At one time or another most of us are required to work with others on a project.
Everyone from children in elementary school to professionals in IT jobs know how rewarding it can be to work with others, but also how challenging, and even frustrating, it can be at times.
Advantages of Working in a Team
There are many advantages of teamwork. We’ve all heard the phrase “two heads are better than one.” Of course with more minds set on a specific goal, you have access more ideas. Looking at things from the perspective of others can increase the likelihood of quality innovation.
Teams create an environment of support and propel people toward implementation. A team environment can boost the confidence of individuals, allowing them to do their best work.
Good teams make the most of individual talents. Where one member may be weak, another might be strong and working together they provide the perfect resource for an organization. The more people work together, the more they learn and step away to become better workers in their own jobs. Teams can create better communication and respectful relationships among employees.
Disadvantages of Working in a Team
For every advantage of working in a team, there is the flip side. Just as “two heads are better than one,” we’ve all heard, “too many chefs spoil the soup.”
Basically, there are just too many people, too many ideas, and too many “experts” to come to an agreement and achieve a good result. It is simply why we have to constantly be reminded that there is “no ‘I’ in team.”
When people can’t leave their egos behind, conflict and resentment arises. People become unwilling to open their minds to other perspectives and are intent on either forcing their point of view or not cooperating with others. The more conflict, the less innovation, the farther the team gets from implementation and meeting goals.
While a team has the potential to boost up the individual members, if it is not functioning properly it can make some members feel inferior and unimportant. They contribute less and are discouraged from accessing their strong qualities. How much each person is contributing or not contributing becomes the focus of the individuals – some feeling they are carrying the team, others resenting those who are taking charge.
Relationships and communication worsens. The team is unsuccessful and the individuals walk away worse off than when they started.
What Can You Do to Ensure a Successful Team Environment?
Most of us can say we’ve experienced being on both types of teams. Here are some tips for maximizing the advantages of teamwork.
For the Manager:
If you are a manager who is forming a team you should set clear, specific expectations and have a dialogue with your employees to be certain they understand these expectations. It is important that they not only understand the goals, but also the reason the team has been created. A good manager will allow a team to function without hovering over it, but will be fully involved by eliciting information on a consistent basis, rather than waiting for the deadline to evaluate the results.
Communicate with your team, evaluate performance and commitment, and step in to assist when necessary. The team may very well need additional resources or input from you.
For the Team Member:
If you have just been assigned to a team, take the time to listen to others in the group. Be involved in the process, as there will be a process that sorts out responsibilities and leadership roles (whether official or not), but open your mind and realize teamwork takes patience, understanding, and mutual respect and support.
Yes, you want to be supported by the team, but this can only happen if you support others. The first step in being a successful team member understands your mission.
If you are given or volunteer for a particular role, understand your role and own it! Make the decision to be a problem solver. Do not look to place blame and do not focus on the negative. Stand up and make things better, rather than sitting back and complaining.
You will feel good about yourself and help the team by making it better for everyone. A negative attitude can be contagious….but so can a positive one! Constantly practice tolerance and keep communication open with all members of the team and management.
It is often a team victory we rejoice in and remember above all others. The team environment can be very rewarding and a team’s success does depend on you, the individual. Your commitment to your team, despite obstacles, is vital to its success.
Lynn Mattoon is a Content Editor and Career Writer for Beyond.com career community. You can follow her on Twitter at Beyond Careers.
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Last week, I started a tricky conversation with my coworkers. I stated that I prefer to work independently.
Sometimes, it’s so much better to work alone – and in a private environment.
At Toggl, we have a very cool office – and the option to work remotely as well. When we’re in the office we enjoy a large, open space that facilitates engagement and communication. However, with all this freedom and community, some of us feel the need to work alone (or at least, in separate boxes).
When people have lots of freedom and contact with others, some of us crave a little privacy.
After talking with my colleagues about the pros and cons of teamwork and independent work, I decided to share our insights with you.
