Team Players Get Bullied

June 21, 2014

When I first heard the term, “team player” it was in connection with sports. The business world has since appropriated that term and, nowadays, it has taken on a completely different connotation.

Employers and management teams are using it to bully employees into doing what they want. If they have an agenda and the employee doesn’t want to follow their rules blindly, they are told that they aren’t being a team player.

What, exactly, does being a “team player” mean? For the most part, whenever I’ve heard someone being described that way, I usually see someone who just wants to get his way and if you aren’t willing to do it his way, you’re told that you aren’t being a team player. And the implied consequences are dire, anywhere from being ostracized to being fired, and there aren’t too many people who want to be ostracized or fired from their job.

I think the thing I find most offensive is that if you use your own thinking skills and you decide that what your boss wants you to do, isn’t in your best interests, and you refuse to do it, your boss may tell you that you aren’t being a team player.

What if your boss wants you to do something that you know isn’t good for your career or if he wants you to do something illegal or unethical? Does being a team player mean that you have to park your brain at the door before reporting to work? Does it mean that you aren’t allowed to make choices? Does it mean that you have to obey without asking questions and you don’t have the right to disagree or refuse to do something that you know is wrong for you?

From what I’ve seen, many employers and managers expect an enployee to be a Stepford wife and, if they don’t comply, they are accused of not being a team player. The implication is clear; do what I want you to do or we’ll find someone else who will obey without question. And, depending on whether or not you will tolerate this type of manipulation and intimidation, could mean that you better keep your résumé up to date.

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