Trust-Building Blunder

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If you are reading this, you are very likely in an office environment or being schooled to enter one and wasting valuable work time.

That said, if you aren't familiar with Team-Building Exercises, Trust Exercises, Capacitation Courses, and the dreaded Weekend Seminar, you will be before long. The most common example is an exercise in which participants are paired off and one person of each pair is instructed to fall over backwards, trusting that their partner will catch them.

Since we've already established you are reading this on All The Tropes, we can assume these activities can and have been extensively lampooned, mocked, and generally made fun of quite a lot by people who have yet to be turned into soulless cogs and are rebelling through humor.

Here are a few commonly parodied office exercises:

  • Trust Building Exercises: The catcher will not catch the faller, either because they're distracted or just don't like the person.
  • Wilderness retreats: Hilarity Ensues when the Pointy-Haired Boss fails miserably at surviving, and everyone snarks between escaping bears and mountain lions.
  • The person leading the blindfolded walker will get distracted and walk the person into or off of something.
Examples of Trust-Building Blunder include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In one of Azumanga Daioh's Sports Fest episodes, Tomo and Chiyo-chan are impressed with the boys' cooperative gymnastics, so they decide to try a supported handstand. Unfortunately, Tomo is the supporter...

Commercials[edit | hide]

  • A Geico commercial has the CEO of Geico suggesting he do the "fall back and you catch me" exercise—with the Gecko. Naturally, the Gecko has deep misgivings.
  • An insurance company had a radio commercial involving actors doing the falling trust exercise. Cue falling, thump, muffled cry of pain, and the catcher saying, "Wait... what's my motivation?" At which the slogan of the commercial came in, "Life's better with a partner you can trust".

Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • Used hilariously in an excellent NCIS fanfic. It's structured like a real episode, and complete with this humourous subplot. Tony is insulted when Ziva and McGee jokingly claim not to trust him. He responds by instituting "random trust fall"—walking into a room and yelling "TRUST FALL" before toppling over. Naturally, Ziva ignores him, McGee shoves a chair underneath him, Ducky dives to catch him, Gibbs stops him before he can even begin, etc.
  • The blunder in But Who IS He? is that the workforce had to have training at all; once after Sherlock informed a woman that her husband was dead (most likely in his usual subtle manner), the police department was almost sued and had to undergo two days of sensitivity training, something which Lestrade looks back on with dread. John then realizes in horror that the only thing worse than going through a sensitivity workshop would be going through it with Sherlock.

Film[edit | hide]

  • The protagonists of the slasher movie Severance are a sales team out on a team building weekend in the Hungarian wilderness.
  • Mean Girls had a high-school version of the falling-backwards exercise: Everyone was supposed to admit a flaw, then fall backwards. One of the members of the Alpha Bitch Girl Posse apologized for being so beautiful it made everyone jealous. After she turns around, everyone except for one girl walks away in disgust. You can probably guess the outcome.
  • In Birthday Girl, the bank branch managers are doing the falling backwards exercise. The catchers fail at their role because they are stunned at the sight of their model employee stuffing a couple of guitar cases full of money in the vault room across the hall.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Good Omens, Crowley and Aziraphale end up in the middle of a corporate team-building paintball exercise. For fun, Crowley decides to use his powers to turn all the paintball guns into AK-47s. Death Hilarity Ensues. (Don't worry, they all have miraculous escapes.)
    • Even before he made the switch, though, the narration mentions that most of the participants are trying to find a way to permanently injure and disable the other players (who are all naturally rivals for better jobs), such as trying to shoot their ears.
    • He gave them all what they really, really wanted. All of them were wishing they had real guns. Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • In Susan Cooper's King of Shadows, a Jerkass drops the hero in the falling-backward exercise... and is promptly bawled out by the director and kicked out of the group on the spot.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, the aliens teach a youth group a lesson on trust through one of these exercises, by not catching the faller, and delivering the Aesop "Don't trust anyone!", and then divide the group into two teams identified by different coloured bandanas, in a very Gangland fashion.
  • The second episode of Hippies has Simon Pegg's character do this with the lead of a musical he's directing. The lead falls just as Pegg is turning to the others to explain the exercise.
  • Psych: Shawn has to get Gus out of a weekend trust-building retreat to work a case.
  • Both work- and family-related example; at one point in Frasier, after a week sharing a practice has completely frazzled their nerves to breaking point, Frasier and Niles are dragged into the office of a fellow psychiatrist for some impromptu couples counselling. He tries the standard 'fall into your partner's arms' exercise, but they're equally paranoid of each other and refuse to participate. Exasperated, the psychiatrist gets up on the box himself to show him how easy it is... but Niles and Frasier are too busy glowering at each other suspiciously to notice, and he falls flat on his ass.
  • In The Office, Ryan invites all the managers of the different Dunder Mifflin branches on a camping retreat type thing....except Michael. Hilarity Ensues when Michael decides to go off into the forest by himself, Bear Grylls style.
    • Also the blind egg race from the survivor style beach games Michael uses to pick his replacement. Dwight screams at Kelly so much she drops the egg out of frustration, Jim misleads Karen into the water as a prank and Stanley drops it right at the start so he can be disqualified and return to his crosswords.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 pre-movie sketch for Gamera, Tom Servo and Crow try the trust building exercise and Crow lets poor Servo fall.
  • Daniel Tosh did "surprise trust falls" over a few episodes of Tosh.0. Over numerous clips, only one person ever caught him...and it happened in the shower of a gym with a primarily gay clientele (the guy who caught him was indeed gay).
  • The X-Files episode "Detour" has the protagonists en-route to a "teamwork conference." Of course, they run into some trouble on the way and end up having their own wilderness retreat from hell.
  • In the Murphy Brown episode "Retreat", the crew go to a camp to compete against a group of bankers in a series of teamwork exercises and fail miserably. For instance, in a simulated river crossing, all the bankers make it across but only one reporter does by actively sacrificing the others.
  • An episode of UK newsroom comedy, Drop the Dead Donkey, had the characters attend a weekend paintballing seminar. Naturally, given that they are all a bundle of collective neurosis and almost universally hate each other, it didn't turn out well.