Working as Part of a Team
Extroverts with engaging personalities gain energy the more they interact with others. These folks typically enjoy working in groups. They communicate well with others and thrive in active, high-energy workplace.
If you like to work as a team, you love teamwork. You thrive in cooperative, integrative, and friendly work environments. You rely on your team members to help you solve problems, answer questions, and increase your work efficiency. You share struggles and successes with your peers – and celebrate group achievements.
Working as a team pays off handsomely for many groups. As they say, “Two heads are better than one.”
Each person has a limited set of skills and a finite knowledge base. We need others’ help (and unique perspectives) to solve difficult problems and see beyond our blind spots. Team members benefit greatly from sharing challenges and ideas.
We’re all individuals; we each offer our special talents to our organizations. However, we don’t need to work alone to shine. By working closely with others, we share our various work experiences, educational backgrounds, and creative impulses.
We work in groups to gain the many benefits of group work: unified perspectives, combined strength, and collective brainstorming. When people apply their unique skills to a common task, they often create more effective solutions than independent workers. Teamwork also improves employee relations.
True, individual team members don’t always get appropriate levels of credit for their contributions. However, groups are more than the sums of their parts – and a rising tide lifts all boats.
It is amazing how much people can get done if they do not worry about who gets the credit.
– Sandra Swinney
When you read the section above, did you find yourself thinking., “I work alone! I understand the advantages of teamwork, but it just isn’t for me. I’m an independent person, not a team worker.”
Yes, teams create great results. Group members compensate for each other’s weaknesses and share broad perspectives. Teamwork at work is what organizational strength is all about – but it isn’t the only way.
However, working alone has many clear benefits – both for workers and the organizations/clients they serve. Many people dream of being their own bosses (or managers); they feel free to their best when they don’t have to justify their actions to others.
So, do you seek out jobs where you work alone? Do you notice some of your co-workers are at their happiest and most productive when they skirt the edge of your team’s social circle?
It’s a matter of motivation structures and personality. Some people dig in and work hard when they know they alone have responsibility for a project. They know they’ll get all the credit for their achievements – and all the blame for their failures. They won’t be held back by others – and can act in the ways they know to be best.
Not everyone has the ability to work independently, but those who do find it easy to focus and concentrate when they block out all distractions – including interactions with coworkers. They shine when insulated from the interruptions of a hectic workplace. Because introverts spend more energy accommodating others than they gain from group interactions, they can put their whole hearts into their work.
When working independently, people must embrace an interesting trade-off. People who like to be alone enjoy a free-flowing work style that requires a higher amount of motivation, discipline, and self-awareness. No one is working alongside them (or looking over their shoulder) to make sure they’re on task – and on the right task.
However, many people find the freedom of independent work well worth this added layer of self-management. They determine their own goals, milestones, and schedules. They decide what to do – and when. Even if managers and clients determine these workers’ responsibilities, these independent people get to shape their workflows.
People with unique personalities who don’t fit into a “normal” workplace culture can excel if given the freedom to adapt their work environments to suit their strengths and weaknesses. And, perhaps the greatest strength of independent workers is their ability to cast off “group think” and present unique solutions.
Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking…
― Leo Tolstoy
Putting It All Together
Smart managers know their team members. They identify who “plays well” with whom. They know when certain people need a break from the group to work alone – and when everyone needs to pull together.
Independent workers do miss out on the advantages of teamwork. Group workers do compromise with others and tend toward “group think.” Luckily, the independent/teamwork debate isn’t black and white – savvy managers provide opportunities for their workers to enjoy both approaches.
By understanding your colleagues’ individual strengths, weaknesses, and personality types, you can create optimal environments for worker satisfaction, productivity, efficiency, and innovation.
When tracking groups and individual employees side-by-side in your organization, you need a powerful platform for analyzing timesheet data. Toggl provides a robust and easy-to-use suite of report-generation tools so you can understand your team members’ unique contributions at a glance.
With Toggl, you can track and appreciate the contributions of every worker – whether they work well in groups, function better alone – or enjoy a combination of the two.