those around us. Some examples could include: 

  • Not meeting an agreed upon deadline 
  • Showing up late for team discussions 
  • Not using someone’s preferred name or pronouns 
  • Raising your voice
  • Making a mistake or error when completing an      assigned task  
  • Interrupting someone  

It’s ideal when we take responsibility for the potential negative impact our words and actions can have on others. Owning the potential impact of our behaviour even when there was no intent to harm, and immediately taking steps to address it, means that no one else has to hold us accountable. 

However, sometimes we’re not even aware of the potential negative impact of our behaviour.  

Of course, when the behaviour approaches discrimination or harassment, there are processes we must follow to address it. Many times, however, the severity of harm is not as significant, and as adults and team members, we should be able to hold each other accountable. However, if this accountability turned into criticizing and judging each other, that would create more harm. 

What we’re looking to do today is create a process not of calling each other out, but of calling each other in.

Calling out often involves embarrassing or humiliating someone by criticizing their behaviour in front of others. 

Calling in, on the other hand, is asking for clarification about the intention of what somebody did or didn’t say or do. Calling in gives individuals the opportunity to reflect on how they might’ve had a negative impact, without being judged or accused of intending harm.

We’re going to create a process to respectfully hold each other accountable so you don’t have to rely on management to deal with issues that two adults can resolve themselves.

You have a worksheet with some sample phrases. As a first step, I want you to identify 1 or 2 phrases that you are more likely to hear as supportive rather than accusatory. When you’re done, we’re going to vote to see which one has the most support, and eliminate the rest. 

[Give them 3 minutes to choose their 1 or 2 phrases.]

I’ll now read each phrase out loud. If it’s one you prefer, please raise your hand [or any method that works in your team setting].

[Read the phrases out loud and calculate the number of those who support each. It’s preferable to have one, but if the vote is fairly evenly split between 2, then keep both of them for your team to wordsmith.]

Now I’m going to ask you to go into groups of 2-3 to wordsmith the phrase(s) for our team on your worksheet. The objective is to put it in language that makes sense for us. I will collect all of your worksheets and come up with one version of the phrase based on your feedback. 

We’ll meet again [date, time and location] to review the phrase and get comfortable using it in different situations. Please hold onto your worksheets as we’ll be using them in the next part of this activity.

Instructions – Part 2

Before you begin, ask your participants to get their worksheet from part 1, as they’ll be using it again.

Suggested wording – Part 2

All of your feedback has been taken into account to come up with this version of a statement that we can all use to call each other in. As you may recall, the process is intended to give us a way to respectfully hold each other accountable for the impact that we have on each other. 

Our statement is [Insert statement].

I want you to pair up and try it out. In your handout, there are scenarios for you to use to try this process. You can take turns on who is calling in who. The feedback I’m looking for is where you felt the need to tweak the statement to make it work better. We will take up all of this feedback to see if we need to refine further.

[Give 20 minutes for the small groups to try out the scenarios.]

Can I hear from anyone who felt the need to tweak the wording in the statement to make it work better?

[Take up how and why they changed it.]

Is there anyone who feels that it needs to be changed even more, for you to be comfortable both saying it and hearing it?

[Take up the responses.]

As we already discussed, we’re intending that this is a respectful way of calling each other in. Ideally, we can recognize when our behaviours have the potential to negatively impact others, and take responsibility for that. Calling in should be seen as someone being respectful rather than judgmental about something that they feel could potentially have a negative impact.

We should all hear that as support for us to expand our self-awareness and not as a criticism. I understand it may take courage the first few times this approach is used, so I want you to begin using it in everyday interactions rather than waiting for something that is more serious.

For example, if I interrupt you when you’re speaking, you could call me in by using our phrase. 

In your handout, there are also links to 4 different resources that can help you manage the tone and body language you use, which of course will affect the way this phrase is received. 

[Note to team leader: Be sure to use this phrase yourself as often as you can in the beginning, and to encourage team members to use it with you as well. This can help embed it in the way the team interacts]

Find more activities like this at Team Building activities.

Additional resources

  • Psychologically safe team assessment. This resource helps to assess how employees experience being a member of your team.
  • Psychologically safe interactions workshop. These free workshop materials help show how behaviours might be interpreted as bullying, regardless of intent. They include a slide presentation, facilitator guide and participant handout.
  • Team agreement process. This process is used in collaboration with adult team members to help them develop their own agreement about how they will interact at work. It is intended to support a high-functioning, inclusive and psychologically safe team.
  • Conflict response for leaders. If there is existing   conflict between employees, this process can help you create an agreement to hold both  individuals  accountable for their behaviours. 


  1. Woods, F. A., & Ruscher, J. B. (2021). ‘calling‐out’ vs. ‘calling‐in’ prejudice: Confrontation style affects inferred motive and expected outcomes. British Journal of Social Psychology, 60(1), 50-73.
Contributors include.articlesDr. Joti SamraMary Ann BayntonSarah Jenner

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