Beware this workplace flaw: You’re not a team player!

Jeff Benjamin

Jeff Benjamin

Over the past couple of decades, an industry has grown up around fostering better team work and team building. Even in a society as fiercely independent as America, teams still are considered the ideal. The belief that working in teams makes us more creative and productive is so widespread that when faced with a challenging new task, leaders are quick to assume that teams are the best way to get the job done.

But there are habits that can inhibit the success of a team. So, from my perspective, here are some behaviors that can label you as not being a team player.

Demonstrating a superior attitude. Acting like you are better than someone else is a poor path to follow. It will only lead you to lack of support. No one holds in high regard a person who treats others as though they are inferior to them. Demonstrating an attitude of equality is the best route.

Engages in clichés. An environment of lack of inclusion is impotent. Special groupings or clubs that discourage participation from different viewpoints ought to be reconsidered. Being affiliated with a certain group is almost guaranteed, but being a separatist is ineffectual.

Lacks follow through. If you say one thing and do another, you can eviscerate your reputation. If you portray insufficient follow through, you cannot be trusted. One of the best ways to be a great team player is to do what you say you are going to do.

Breaking confidentiality. We disclose to those we trust. If a person confides in you and you don’t maintain confidentiality, you can ruin relations. The best managers, the best family members and the best of friends are people we can trust in sharing our thoughts and feelings.

Disrespects team members. Interrupting, being dismissive, talking over others, ignoring and attacking another person’s perspective is not a sign of respect. Reverence for another person’s contribution is omnipotent.

Refuses to apologize. No one likes to apologize. No one likes to admit they are wrong. The longer you wait to own up, the bigger the chance there is for hurt feelings, misunderstandings and anger. Don’t let someone else stew in your mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions and your words, and do so quickly.

Does not give full effort. Being disengaged and giving minimal effort can cause animosity among team members. If a person does enough to just get by, then they are not seen as being committed.

Is always right. Albert Camus, French novelist and Noble Prize recipient writes, “The need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind.” The person that always needs to win the argument is not a team player. Giving someone else the chance to be genuinely heard and respected can be far more satisfying than attempting to convince someone that you are right and they are wrong.

Engages in personal attacks. Trumping up erroneous claims on a person’s character because you disagree with their viewpoint destroys teamwork. Deceitful and dishonest accusations only make a person look desperate. If you disagree with someone, stick to the facts instead of backstabbing.

Expectations are not understood. You are committed, but don’t exactly know what is expected to perform well. Are expectations communicated and understood by all team members? If not, confusion creates chaos. Are measurable objectives of the team defined and the role of each person in that measurement? All members must know and agree on what it is they are going to contribute to the team’s purpose. If you are unsure, find out!

Is reluctant to share. Not offering your insights can be perceived as not contributing. Have the courage to step forward to share your perspective or risk being labeled as not being a team player. Open communication helps everyone on the team to more effectively execute what is expected.

Not perceived as valuable. When someone does not feel appreciated and valued for contributions, it can cause a person to offer less. A feeling of not being attached to a team encourages retreat. How can you show and communicate the value you offer your team?

Not involved in personal development. Refusing to evolve your skills to be better is a detriment. The world is constantly changing and an ability to adapt is crucial to you and to the success of a team.

Focuses on personal goals. When a team member is only interested in personal gain, it can be a red flag of not being committed to organizational goals. Intertwining team goals with personal goals is the best formula.

Over opinionated. Sharing a personal perspective is great when a solution is offered at the same time. If not, complaining and blaming exists. Dominating a conversation curtails cooperation.

Does not understand the goal. A lack of understanding of the goal creates disconnect. A team is gathered together because a larger goal is set that individuals cannot achieve by themselves. Is the goal understood?

Creates division. Pitting departments against each other is a problem in organizations. Not willing to work with all team members to accomplish the purpose of the organization is futile. An attitude of “us vs. them” is pointless. A great way to ruin a relationship is to focus on division.

Constantly criticizes. Only acknowledging when people are not performing and personal attacks is a damaging formula. Improving relations with team members requires recognition of the efforts of others.

Rejects new team members. Not willing to accept new team members into the fold is a sign of disrespect. Being territorial and lack of inclusion is indicative of a weak team. Inviting new team members allows for greater strength.

Feeble leadership. Just because a leader has a title of a manager does not equate to providing good leadership. If you are a leader, articulate the mission and goals of the team. Build consensus by taking into account the rights and thoughts of a fellow team member’s endowment. Lack of leadership dissolves a team.

Takes all the credit. Great team players take the initiative, but can never succeed in their approach without the assistance of others. Maybe that is why Alexander Graham Bell proclaimed, “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than myself.”

Guard yourself against being a poor team player. And become a valued member of a team.

Best of success to you.

Jeffrey Benjamin is the founder of Breakthrough Training that provides team building, leadership, strategic planning and effective communication skills training in Reno. Visit to learn more.


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