In the office, some people thrive on working in a group setting, while others would prefer to keep their heads down and work solo. Understanding these and other personality traits and working styles on your team can help you manage and hire more effectively.
What is a team player?
While we often talk about “team players” at work as those who put the needs of the team above their own, the definition is a bit different in this context. As a personality trait, it refers to those who enjoy collaboration and work most effectively with others. Someone with a team player personality would prefer to work with others on tasks and projects at work.
What are the characteristics of a team player at work?
Team players usually:
- Prefer to work as part of a group, rather than completing work independently.
- Tend to enjoy brainstorming and talking over projects.
- May be more likely to contribute in meetings (depending on their overall personality type), and tend to value meetings more highly.
- Dislike working alone for long periods of time.
How to work with team-oriented people
Team players at work are often naturally good at helping teams communicate and collaborate. Let’s look at how to tap into their strengths.
How to train a team player
How to motivate a team player personality
- Make training collaborative. Whether you’re training as a group or walking through steps one on one, people with a team player mindset would prefer to talk and work through new ideas with others, rather than on their own.
- Incorporate shadowing into the training process. Team players will benefit from directly observing others at work and having the chance to ask questions and talk through different steps.
How to give feedback to team-oriented employee
- Look for opportunities for your team players to collaborate. That might look like assigning them to shared projects, looping them into relevant meetings, or stopping by their desks to talk over their work.
- Don’t isolate team players. Keep this in mind even when considering workspace in your office. Do the collaborative-minded people on your team sit near their colleagues? Do they have space to meet and talk as a group when necessary?
- Be sure to recognize the work a team player puts in towards the accomplishments of others. Team players are often happy to help their teammates out, but naturally want to be recognized and evaluated in light of the help they provide.
- In the extreme, team players at work may seem unable to move forward without the support of others, especially if they also possess the “needs reassurance” personality trait. (Learn more about all of the traits here.) Be clear if you expect your employees to move forward and take the next step on their own.
What is the opposite of a team player?
While some people thrive on working together, others would prefer to accomplish tasks independently. The opposite of a team player personality is an independent worker.
What does it mean to be independent in the workplace?
Someone who’s independent at work prefers to get things done by themselves. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re not “team players” in the sense of valuing or contributing to the team. It just means they work most effectively alone, without anyone else interrupting or looking over their shoulders.
What are the characteristics of someone who works independently?
If someone is independent, they may:
- Prefer projects where they can work alone, rather than in a group.
- Become known as the person to take on a project and run with it.
- Default to “just getting it done myself,” rather than looping others in.
- Tend to sit alone, or look for “escapes” where they can get away and focus.
How to work with an independent person
Knowing how to tap into the strengths of your independent employees can help them perform at their highest levels.
How to train an employee who works independently
How to motivate an independent employee
- Give them the necessary resources to learn the skills they need to master so that they can focus on the materials alone, at their own pace. Some people absorb information better when they’ve been able to review and reflect on it on their own before walking through the actual process with someone else.
- People who work independently may grow frustrated in group training sessions when they feel chained to the pace of the group. Don’t allow group exercises to go on for too long.
How to give feedback to an employee who works independently
- Most independent workers are comfortable “managing themselves” without outside input. If your independent employee is performing at a high level, recognize that by giving them space to operate on their own, without feeling like you’re always looking over their shoulder.
- If working from home is an option at your workplace, consider encouraging your independently-minded employees to take advantage of it. Some people prefer working from home on a regular schedule, while others like the option to do it occasionally when they need to focus on a looming deadline, for example. Make sure your independent employees know what you’re comfortable with. Not everyone is cut out to work from home, but it often suits those who focus best without others around.
- Focus on the end results, rather than the process, when you give feedback. When independent employees are confident that they are good at what they do, they appreciate the freedom to operate without interference. High-performing independent workers don’t take kindly to micromanagement.
- Sometimes, independent workers will try to get things done on their own, even when the problem could be easily fixed with input from another team member. Give feedback about how, when, and who to ask for help.
Which is a better worker: team player vs. independent worker?
Ultimately, whether someone works best with others or alone is a matter of working style, rather than performance. However, some roles will naturally demand more of either team collaboration or solo work.
For a better sense of how an employee’s work style will affect their performance, take all of the personality trait descriptions into account.
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