Staff Activity: Emotional Bank Game


30-45 minutes

This game helps staff understand the concept of Emotional Bank Accounts (EBAs).


  • 500 “Credits” for each team in the following denominations and amounts (100 Credit Bill (1), 50 Credit Bills (4), 20 Credit Bills (5), 10 Credit Bills (10)).
  • “Give a Big Hug” cards (two for each team)
  • “Emotional Banking Rule” (one per team)
  • “Debrief Questions” (one per team)
  • Envelopes for each team (one per team)
  • Markers
  • Flipchart
  • (Optional) A prizes(s) for the winning team(s)


  • Prepare an envelope for each team.
    • Count out 500 “Credits” in the following denominations and amounts (100 Credit Bill (1), 50 Credit Bills (4), 20 Credit Bills (5), 10 Credit Bills (10)).
    • Place all “Credits” in the team’s envelope.
    • Place one “Give a Big Hug” card in the team’s envelope.
  • Prepare a Scoring flipchart or whiteboard for each round like the one pictured below. (You will need five (5) total scoring grids.)
DYCD Emotional Game Bank Score Card

Download this card and print it out


  • Divide group into an even number of teams, and number or name the teams. Group sizes are best between 4-6 people, but you could run the game with a “team” as small as one person. Teams will be competing against each other to have the largest remaining balance.
  • We are going to play a game that will help us to understand some of the ideas behind an Emotional Bank Account (EBA).
  • Introduce the concept of EBA: An EBA is an account that a person sets up in their mind when they meet someone. Just like with a normal bank account, they then make deposits into that account and take withdrawals from it. The balance in the account goes up and down depending upon whether or not the two people have good or bad experiences with each other. Good experiences become deposits in the EBA, and the people will feel good about each other. Bad experiences become withdrawals from the EBA, and the people will feel bad about each other.
  • Each group is a team, and each team is in competition with every other team to end the game with the most “Credits” in your EBA.
  • Credits’ look like these (show a few Credits), and each team is receiving an envelope with exactly 500 Credits in it. (Pass out envelopes.)
  • While you are competing against all other teams for your final EBA balance, you will only be exchanging envelopes with one other team during each round.
  • Which team that is could change from round to round, but you will only exchange with one other team. (Designate which teams will pair with which other teams during Round 1. You can simply pick the teams that are closest to each other.)
  • Before you exchange envelopes each round, you will put a deposit of Credits into it.
  • It is important that you make a bigger deposit in your envelope than the deposit the other team makes to you, because an additional bonus will be awarded to the team giving the highest deposit between the two of you.
  • “A few rules for the exchanges:
    • A team cannot make a deposit to another team that is more than the total amount of Credits they have. For example, if the other team has 200 Credits, you cannot make a deposit of 250 Credits. That wouldn’t be fair to them.
    • Teams have each received in their envelopes two cards that say, ‘Give a Big Hug,’ on them. They can put this card in the envelope with their deposit if they want to, but it will only be effective if there is a tie between the two teams. In the event of a tie (i.e., both teams gave the same deposit), the team who ‘gave a big hug’ will receive the win.”
    • “Teams can reuse ‘Give a Big Hug’ cards given to them by other teams.
  • I will keep totals for each round on the flipcharts / whiteboard at the front of the room.
  • Here’s a copy of the rules of the game to help you strategize as a team. (Hand out ‘Emotional Banking Rules’ sheet to each team.)
  • Each team has three minutes to come up with your team’s strategy for Round 1.   (Allow three minutes for strategy. At the end of the strategy time, have them put their deposits in the envelopes and trade with the team with which you paired them. Have someone from each team come up to the flipchart / whiteboard and write in the ‘Deposit Made’ and ‘Deposit Received’ for their team.)
  • (If there is a tie, ask if anyone ‘gave a big hug.’ The team that ‘gave a big hug’ gets the win. Mark the winning teams on the flipchart / whiteboard.)
  • (Announce the Bonus / Penalty for the round according to the following amounts:
    • Round 1 – 50 Credits
    • Round 2 – 200 Credits
    • Round 3 – 120 Credits
    • Round 4 – 240 Credits
    • Round 5 – 350 Credits
  • Add these amounts as a Bonus to the winning teams and as a Penalty to the losing teams. Then, tally the scores for the round, and announce them to the teams. Follow this process after each round.)
  • Between rounds, allow three minutes each time for strategic planning.
  • You can have the same teams trade with each other each round or you can mix it up. If you decide to change which teams are paired for each round, be sure you remember which teams are paired when you do the scoring.
  • After the final round, announce the winning team and award a prize if you choose. Pass out the ‘Debrief Questions’ sheet to each team, and ask them to spend ten minutes going through the questions.
  • Then, as a large group, ask for general insights about Emotional Bank Accounts.

Some points that you might want to bring out if they aren’t mentioned are:

  • Even large deposits can be a withdrawal from the other person’s account if they are less than we are expecting or less than we feel we have put into the relationship. For example, you might be disappointed if you thought your reward for cleaning the garage was going to be a trip to an amusement park but then found out it was just a week without chores.
  • While the amounts we used for the game were measureable, the size of deposits and withdrawals in real life EBAs is highly subjective and based on each person’s expectations and what they tell themselves about WHY we did what we did. For example, you might tell someone that they look very nice today and be surprised to find that they interpreted that as a withdrawal from their account, because they suspected that you only complimented them in order to get something in return.
  • Making deposits in other peoples’ accounts is not really about strategy; it’s about a genuine motive to improve the relationship. This activity was a simulation to help us experience just a few of the aspects of EBAs, but it wasn’t supposed to be a perfect picture of them.

Debrief Questions

  1. How was this activity like making deposits and withdrawals from Emotional Bank Accounts (EBAs)?
  2. When you believe you’ve given more to a relationship than the other person, how does this affect your feelings about the relationship?
  3. When you believe you’ve given less to a relationship than the other person, how does this affect your feelings about the relationship?
  4. How did the other team’s history of giving impact your level of giving?       Does this relate to real relationships in any way?
  5. If this had not been a competitive activity, what would have changed about your strategy?
  6. Was there anything about the “Give a Big Hug” option that was similar to real life?
  7. What additional lessons can you take away from this activity?

Emotional Banking Rules

  • Your goal is to finish the game with the most “Credits” in your Emotional Bank Account (EBA).
  • There will be five rounds.
  • The amount of deposit you choose to make is entirely up to you (as long as it doesn’t break the next rule), but the team should have consensus about it.
  • You cannot make a deposit greater than the total of the other team’s balance.
  • Your deposit should be placed in your envelope before trading begins.
  • If you choose to “Give a Big Hug,” put the “Give a Big Hug” card in the envelope with your deposit.
  • Envelopes will be exchanged at the same time so that no team has an advantage.
  • Scoring will be done as follows:
  • The team making the larger of the two deposits will receive a bonus. (The amount will change each round, and the facilitator will not reveal how much it is until the round is completed.)
  • The team making the smaller of the two deposits will receive a penalty. It will be the same amount as the bonus of the winning team.
  • The team receiving the penalty will pay the other team their bonus.
  • In the event of a tie, a team that “gave a big hug” will receive the win.
  • Teams can reuse the “Give a Big Hug” cards that they get from other teams.

The facilitator will keep a record of all deposits, bonuses and penalties on a score chart.

image of Emotional Game cards

Download and print.
For easy separation, print using most inkjet business card paper.

Source: teach them, emotional banking game,

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