By Brody Truce
“To be fair, a cookie cake isn’t actually a team building activity,” explains Misty Koran, a PhD candidate in higher education at The College of Eastern Nevada. “It’s really just a baked good.”
Koran sheepishly confessed that she initially set out to prove that cookie cakes are not team builders. “My advisor rejected my original thesis because it’s actually just a fact that you can look up on Wikipedia. In my defense, I’ve worked in Residence Life for so long that I actually believed cookie cakes were a team building activity. I’ve since learned that team builders are actually activities that help to improve team performance or morale.”
Koran resubmitted her research proposal with an interesting twist: even though it’s only a baked good, can a cookie cake actually improve staff morale? To find out, Koran worked with residence assistants in three buildings that were experiencing staff conflict: one group received a cookie cake, one group was asked to use conflict management techniques without a cookie cake, and the control group was given neither intervention nor cookie cake. The results?
“Cookie cakes have the same effect on conflict resolution as doing nothing at all. What’s worse is that cookie cakes are also full of saturated fat,” explained Koran. “And that creates a whole other set of nutritional problems.”
What does work to resolve staff conflict? Talking about problems.
Koran’s third group, which received the conflict management intervention, showed a 42% increase in staff morale after actually discussing what was bothering them—more than ten times the effect offered by the cookie cake intervention. “Everyone in our department was really blown away by this finding.”
“This sucks,” complained Jordan Charles, a resident assistant in Sierra Madre Hall. “I’ve been fighting with my coworkers all year—the only good thing about our staff meeting was the cookie cake that our RD brought every week.”
Residence hall directors around the country are now scrambling for effective solutions to conflict resolution. What’s next for Koran, now that she’s debunked cookie cakes?
“I have a very interesting theory about playing name games during freshman orientation.”