It’s funny that almost all of us work on a team, but we never talk about how to be teammates. We never talk about teamwork. We expect people to be good teammates to one another, but the topic of teamwork itself and how to achieve it rarely comes up.
We all know why. Sticky human topics are only sticky because nobody talks about them! Interpersonal topics get the short end of the stick at work. It’s so much easier to talk about schedules and deadlines than about our day-to-day dealings with one another!
Here are five bad habits that will irritate the heck out of your teammates.
The problem with these bad habits is that people won’t tell you when they’re getting irritated — they’ll shoot you dagger looks, instead. If you’re someone who doesn’t pick up non-verbal cues easily, those dagger looks could go right by you!
Everything starts at the physical level — after all, we are animals first, and working people second! Be careful not to assault your teammates’ senses with loud music spilling out of your headphones, loud conversations, the odors of your hot lunch or strong perfume (or a long bike ride with no shower afterward) or other intrusions.
Keep your work space as neat as you can so your teammates don’t have to look at your messy piles spilling onto the floor. Think of your department as a dormitory where people work rather than sleep, and you’ll see how important it is to respect everybody’s space and privacy.
They say that in prison, the constant assault on the senses is one of the worst punishments the prisoners experience. Don’t do that to your teammates!
There is a certain kind of teammate who, knowingly or not, takes every tiny incident and blows it up to massive proportions. They take every piece of gossip they hear and amplify it. They dig up ancient disputes and bring them back to life. They create drama everywhere they go.
Nobody benefits when you put negative energy out in a work environment. If you have something on your mind, talk about it directly and with compassion. No one cares if Nancy is upset with Jonah over the font size used on a recent Power Point presentation, so don’t spread that negativity around.
When you’re tempted to add to your office drama, as yourself “Is there any need to make a big deal out of this issue?” The answer is probably “No.”
The first requirement of a team member is that they carry out their part of the mission. There’s nothing worse than a teammate who lets other people down.
A close second in the most-hated-team-member department is the person who lets people down and then pleads innocence. “No, your email message didn’t specifically say that you needed me to present the customer demo,” your less-than-reliable teammate will say. “Really?” you’ll reply. “What does ‘Sure, I can run the demo’ mean to you?”
Don’t run to your manager to complain when somebody lets you down. Talk to them about it, instead. Ask them what they need from you in order to hold up their end. If two or three of you on the team are all frustrated with the same person, talk to your teammate together and offer your help.
“I worked at my job for a year before I felt comfortable speaking up,” our friend Belinda told us. “I worked with a guy who was my peer, but he treated me like a subordinate.”
“How did he do that?” we asked.
“He’d send me email messages telling me to take care of this or that customer problem,” Belinda said. “He could have done it himself. It took me a full year before I had the confidence to see his game. I started writing back to him to say ‘Let me know if you need help figuring out that problem’ and I stopped being his lackey. He shot me a lot of evil glances in the office but I never had a problem with him again.”
The last item on our list is one that has made many a working person downgrade their opinion of a teammate’s professionalism. When someone is mad or stressed or disappointed, they can throw attitude around and upset the whole team.
Teenagers use the term “salty” to describe someone who’s behaving in a snippy or nasty manner.
“What made you so salty today?” they’ll ask the sibling who is stomping around the kitchen because there’s no more milk when he wanted a bowl of cereal. It’s easy to get salty at work and everyone has done it. A walk around the building, a quick You Tube break or just a few minutes of slow breathing can help calm you down.
Losing your cool at work is not only hard on you, it’s hard on your teammates, too. They want to know that even when things get stressful at work, they can count on their team members to keep calm and keep a smile on their faces. That’s when you know your team has gelled — when you can laugh together in the face of disaster and say “I guess this was supposed to happen!”
If your team isn’t talking about these topics already, you can start a conversation about teamwork at your next team meeting.
You can kick off the topic by asking “Would it be useful for us to talk about our expectations of one another? We all come to work with ideas and beliefs that we don’t always talk about. Maybe we can have a discussion about team expectations so we can keep our Team Mojo level high. What do you guys think?”