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How to be a good team player: Tips for becoming the dreamy coworker

May 19, 2022 - 17 min read

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The characteristics of a good team member

How to be a good team player: 8 tips

The spirit of leadership

How to recognize bad team players

How to deal with a bad teammate

Do you consider yourself a good team player?

Learning how to be a good team player can help you achieve your work goals and get along better with your coworkers. So why do we often find it hard to work with others? 

When trying to complete an important project, it’s easy to feel like you can only trust yourself to get the job done. You might work long hours, leave your coworkers off of important email threads, or make decisions without input from others. Though seems like the more efficient way to get things done, in the long run, it can harm you and your career.  

Even if your coworkers are difficult to be around, you have to learn how to be a good team player. Everyone, from entry-level workers to entrepreneurs, has to work with other people to achieve their goals. You even need teamwork skills in your personal life — have you ever tried to decide where to eat dinner with your friends, only to have one person try to control the discussion? 

From networking to emotional support, your “team” is comprised of people who can make or break your goals. Everyone has different strengths, and you can’t follow your dreams without the right people by your side. Plus, if you don’t work well with others, you could burn out from the effort of trying to do everything alone. 

So how can you learn how to be a good team player? Let’s dive into what makes a great team member and 8 tips for improving your teamwork skills at work.

The characteristics of a good team member

Being a good collaborator takes more than just being liked by your colleagues. Sometimes it’s about making tough decisions for the benefit of the group or being the dissenting voice in a controversial meeting. Above all, a good team player has the following characteristics: 

Accountability. Effective team players are accountable to themselves and to others. They take responsibility for their actions or mistakes and understand how their choices impact the team.

Flexibility. Adapting to change is a critical part of a team’s success. Strong collaborators are willing to take on new challenges to support their peers and tweak deadlines for the greater good.

Positivity. A positive mental attitude keeps morale high. Teams value people who exude optimism.

Commitment. Successful team players believe in the group’s processes and team goals. They stand in solidarity with the rest of their members.

Integrity. The value of integrity is important in a team setting. A good colleague doesn’t just say “yes” to everything — they push back on ideas they think go against the team’s values.

Why does learning how to be a good team player matter?

Forbes listed “collaboration” as one of the top 10 skills employers look for in their employees — and with good reason. Strong teams tend to be more productive, efficient, and innovative. Plus, teamwork is proven to improve the morale and overall well-being of employees. This happens because everyone feels valued, trusts one another, and steps up when others need them.

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How to be a good team player: 8 tips

People often misunderstand what makes a great team player. They think collaboration means saying yes to everything, not having boundaries, and never pushing back on bad ideas. But in reality, the opposite is true. 

You have the ability to be an intelligent and capable member of a team. That means you shouldn’t be afraid of speaking up when needed. In fact, it’s probably expected of you. You need to recognize that you’re a valuable contributor and can participate in decision-making. 

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Here are eight tips on how to be a better team player in the workplace.

1. Communicate

This means using active listening, relaying your ideas clearly, and trying to connect with your team. Strong communicators also know how to check in with themselves and others, so they’re always on the same wavelength.

2. Be a problem-solver

Your team will face challenges. Critical thinking and problem-solving are essential to overcoming these hurdles. Be ready to suggest creative solutions when brainstorming with your colleagues.

3. Know your role (and your limits)

You should know what’s expected of you and how your role fits within the team. You should also be realistic about how much you can take on. Others depend on you, so make sure you can deliver.

4. Take initiative

Taking the initiative means helping prevent problems before they happen. It also means addressing them as soon as they appear, if and when they do. Be ready to spring into action before someone asks you to.

5. Stick to your deadlines

Someone is waiting for you to finish your work so they can do theirs. Use your time management skills so you don't let them down. This will make you a valuable and dependable team player.

6. Know your strengths

Most projects go through a planning phase where everyone’s assigned tasks. Help people understand how you can contribute. Ask for jobs that take advantage of your skillset.

7. Support your teammates

Celebrate your team's success. Give compliments on other people’s work. And if they’re struggling, be ready to offer advice or lend a hand. Just make sure you can help others while still meeting your own obligations.

8. Share information

Found a useful online resource? Send it to your team. Have you worked on similar projects before? Share your experience. This information exchange will help produce better work.

With these tips in mind, you’re on your way to proving yourself as the ideal team player.

The spirit of leadership

Being a good team player is about balancing leadership and collaboration. You’re a vital part of the team, even if you’re not the team lead.

Remember that no matter your role, you can’t build a successful team if you don’t trust each other. Your job is to help one another shine — and you don’t need to be a team leader to make that happen.

Being a follower

At work, you know how important it is to have a manager that can handle pressure while regulating their emotions and supporting their team. A good leader inspires a team to follow their example and keeps their door open for feedback. If you know that someone has your back, you might be more willing to take risks that can benefit the team. 

Even if you’re not in charge, you can demonstrate integrity and ambition. Your leadership skills can still shine through as you follow someone else’s lead. For example, offering solutions to problems as they arise is one way to show the spirit of leadership. 

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Supporting your fellow team members is also key to being a great team player. Finally, make sure that you respect your manager and listen to what they have to say — but don’t be afraid to speak up if you have an idea that will help everyone out.

Being a leader

The more you embody the spirit of a leader, the better your team will perform. You should pay attention to everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can help delegate tasks accordingly.

Also, be sure to remain open to feedback from your team members. This will help everyone go about their work with confidence. 

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Don’t micromanage your team, but don’t abandon them, either. Find the right balance, and your team will thank you for it.

How to recognize bad team players

There are plenty of difficult employees to go around. You will invariably have to work with one at some point in your career. Bad teammates hurt team morale, cause resentment among group members, and overall sabotage the efficiency of the team.  

Here’s how to recognize a bad teammate — and make sure you don’t become one: 

1. They could care less

It feels impossible to motivate them. They don’t participate in team discussions, they’re inattentive, and they do the bare minimum to get through the day. They also produce poor-quality work.

2. Responsibility means nothing to them

They complain rather than propose solutions. They prefer to point fingers instead of sharing responsibility for a problem. If the entire group makes a mistake, poor teammates deny that they had anything to do with it.

3. It’s their way or the highway

They’re allergic to constructive criticism. They steamroll over other people’s ideas. They reject the possibility that others might have something to contribute.

4. Arrogance is their bliss

Bad colleagues dismiss other people’s ideas and double down on their point of view, even if they’re wrong. Their stubbornness brings the entire team down.

5. Jealousy comes naturally to them

Difficult coworkers are jealous when a colleague receives praise. They’ll be passive-aggressive toward that person, and may even claim that person’s achievements as their own.

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How to deal with a bad teammate

Working with a poor colleague can create a negative team environment. Thankfully, there are some things you can do

  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Focus on your own achievements, as well as your teammates’ 
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Avoid working with them if you can
  • Try to suggest amicable solutions to conflicts that arise

And, if they become truly unbearable, you can report them to your manager.

Do you consider yourself a good team player?

These days, it’s almost impossible to be a lone wolf. Nearly all jobs require working with people. Your approach and your attitude will determine whether others enjoy working with you. Be confident in your skills, use your voice, and support your colleagues. Your team will be lucky to have you. 

Learning how to be a good team player isn’t easy. BetterUp can hold you accountable along the way. We’ll work with you to set goals, develop your skills, and help you become the best team player you can be.

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Published May 19, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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