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In Dilbert, Dogbert was making one of his periodic appearances as a consultant, leading such an exercise. During the "fall backward and your colleague catches you" exercise, PHB fell forward instead. Dogbert's comment: "Okay, maybe trust isn't your biggest problem here."
    • They probably did it more than once. There was one where they were on a wilderness retreat where they used the counselor as a bridge over muddy ground and, given the option to save a coworker from a bear or eat a pile of donuts, got as far as "forming a committee to explore the donut option" before the coworker was eaten.
    • In another strip, Dogbert decided to teach everyone about trust by having them all make out blank checks to him.

Dilbert: What will this teach us about trust?
Dogbert: It will teach you that trust is an excellent quality for others to have.

    • In yet another, they had a team building exercise involving walking barefoot over hot coals, insisting that they would learn something from and about one another as they did so. Wally went first.

Instructor: What we learn from Wally's example is "Don't wear alcohol-based aftershave".

    • In still another one (which took two days to finish), Dogbert challenged the workers to build a sundial using a donut and a pencil. Pointy Haired Boss ate the donut, and when a janitor says they could have just put the pencil in the donut, they stab him... making him a sundial!

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • "Oh, how I hate bandicoots."
  • Subverted in one of Portal 2's trailers, specifically "Bot Trust". The robots were actually co-operating during the trust building exercises, but end up failing anyway on accident.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Scorpio: The key to motivation is trust. Let me show you what I mean. I want you to close your eyes and fall backwards, and I'll catch you. That's gonna show you what trust is all about. Ready?
Homer: Right.
Scorpio: Three... Two... (phone rings) One second...
(Scorpio turns to answer the phone and Homer falls)
Scorpio: Oh, my God, the guy's on the floor. (goes to help Homer) Uh, that was a phone call; don't chalk that up to mistrust, now.

    • Another episode has Mr. Burns organizing a country in the mountains, where people worked in pairs racing towards a cabin. Mr. Burns, ditching Smithers for being overly chatty lately or something, randomly pairs himself with Homer and of course cheats by using a snowmobile. Later, when the cabin has been buried by an avalanche and nobody can find actual finish point:

Carl: "Maybe the 'Cabin' was just a symbol for the special place in our hearts that we use when we work together?"
Lenny: "Eh… but he said there'd be sandwhiches…"

    • They first used the trust-fall even earlier, in "War of the Simpsons"; it's part of a marriage retreat run by Rev. Lovejoy, but Homer is out fishing instead. Lovejoy tells Marge: "Even if he were here, I wouldn't recommend it."
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: Phil Ken Sebben, Harvey's boss, tries to get him to participate in a trust fall. A Running Gag for the series is Phil's inability to place objects properly in space, due to his eyepatch; so, he tells Harvey to stand a few feet to his side, in front of an open window. Harvey refuses, despite Phil's increasing insistence ("FALL, YOU BASTARD!")
  • One episode of Justice League had the villains doing this to build trust before taking on The League. Grodd, the leader, also ramped it up, as the ones falling did so off a cliff about 30 feet up, and the "catcher" used his powers to bring them down; for example, Sinestro using his ring to let his partner fall slowly. When Giganta drops from the cliff toward a waiting Killer Frost, however, you just hear a loud offscreen thud, with Frost going "Ow."
    • It was mostly done to avert the inevitable betrayal that ends most Villain Team Ups. Grodd was being Dangerously Genre Savvy and because he did this, his villain team was one of the more successful, going so far as to cause a temporary disbanding.
  • IN a Robot Chicken skit, Dr. Phil does the "fall and I'll catch you" with a criminal. He catches him, says, "I won't hurt you, but they will," before throwing to a bunch of cops who proceed to beat the guy down.
  • Happens in Beavis and Butthead. One episode features a substitute teacher who makes an effort to connect with the class. He assumes the titular duo are misguided youths who have never been given any encouragment. He tries to show that he trusts them by standing on his desk and falling backwards, but unfortunately, Beavis and Butt-head don't realize what they're supposed to do, and he ends up needing a substitute himself.
  • El Tigre's Maria holds therapy sessions for his Rogues Gallery. One of the sessions is the fall-catch trust-builder, but it fails when the faller, El Oso, is MUCH bigger than the catcher, El Cucharone, and squashes him flat. ("Hey, I trusted you, man!)