Tell me about being a team player

I could swear that, a few months ago, there was a thread about people who are not team players at work. Actually, it was more pointedly about “credit hogs”, and I think it was in the Pit. But I can’t find it for the life of me, and I’m really interested in hearing some opinions about how to balance being a team player with making sure to get credit for work done.

Some background about my particular situation: I used to be a mental health therapist and, as such, was really just responsible for seeing my clients. Yes, I was part of a treatment team for each client, but the roles of individual team members were generally clear and there was little toe-stepping-upon. I was not responsible for marketing the mental health clinic, per se. I did generate referrals, but that was pretty much an added bonus and not an expected part of my job.

I am now an Career Counselor. Part of my job is doing the actual counseling and placement. However, other big parts of my job are generating referrals, building relationships with employers and companies, and helping to plan events specific to our industry.

Every day, practically, I come across a situation where I have to decide whether to be pushy about the fact that I have achieved something, or whether to be more of a team player. On the one hand, I love being part of a team and achieving things as a team. On the other hand, work performance is evaluated by what we achieve individually, as well as how well we play with others, so to speak.

Here’s a good example. I am on a team which is planning an event for this fall. We needed a speaker, and were having a hell of a time coming up with one. I finally came up with someone, and the rest of the team was enthusiastic about the idea. I contacted her, explained our request, and she accepted. Another team member wrote up the meeting minutes, which went to our bosses, and they stated, “We decided on so-and-so for our speaker, and she has agreed to do it.” So, yes, that’s true, but there’s also a selfish part of me going, "Wait a minute! I want the credit for this!"

How do you decide how to strike this balance? Managers, how do you recognize individual achievement versus team achievement? How do you know who did what, if you are hearing the end results?

I’ve watched 3 seasons of The Apprentice and I’m no closer to figuring this out.

Perhaps you could arrange for yourself to introduce the guest speaker; then you could say things like, “I chose ____ to speak to us today because…”

If you can’t do that, it’s a good bet that the guest speaker will thank you personally at the beginning of her speach for inviting her.

These are ways of getting your name mentioned without seeming to be grabbing glory. You could also make a deal with someone else on the team that she will drop your name around, if you will do the same for her.

You’ve learned the first lesson. Always be the spokesperson for your team. Then, lavish the other team members with praise when they deserve it. That takes some of the glory hog aspect out of your reporting, and you can either use the royal “we” or “I” for the rest.

Ah, good point, kunilou . I appreciate both responses I have gotten so far.

This is a whole new world for me, as I’ve said. I’m not good at demanding to be noticed, so to speak. In fact, a lot of the time, I’d prefer not to be noticed, but situations like this just aren’t it. On the other hand, I don’t want to alienate any of my coworkers, or be known as the person who is always gunning for the spotlight.

I recommend against speaking up. Yes, you came up with the idea for the speaker and then issued the invitation, but it was the team’s task, so let the team take the credit (and maybe hope that someone else points it out for you). I disgree with what Can Handle the Truth suggested, because that introduction makes it sound as though no team was involved at all. And, really, you didn’t choose the speaker: you made a good suggestion and then did the follow-up, but it was the team’s decision. Any competent speaker will find out ahead of time who to thank for their invitation, and is more likely to thank the team than an individual. I think that kunilou’s suggestion is better, but something to be careful about: you don’t want to be seen as the person who always wants to be in charge.

If you want individual recognition, find things that you can achieve individually – and if you’re concerned about not having enough opportunities, talk with your boss.

At my job I have a mix of things I do on my own and things I do as part of various teams; it’s always struck me as poor form to try to take credit for team things, even if I was the instigator or implementor. I think that when a team is involved, trying to claim the credit – whether you deserve it or not – is what will eventually get you the “poor team player” rep. Whether you deserve it or not (unfortunately).

It can take time to find a balance, and learn when it might be appropriate to claim credit for something. But in the meantime, while you’re figuring it out, I think it can’t hurt to err on the side of not taking the credit. If it starts to affect your performance reviews, it’s something you can work out with your boss.

All just my $0.02, as always. :slight_smile:

do you have 1:1 with your manager on a regular basis? You should have an agenda for each 1:1. Update on action items from previous 1:1, issues you need to raise, then have a short summary of some “wins” you want to highlight. Gives you a chance in private to let the manager know what you’ve accomplished or your value add to the team. Worked hard as a team on that event, and I’m happy to report that as one of my tasks I found the speaker type thing.

Well, you could always say, “I suggested” instead of “I chose”. Or if even that seems too much, I guess just the fact that you are the one introducing the speaker will be enough.

It doesn’t sound like you’re the problem here. It sounds as if the minute-taker wants to jump in and absorb some of the credit.

So be the one who writes the minutes, and formally write (so the bosses may peruse) the declarations: “lorene passed out some prepared material about a speaker; the group discussed it and voted to approve the idea 7-2.”

You might also at least ask/train/encourage the minute-taker to be more thorough and to write things in this style. Yes, being named individually means you can not only take credit but blame, so this idea carries with it as much risk as reward, but I’d say part of being a team player is to make sure other people get their kudos the way you would want them yourself.

