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What is a Team Player?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many employment ads mention that the successful candidate will be a team player. Employers want employees to be comfortable working as part of a team. It's important for a new employee to fit in with and get along with the other workers in order for the organization to run smoothly in a spirit of cooperation. A team player is not necessarily liked by everyone, nor does he or she usually like everyone on the team. However, a true team player is an employee that can be counted on to do his or her part of the work and be relied on to complete tasks and work cooperatively with others.

It’s important to realize that a business team differs greatly from a social group. This can be confusing for some as friendships may occur with co-workers. We may even confide in a co-worker at times like we would with a friend. Yet we cannot lose track of the fact that we all must work together to ensure that the company’s end product or service is delivered to clients in an efficient and cost effective manner. If we experience problems in friendships we’ve formed with co-workers, we have to be sure that it doesn’t affect the business team and that’s not always an easy thing to deal with.

Another trouble spot for many in being a team player is in natural versus expected styles. Some people are natural leaders, while others are natural followers. Yet, depending on one’s position and status in the company, roles may often have to be switched. The natural leader may have to learn to become more of a follower in a subordinate role or he or she may be seen as too bossy or not respectful toward a supervisor or manager. A natural follower put in a leadership role on the other hand, may experience problems in being assertive enough to lead the team through proper delegation.

Each team player should know his or her role and how his or her job fits in with the others. No matter what office politics are occurring, each team member must do his or her part. If each person on the team makes a point to treat each member of the team with respect no matter what personal matters or matters of office politics are between them, they can still operate as team players working to get the job done.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Jan 23, 2013

@lighth0se33 – It's great for employees to have concern for each other, but you have to be careful that they don't get too close. I've had many interoffice relationships destroy good teams, so dating is not allowed at my company.

It may seem harsh, but I've just had too many bad experiences with it in the past. If one person breaks up with another, there is just too much bad blood there for them to ever work together productively again. Someone has to be fired or quit.

By giddion — On Jan 22, 2013

I took a team player survey in a magazine once, and I found out that I'm not such a good one. I am rather self-absorbed, and this is a problem when working with a team. I guess it's a good thing that I work for myself!

By Kristee — On Jan 21, 2013

I think I'm a great team player. Most of that has to do with the fact that I'm very conscientious about getting my work done on time.

Other people on the team are kind of sluggish. When they slack off, the whole project falls behind.

I can't stand for any delay in progress to be my fault. The only time that ever happened was when I was out sick with the flu for a week.

My coworkers were great about it, though. They pitched in and finished my part, because they knew I wasn't physically able. They really didn't want me to try to come to work sick, because I would probably infect them!

By lighth0se33 — On Jan 21, 2013

Humility and concern for others are good team player qualities. I always look for those two characteristics when hiring new employees.

We've had our share of those who were only out for themselves. While ambition can be a positive thing sometimes, it often gets in the way of the work at hand, and the employee tends to focus more on what the job can do for her than what she can do for the job.

By anon280826 — On Jul 20, 2012

Not to single out this topic specifically, I don't mean to do that, but is it striking how, when you format a question and answer on a web page, it takes on an odd kind of authority?

It's odd because the source of the authority isn't apparent, other than it is nicely formatted.

Is anyone informed on the answer to this question beyond the opinion of the author? I am not saying that is not without value, but that is what this and all such opinions nicely formatted on the internet are: the opinion of the author.

The truth is, it's not at all clear that every employer even means the same thing when he says 'Team Player.' Maybe this article is what it means to be a 'Team Player' in the culture known to the author.

You won't know what that really means until you work at the firm and figure out the local culture/team. It could mean 'willing to lie to customers as part of your normal business responsibilities.'

By anon116985 — On Oct 08, 2010

post is good but doesn't talk about how to deal with the person who is not team player and doesn't give you credit when you helped me. thanks.

By anon112480 — On Sep 20, 2010

Anon, I feel for you. I really do not like leading, managing, whatever, and would rather do self-contained tasks. The ups and downs you described, I believe, are par for the course in managing. People who are good at it and/or like it don't mind them. Me, let me focus on writing, designing, etc.

By anon71530 — On Mar 18, 2010

you can't make everyone happy. You were given an assignment to complete, follow through.

Co-workers come with their assumptions and personal issues. With that said, buckle up, because your ride is going to be bumpy. Don't allow your co-workers power over you that allow the lowering of your standards. Raise the bar and get the job done!

By anon41026 — On Aug 12, 2009

Seems to me you are project manager and not a designer. Thus, your opinion about the design is not important. Your role is to public what a designer desired especially when the manager accepted the changes. Play your role and you are on the team. --Alex N

By anon30020 — On Apr 12, 2009

I have been working at my current position for more than 5 years. Most of my co-workers have been working there for 3 to 5 years. All of them are the same level as me and a few are more senior than me.

This year, my boss has assigned me the lead for a project. I help my boss on scheduling, task assignment, status update etc. However, I found I have a difficult time getting my co-workers to tell me the progress (in % completion) on the assigned task, and when they expect their task to be completed. A couple of times, designs were changed (I was not notified) and presented to management in a meeting by co-workers. Some of the designs were not acceptable as I saw. However, because the project delivery date has been changed, management accepted these design changes. I have argued that some design changes will have a negative image on our product, but no one seems to care except when I told my boss. My boss asked me to talk to my co-workers on those design changes. And since no marketing and management have had any issue with the designs, my co-workers think that I was being difficult.

Finally, my boss told my co-worker that the designs have to be replaced. My boss felt that I have not done my job as lead on these occasions. I found it hard that when someone told you that they will let you know when they are done with their tasks all the time and I still kept asking them.

I had a very good relationship with my co-workers before this lead assignment. Now I feel that I am losing the good relationship and am not performing well as a lead that my boss wanted.

How can I improve the situation?

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