If someone displays these 9 behaviors at work, they’re clearly not a team player

There’s a clear distinction between being a team player and just pretending to be one.

Pretense can only take someone so far, but true teamwork is revealed in consistent actions and attitudes.

Being a team player isn’t merely about agreeing to collaborate or showing up at team meetings.

It’s about contributing positively, respecting others, and putting the team’s needs ahead of personal interests.

Sharp observers will notice that there are certain behaviors that give away those who aren’t genuine team players.

Here are 9 indicators to watch out for. 

1) Consistently prioritizing personal interests

One of the biggest red flags in team dynamics is someone who is always looking out for number one, themselves.

A key element of teamwork is the ability to see beyond personal interests and work towards a common goal. It’s about collaboration, not competition.

Of course, everyone has their own personal ambitions and goals. But a true team player knows how to balance their individual desires with the needs and objectives of the team.

When someone consistently prioritizes their own interests over the team’s, it can create friction and resentment among other team members. It disrupts the harmony and can even derail the progress towards achieving team goals.

Remember though, everyone has off days. So it’s important to consider these behaviors in context and over a period of time before drawing conclusions.

2) Lack of open communication

In my early years in a corporate setting, I worked with a colleague who was stubbornly tight-lipped about his tasks. He would keep his work to himself and hardly ever shared updates or insights with the rest of the team.

Open communication is the lifeblood of any team. It fosters trust and encourages collaboration. But this particular colleague, let’s call him John, seemed to disregard that entirely.

John would work in his own bubble, often leaving us in the dark about his progress. This not only made it difficult for us to coordinate our tasks effectively but also created unnecessary confusion and delays.

There were times when we would be waiting for his input to move forward with our tasks, not knowing that he had already completed his part. If only he had communicated openly, we could have saved so much time and effort!

This experience taught me that a lack of open communication is definitely a sign that someone is not a team player. It hampers the flow of work and can create a disjointed team dynamic. 

3) Unwillingness to share skills and knowledge

Sharing is caring, as the old saying goes. In a team setting, this applies to sharing one’s skills and knowledge.

Employees who share their knowledge are seen as more valuable by their peers and supervisors. Knowledge sharing fosters innovation, improves efficiency, and promotes a sense of camaraderie.

However, not everyone embraces this idea. Some individuals may hold back their knowledge, seeing it as a source of power or a way to maintain job security.

A true team player, however, understands that when one member succeeds, the whole team succeeds. They’re not afraid to share their expertise, even if it means taking some time out of their day to help a co-worker understand a complex concept or master a new skill.

4) Frequent negativity

We all have those days where nothing seems to go right, and a little venting is normal. But there’s a fine line between having an off day and constantly radiating negativity.

A habitual negative attitude can be toxic in a team environment. It can dampen the team’s morale, hinder productivity, and create an overall unpleasant atmosphere.

Imagine working with someone who is always complaining, criticizing, or pessimistic. It’s draining, isn’t it? This type of behavior can quickly turn a positive work environment into a negative one.

A true team player knows that maintaining a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity, is crucial for team cohesion and performance. They focus on solutions rather than dwelling on problems.

5) Lack of active participation

Active participation is a clear indicator of a team player. It shows engagement, enthusiasm, and commitment to the team’s objectives.

However, some individuals may choose to stay on the sidelines. They might attend team meetings but rarely contribute to discussions. Or they may shy away from taking on tasks or responsibilities that demand active involvement.

This lack of participation can be detrimental to team dynamics. It can slow down progress, limit brainstorming efforts and create an imbalance in workload distribution.

A true team player understands the importance of stepping up and contributing actively. They’re not afraid to share their ideas, take on tasks, or voice their concerns when necessary.

pic2371 If someone displays these 9 behaviors at work, they're clearly not a team player

6) Lack of empathy

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a trait that’s often overlooked in the workplace. Yet, it’s incredibly vital for effective teamwork.

A team is more than just a group of people working together. It’s a community of individuals, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and personal circumstances.

I’ve seen team dynamics where empathy was lacking, and it was heartbreaking. Colleagues would get impatient with each other over minor mistakes or wouldn’t take the time to understand each other’s perspectives.

When empathy is missing in a team, it creates an environment where individuals feel unheard and undervalued. It can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts that could have been easily avoided with a bit more compassion.

A true team player shows empathy. They’re supportive when a colleague is going through a tough time, patient when someone is struggling with a task, and understanding when mistakes are made.

7) Inability to accept constructive criticism

Nobody likes to be criticized, myself included. It’s a natural human tendency to want to defend our actions and ideas. But constructive criticism is an essential part of growth and improvement.

I remember a time when I was working on a project, and despite my best efforts, things didn’t go as planned. Feedback from my team was harsh, and it stung.

But I realized that they weren’t attacking me personally. They were pointing out flaws in the work so we could fix them and improve the overall outcome.

Someone who’s not a team player often takes constructive criticism personally. They might get defensive, dismissive, or even hostile when their mistakes are pointed out or their ideas are challenged.

On the other hand, a true team player understands that feedback, even when it’s tough to hear, is meant to help them grow and improve. They’re open to it and use it constructively to become better at their job.

8) Inconsistency in commitment

Commitment is the glue that holds a team together. It’s about showing up, doing your part, and being reliable.

However, some individuals may show inconsistency in their commitment to the team. One day they’re all in, enthusiastic and productive. The next day, they might be disengaged, unproductive, or even absent without a valid reason.

This inconsistency can disrupt the team’s rhythm and cause unnecessary delays. It can also lead to mistrust and frustration among team members who are consistently committed.

A true team player is consistent in their commitment. They’re dependable, show up when they say they will, and follow through on their tasks and responsibilities.

9) Failure to acknowledge the efforts of others

At the heart of every successful team is recognition and appreciation. Everyone wants to feel valued and acknowledged for their efforts.

Yet, a clear sign of someone not being a team player is a failure to acknowledge the contributions of others. They might take credit for team successes or overlook the efforts of their colleagues.

A true team player knows the power of appreciation. They’re quick to acknowledge the efforts of their team members and celebrate shared successes.

If you see someone consistently failing to recognize the hard work and contributions of others, that’s a definite sign they’re not a real team player.

Final thought: It’s all about growth

The essence of being a team player is rooted in personal growth and development.

Research by Dr. Bruce Tuckman, a renowned psychologist, outlines the stages of group development. He describes the final stage, ‘performing’, as one where team members are interdependent, work through issues smoothly and effectively, and are highly motivated to achieve the team’s objectives.

Reaching this stage requires each person to grow both individually and collectively. It demands individuals to shed behaviors that hinder team dynamics and adopt those that foster collaboration and mutual respect.

Recognizing these nine behaviors isn’t about labeling or pointing fingers. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement, not just for the individuals displaying these behaviors, but also for those around them.

After all, every team is only as strong as its weakest link. And each of us has the capacity to be a strong link, a true team player, if we choose to be.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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