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Searching for team players? Forget it, nobody's team player POST Online Media

Searching for team players? Forget it, nobody's team player

Ted Blackwater | Monday May 8, 2017 5:56AM ET
Team players
Freedom and power   Stop with that

Every job ad, along with other requirements, contains this phrase: "Must be team player." The problem is, we people are not team players, at least not in the way your HR department think we are.

So, what does it mean to be a team player, according to a "usual" HR department?

That means helping other to work better, give and take suggestions from all sides, be always on disposal to other members of your team and other people in your company and, to make the story short, do whatever you do to help other people do their job.

And, in turn, they will help you and all of you will be happy and world peace. But, this is not how things work.

This is an overly optimistic expectation, one of the things we realize that they don't exist very early in our lives, somewhere at the age when we realize the truth about Santa Claus.

However, that phrase tend to be repeated like the most powerful mantra, like the magic touch that will, if fulfilled, find us the best among best, the uberworkers.

Now, we must make distinction between being a team player and working for the team. It may sound like a game of words but that difference is very important.

To be a team player - imagine a football team for example - means you have to follow instructions from "above." You step out on the field, do your job, and when the game is over you go home.

You may excel and be the quarterback in history but let's admit it: You are just a quarterback, doing his job as a team player.

On the other hand, working for the team means that you are contributing but - along with doing your job - with your own ideas, projects and decisions.

That means that you have freedom to make your own choice how to contribute to the company and that's what every company should strive to: To have workers who contribute with their own ideas.

But, all said and done, how people work? Less know fact, at least in most of the companies, is that people want freedom more than power.

That sounds a bit surprising, but studies confirm that.

Worker wants to go to the top but not for the sense of power, but for the freedom that may come with it. In other words, people want to be the boss because they have more freedom to do the work their own way, not because they want to control other people.

Examples from everyday life show that the higher position is not accepted if it's not followed by increased degree of freedom. Even when money incentives are reasonably higher, people tend to say "Thank you, I'm satisfied with my current position."

All that taken into account, it's obvious that the "classic" team player, let's call it that way, doesn't exist. Every worker wants to contribute, wants the working environment where she can contribute, and doesn't want micromanagement and very strict procedures.

There is another problem with "Must be team player." Every job candidate will say "Of course I am," but that can't be true.

The first reason: We are all different and it simply can't be that all of us are great team players. That's why some people can't stand team sports and some choose a solo career instead of being a small wheel in a big orchestra.

And second, it is not in our nature to blindly follow somebody else's instructions.

That's why you should think about freedom you can give your job candidates and existing employees. And stop insisting on "team worker" because sooner or later you will realize the ideal team worker doesn't exist.


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