One of the most coveted qualities employers seek in new applicants is teamwork. Look at a wall of job postings and this word keeps showing up with a high degree of regularity. What is it about teamwork that makes it so popular and what is an employer driving at when they say the ability to work as part of a team is a requirement?
Well for starters, when you work in an environment that demands teamwork, you know right off the bat the position has a fair amount of interaction with and co-dependency on other people. In other words, in order to successful produce products and/or services; you have to work cooperatively and productively on a regular basis with other people. If you aren’t really a people person, you’ll find that having to use your interpersonal skills on a daily basis may be your downfall. Could be you’ll either not be successful, or the personal strain of having to stretch yourself all the time to be communicative and dependent on others isn’t something you’ll be able to keep up over a long period time.
Those who prefer to work alone aren’t always anti-people; they just find relying on others to do their jobs isn’t something they ideally prefer. Let’s face it, you might prefer to work at a job where you are totally responsible for the end product and you can control the effort and quality that goes into the product 100%. You don’t have to rely on someone else at all, and you might feel that the more people who have their hands in the process increases the chances that someone somewhere will perform their job with less commitment, effort and attention to detail than you would.
Teamwork though, really is all about trusting in other people; and they trusting in you, to perform the work assigned with accountability and responsibility. There’s more to real teamwork however than just this. Teamwork may require those on the team occasionally picking up the workload for someone on the team who is not performing at their best, or who is off work entirely until management replaces that person with someone new. It can mean adapting to the methods others use, trying others ideas, compromising your own way of doing things for the greater good, listening to ideas of others you initially dismiss as less than favourable. Teamwork – not to sound trite – means working as a team.
When a team is working harmoniously together and producing services and goods at high efficiency, teamwork is something to be touted, “Look at good we are when it comes to working together!” However, when one or two members are distracted, perform poorly, get moody, and appear to be shirking their responsibility, teamwork gets tested in other ways. Not everyone on the team will react to the person who is perceived to be a poor team player in the same fashion.
First of all is it your place to reprimand or correct a fellow worker who is your peer or is this the position of the Supervisor, Project Lead, Director or Manager? Would the person you talked to ask you, “Who made you my boss?” Knowing what the correct procedure is when teamwork breaks down is just as critical as being an effective team player. Maybe your role is indeed to talk directly to your team member and find out what’s behind their drop in quality. Or maybe you’re supposed to bring concerns to your mutual Supervisor and let her or him handle things. Finding out which is expected in your workplace is good information.
What makes true teamwork difficult for many is the variance in standards people hold as their values. If you work hard at producing the absolute best product or service you can, you’ll struggle knowing that someone else may have a very different, (and lower) personal standard that they work to. ‘Do enough to get by’ might be their mantra, or because of their lack of life experience or maturity, they may THINK they are performing wonderfully, but it’s still not up to your standards of excellence. From their point of view, you might be viewed as a perfectionist, an overachiever; your work ethic good for you but not to be imposed on them. Now what would you do if you were them and it was someone else with these seemingly impossible high standards?
In some workplaces, a team may not necessarily interact with everyone else on the team in a given day. While a production line relies on someone to perform work in a step-by-step order in order for a final product to be completed, this isn’t always the case with teamwork. Other teams may have members that work independently to complete their work, but the individual members are collectively referred to as a team, and when one goes down or is absent, the team is left to work out how the person’s absence will be covered in the short-term. All may go on fine in such a situation until each member is called upon to do more than their share for an extended period.
You can see why the ability to work as part of a productive team is so highly coveted by employers. Those who are successful in convincing interviewers that they have what it takes, do so using specific examples from their past that illustrate their ability to work well with others.