Team Work, Workplace Skills

The Team Player: Just Getting By Part I

It’s one thing to talk about team work and another to live it. And in few places is the tension between speaking and doing quite so evident as in the workplace. Most of us have had the dubious honor of working on “teams” in which a handful of people carried the bulk of the load. The injustice of such arrangements is evident. Work under these circumstances for too long and you’ll be forced to make a choice: to stand out or to get by. Unfortunately, the temptation to “just get by” is often quite strong… and too often, we find ourselves succumbing to its power as we resort to the path of least resistance.

This “caving in” can manifest itself in a variety of ways. One of the most common is through stings and barbs directed at those who aren’t functioning as part of the team. While this may sound like a good idea at the start, very few people are genuinely motivated by ridicule (at least not in the long run). The result is that a few well-placed comments about the lazy slackers who are holding the team back are more likely to decrease productivity than increase it. Tell someone they’re a lazy loser long enough and they’ll not only start to believe it, but they’ll start to act upon that belief. A tiger can’t change its stripes, so why even try?

Another form of “caving in” begins when we express our dissatisfaction, but only in our minds. Afraid of what others might think of us and protective of our “Christian witness”, we think the same thoughts that others are vocalizing. Sadly, while brooding upon the injustice may not affect the overall morale of others, it does affect our own.

It doesn’t usually take long before we find ourselves resenting not just the lack of teamwork on the part of others, but our own extra efforts. In our humanness, we may find ourselves tempted to “even the score.” After all, why should we have to work harder than anyone else when our paycheck doesn’t reflect the reward for our labors?

Instead of heeding the advice of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”, we gradually (or not so gradually) begin to slack off. We take a few more bathroom breaks than we actually require, show up just a couple of minutes late, go home a few minutes early, spend a little more time performing routine tasks, or take a just “few seconds” longer to greet our coworkers. We may even be able to justify our actions based upon our own perception that we simply misunderstood what was required of us when we hired on… after all, everyone else is doing it and they don’t seem to be suffering any ill effects!

While such an “adjustment” may work for some time, the unfortunate reality is that, once the bar has been set, employers tend to expect that it will continue to be met. The result is that any attempt to deceitfully manipulate the terms of our employment is likely to lead to complications in the long run… and not just for the person who hired us! Next week, we’ll take a look at some of these ill effects, but for now, feel free to post your own thoughts in the comment box below!


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