Not everything is Team work

Off late, trite phrases like “Team work makes the dream work” really stir me up. And not in a good way.

Let me explain. I’m as good a team player as the average Jane. I can work hard, plan, strategise, direct a team and slog till kingdom come, until I hit the right chord with a project I’m given. I rarely complain and don’t throw my weight around. I’ve even taken one for the team plenty of times.

But, here’s the problem. When a project is successful, management rarely rewards individual contribution. Most often, there’s an emailer or an obscure message posted on a watsapp group that says things like “Congratulations team (Insert company name). Great job.”

While this has never riled me up earlier, it’s increasingly annoying to see every successful project attributed to team effort. There have been times when the so-called “team” working on the said project has consisted of only two individuals. And you have a message that says, “Super job Team (company name), keep up the good work.”


Are the bosses patting themselves on the back?

Well, I’m pleased they’ve recognised that the project was successful. But their refusal to credit singular individuals is immensely baffling. It’s also extremely discouraging to have work accomplished by three or four individuals, attributed to the many hundreds that make up the corporate and branch offices of the company, most of whom have no clue about the project in question.

It’s become a fad for top management to dilute the performance of star performers by attributing it to the whole team. It’s all about power and control. God forbid that these achievers should get swollen heads or demand a raise in salary. By pretending that the company has succeeded as a whole, it averages out the success over a whole bunch of people, thus driving home a point that everyone is mediocre. And it is only through team effort, that each one has been able to rise.

No singular piece of writing, photography, painting or even an idea, has ever been produced by a variety of people. Most often, it’s one individual, or at the most, two or three who have been responsible for excellence.  I believe there is nothing wrong in recognising that effort. Crediting people who had nothing to do with it, is not just wrong. It’s damaging.

In the same vein, I often feel guilty when I come across these general congratulatory messages being posted for things that I’ve not contributed to at all. It’s difficult to know how to react under the circumstances. Most co-workers afflicted with the same confusion, respond with the most general of all signs : “the thumbs up” sign. I choose not to respond at all. Though I’d love to barge in with the middle finger.

Many organisations today have developed a strong team culture. This is not a bad thing when balanced out with a healthy dose of individualism. The problem arises when individual contribution is sacrificed at the holy grail of team effort. I see it happening all too often these days.

” It is amazing how much people can get done if they don’t worry about who gets the credit.” – Sandra Sweeney 

The problem is that those who don’t worry about getting the credit, frequently end up getting none. And that’s just the way it is.

You have to blow a foghorn today, to get yourself heard in a sea of noise, all dedicated to team work.

There is a reason why designers do their best work alone, artists prefer working in isolation and writers don’t collaborate (most of the time). Imagine the Mona Lisa being painted by a bunch of people. I’d hazard a guess that the resulting artwork wouldn’t be hanging in The Louvre. It would probably occupy a prime position in an office like mine. Not a masterpiece by any standards, but a mediocre artwork attributed to the power of a team.

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”- Steve Jobs

Why then is Steve Jobs the first name that comes to mind when we think of Apple?

I rest my case.


34 thoughts on “Not everything is Team work

  1. Another good one. I write weird stuff to entertain people, and you write stuff that means something, and gets us thinking. I guess we both have our place. I agree with you about the Sandra Sweeney quote. We’re human beings with feelings and needs, not robots. I believe companies need star players just like sports teams to be successful. If everybody gets a participation trophy – I don’t want to live in that world. At the least, companies should say good teamwork, BUT we want to give special recognition to…….. for outstanding contributions for……… It ain’t going to happen. Sorry, I rambled on. You got me a little fired up on this one! Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Patrick. I do feel strongly about this. It’s sad when a group is credited, without individual recognition. It kind of discourages those who have gone the extra mile. You’re so right about us being humans and not robots. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.


  2. Unfortunately, I’ve found this to be true where an individual is rarely recognized at a workplace…. or at least it was in my experience. I also thought it was because of the political correctness people whine about — God forbid someone’s feelings are hurt if only one person from the team gets recognized. Ugh. Backbones, people — I’ll even lend mine to someone. (PR)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes. I think people should be recognized for their own contribution. Everyone is good at something and there’s no harm in recognizing that. The team should definitely be given its due, but outstanding performance should be commended in order to produce even more outstanding performance. Thank you so much for visiting and reading.


  3. I agree wholeheartedly, individuals pieces of good work should recognized and complemented specifically mentioning the workers name. I know the company/teams had a win, but my analogy is, .. in all “team” sports, the players/individuals who get the goals/scores always receive a mention in the winning results write-up…… no more need to be said, take it from there, you ego driven bosses !!.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a bold blog, Karen. For me, it all hinges around your statement:

    “Crediting people who had nothing to do with it, is not just wrong. It’s damaging.”

    Damaging to both sides. The confidence of those that did the achieving, and the inflated egos of those that didn’t. Which can then affect everyone. I take is back. It’s damaging to everyone!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi, Karen, I “stumbled across you” because you “liked” a comment I made on Kate’s blog. I’m so glad I did–this post is awesome….your points are so well-articulated, and I agree with all that you’ve said. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, I had my character wonder if he needed a copywriter in my latest post: “So much thought for just six words.” Of course I was thinking of you. You are, after all, the copywriter I had in mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a great post. It’s particularly upsetting when there are one or two members who are lazy and being carried by the rest of the team, and they end up being the ones whose egos are inflated the most by the generic “Well done team” message.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow Karen this post is so spot on. Each paragraph is powerful but the one, “It’s become a fad for top management to dilute the performance of star performers by attributing it to the whole team.” is so real. We’ve worked for bosses like that and it is insulting to the staff that are working hard knowing that there are ones that didn’t really contribute other then to complain. You have a lot of wisdom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading through. It is frustrating to have to deal with a system like this. It gives a good hiding place for team members who don’t pull their weight. After all, a team is always as fast as its slowest moving part.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We hear you Karen. Isn’t it something that we do but there are many that don’t and won’t or can’t. Oh well, we must keep doing our part and show them by example what true leadership is. You are a leader!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree wholeheartedly with you ! This is so true.
    This part, “The problem is that those who don’t worry about getting the credit, frequently end up getting none. And that’s just the way it is.”
    I’ve seen this happen so many times, not just to me, but a lot of other people that it is simply saddening. Thanks for sharing ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Totally agree with how you feel on the subject. While a team gets a lot done much more than the individual , it’s important to credit individuals for projects completed or one-off exceptional performance to avoid demotivating star performers. The organisation should have monthly or quarterly awards to recognise such performers.

    Liked by 1 person

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