I think the suggestion have been pretty good and I don’t want to rain on the parade, but I am curious why you should get special credit for finding the appropriate speaker. It did not sound as though everyone on the team sat back and let you do all the leg work, but rather that everyone was making an effort and you got lucky enough to be more successful. (If I’ve misunderstood the situation, ignore me.)

I do agree that whenever I have written up team projects, I have always attempted to give all appropriate credit to any individual who provided a brilliant insight, worked extra hours, saved our butts, or whatever and that taking control of the minutes places you in a better position to do this. If you can not take control of the minutes, you can always initiate your own communications with the brass. Need an opinion? Send off an e-mail outlining the dilemma. Need to invite a superior to a meeting? Send off an invitation including the reason. If there is a controversy for which you aree seeking resolution, mention the proponents of each position by name, making a good faith effort to present their views and cc everyone involved. Is the meeting to discuss a particular proposal? Name the person who has proposed it.

After a while, everyone should get used to seeing their names in print and your name will simply show up in the appropriate contexts. (Don’t be stupid about it, of course: inviting the boss down for Joe’s birthday cake does not require a reference that Jane baked it or Bill frosted it.)

I appreciate all the input so far.

Tomndebb , your question is actually the same as mine. Should I be trying to get credit for my contributions, or does being a member of the team mean that all efforts are “graded” equally, so to speak.

The speaker thing was just an example, and evidently a confusing one at that. When I wrote it, I was not asking, how can I make sure I get noticed for this? , although my little whine about that selfish part of me made it sound that way, I guess. (And, to be honest, this recent project is something I am wanting to be both a good team player on and contribute individually). I was using it more as an example of unfamiliar situations I now find myself in, by virtue of that fact that I’ve changed careers.

I need to rephrase my question, and I guess it would be this: How do you balance wanting (and needing) to be a team player with wanting (and needing) to succeed on an individual level?

I guess I should have just asked that in the first place.

It depends on how promotions and advancement in your workplace are reckoned, balanced against personal ethics. Unfortunately, the first is very much a matter of context and local culture. In some locations, any effort to call attention to yourself (or, more cynically, away from the boss), will cause you to lose points. In other places, the boss only rates you on how often s/he has heard your name, and you need to always keep it out front. If your review process includes a lot of input from your peers, you buy more brownie points by making them all look good.

You can start by simply asking the boss what sort of things s/he looks for in the review process (along with listening closely to the discussions your co-workers have regarding their past reviews), but you may have to simply grit your teeth and wait for the first review before you really understand how your location works.

Of course, the idea of making sure that you always talk up the contributions of others never hurts. You make allies of the people you praise, give your superiors the comfortable feeling that you are not a glory hound, and, potentially, encourage your peers to respond with good comments on your efforts. The only CYA that I would propose for that would be to document each week or month to yourself, only the actual contributions that you make. Then, if you get into a review where the boss says “What have you done for me lately?” you can rattle off all your accomplishments without fumbling for an answer. (This is especially true if the culture indicates that you cannot publicly announce your accomplishments or, worse, where someone else has begun taking credit for your contributions–you need to be able to factually set the record straight during a performance review.)

I tend to think that ideas that are discussed and agreed upon by a team belong to the team and not to the individual who originally came up with that idea. If you make a lot of good suggestions, you’ll get noticed. People will want you on their teams and will make an effort to include you in meetings (since they want your good input).

If that bothers you, consider what would happen if you made a suggestion, the team discussed it, everyone agreed with it, and the choice turned out to be disasterous. Would you deserve sole responsibility for that? Absolutely not. Everyone agreed and shares accountability: good and bad.

If you think about it, it’s often hard to determine who really is responsible for a good idea anyway. I’ve suggested an individual speaker for an event. But that’s been after someone else came up with the idea for a guest speaker, another person suggested the speaker come from a particular industry, someone else gave out idea on other characteristics that would make a great speaker, etc. I finally came up with a name but only after building on everyone else’s work.

The only time I’d worry about losing credit for an idea is when it’s attributed to another individual rather than to the team. For example, a co worker is heading up a team you’re on. You make a great suggestion and management congradulates that co worker for the decision. Your co worker accepts the credit without sharing it with her team (particularly you). I’d worry about that.

I don’t mean to imply you deserve no credit for coming up with a great idea. You should keep your own file of your accomplishments and** tomndebb ** suggested. Also, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to mention that you came up with the name of the speaker in your status meetings with your boss. But public credit belongs with the team.

I feel this is exactly why you do put down stuff like that in meeting minutes. If the team votes 6-1 on some half-baked scheme but Serious Sue raised an objection during the meeting (“guys, inviting a leopard as a guest speaker is a bad idea”), I’d want that objection to be on record somewhere.

After the idea is discovered to be a disaster, there will be many people unafraid to come forward to say, “…I tried to tell everybody it was a bad idea, but they wouldn’t listen” and weasel out of their share of the blame. Only Serious Sue’s claim would be legitimate — and I say it should be on record.

But that’s me, and what I think the definition of team player is. When a baseball team wins or loses, twenty-five players have a W or an L hung around their necks; but that doesn’t stop them from tracking individual batting averages or runs scored.

This strikes me as some of the best employee advice I’ve ever seen. I’d only add that if you’re not having 1:1 with your manager on a regular basis, it’s time to look at applying for his/her position.