Quiz: Are you too much of a team player -- or too little?
When browsing descriptions for job openings, it's common to see the phrase "team player." Most jobs benefit from an employee who can easily work with others and is willing to take on any project or challenge. But sometimes, workers can take the team-player idea too far. Saying yes to everything without clarifying uncertainties or pushing back when overloaded with other work can end up costing you and your team. Conversely, if you're too quick to complain about helping another co-worker or staying late to finish a project, you might alienate yourself from others, which could make it harder to succeed.
Take this quiz to determine on which end of the team-player spectrum you fall:
1. You have a new addition to your team. Your boss asks for a volunteer to help him learn the ropes. You:
A. Have already started helping him, before the boss even asked. Your work can wait.
B. Are happy to volunteer, so long as you can get a few projects off your plate before helping.
C. Ignore your boss's email. You have too much to do to worry about anyone else.
2. Your boss schedules a meeting for 5 p.m., but you were planning to leave by then to make a doctor's appointment. What do you do?
A. You cancel the appointment, even though you had to wait five months to get it. You don't want to anger your boss.
B. You are honest with your boss about your conflict, but offer to cancel the appointment if no other time to meet is available.
C. You decline the meeting request and leave without telling your boss why. You shouldn't have to explain yourself.
3. You're working on a team project, and one of your co-workers isn't doing her fair share of the work. How do you handle the situation?
A. You don't say anything to your co-worker or your boss and just take on the extra work. You're frustrated, but you don't want to risk looking like a tattletale.
B. You ask to chat for a few minutes alone. During the conversation, you ask her if she wouldn't mind helping out a little bit more so the work is evenly distributed.
C. You march straight into your boss's office without talking to your co-worker first. She deserves to get in trouble for not pulling her weight.
4. Your team has been staying late the past few days to finish a project. You can tell you're all in for another late night. You:
A. Feel bad for the rest of your team, so you tell them to go home. You'll handle the rest of the work.
B. You stay, because you know that your job sometimes requires putting in extra hours. When you're not as busy, you won't feel guilty about leaving work on time.
C. You delegate the work to your assistant and get out of there. Why should you have to stay late when someone else could do the work for you?
5. You're facilitating a brainstorm for a new advertising campaign, and one of the attendees suggests an unrealistic idea that would never fly with the client. How do you respond?
A. You tell him it's a great idea and spend the rest of the brainstorm exploring it. After all, you don't want to stifle his creativity, even if it's at the cost of everyone's time.
B. You applaud him for sharing the idea but encourage him to think about ways to tweak the concept so it's more aligned with the client's point of view.
C. You shoot down the idea and tell him there's no way the client would ever consider such a crazy strategy. He should know better.
Mostly A's: Is "yes" your most commonly used word? You tend to say it for almost everything, whether it's taking on more work than others or agreeing with the team on something in which you don't believe. It's great to be a team player, but you don't want your boss or co-workers to walk all over you. It's OK to disagree or push back once in awhile, so long as you have a reasonable explanation or an alternative solution. Your team will respect you for standing up for yourself, and ultimately, you'll work better together for having done so.
Mostly B's: You are the best example of what it means to be a team player. You have a healthy awareness of when you should "take one for the team" and when it's appropriate to push back. You're happy to help others or stay late as needed, just as long as you're able to keep a manageable workload and people aren't taking advantage of you. If you have any concerns, you raise them, but you do so in a way that's respectful and constructive. You encourage great ideas, but you also challenge others when you know they can do better or think smarter. Keep up the good (team) work.
Mostly C's: Sometimes it's good to put your own interests first, but you tend to do it all the time. Most work situations require employees to work with others to some degree, so you need to be more willing to compromise for the greater good of the team. Doing so doesn't mean you have to give up your beliefs or chain yourself to your desk. It just means that in order to excel at your job, you need to rely on others and let them rely on you, too. If you don't, you may find yourself without anyone willing to advocate for you or your work when you most need it.
Debra Auerbach is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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