Go Team!
February 24, 2011 3:51 PM   Subscribe

What are some things that I can do to prove to my boss that I am a team player? Of course, there are special details below the cut!

I've been at my job for almost a year and half which is longer than most anyone there, including my boss. They've recently let go a string of employees that I worked very well with and now my boss has been more interested than usual in what tasks I am working on.

A conversation with another higher up - not my boss but second in command - indicated that my boss is concerned that I'm not a team player and not invested in the success of our company.

I've tried to offer my help to our new employees (who are replacing the previous employees I worked so well with) as best I can but there is one new employee in particular that is clearly not my biggest fan. This employee will do whatever they can to avoid coming to me for help even though multiple times in the day I'll poke my head in and ask how things are going and if their particular department needs anything clarified or explained (because the entire department is new within the last week).

I would like to let my boss know that all I want is for everyone to be successful and morale to be better but I'm not sure how to do that.

I currently think that I am a pretty decent team player - I do things to boost employee morale and I help all of the other departments out when they need it (on top of doing my own work). What are some things that I can do to reassure him that I'm not "out to get" anyone and want everyone to succeed (especially the employees newly hired to replace the ones I previously worked so well with).

tl;dr: My previous "team" has all jumped ship (voluntarily and non voluntarily) and my boss is now nervous that I side with them and am not being as good of a team player as I could be. I want to convince him otherwise but don't know how.
posted by splitinfinitive to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't believe there is anything you can do. Your boss has concerns but isn't even willing to talk to you about them, there's nothing you can do about that and it's not your fault.

The next time you have a conversation with the second in command mention how, if your boss has concerns, he doesn't seem to be very keen to communicate those concerns to you and give you an opportunity to do anything to address them.
posted by robertc at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You aren't going to be able to change his mind. He's made a decision and he's got you pegged.
posted by anniecat at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree - this is him making up his mind. He's not going to be convinced. You say your previous team all "flew the coop" - maybe there was a reason for that. There could be all sorts of things afoot - your boss wants to replace you with one of "his" people, he's a micromanaging jerk, who knows.

Same thing with the new employee - it's not normal behavior for a newbie to hunker down and pull in like a turtle with superiors or coworkers. Does this person see you as someone to avoid? Is this a toxic workplace in general?

Normal bosses in functional companies don't make you tap-dance your little heart out in order to "prove yourself." You prove yourself by your deeds - you want to be perceived as a team player, you ACT like a team player, and make sure people know you as a team player. Your boss will see this, and (hopefully) reward you accordingly.

If you constantly have to prove yourself, AND people are starting to avoid you (and you don't eat garlic for lunch every day) it's time to polish up the resume, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and start looking for a new job. Don't try to keep shouting into the wind.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:43 PM on February 24, 2011

Are you misunderstanding what being a "team player" means? In my experience, it's a euphemism for doing whatever unreasonable things your boss asks you to do, or accepting unreasonable working conditions - long hours, coming in on weekends, etc. If you refuse, your boss will force your coworkers to do it and tell them it's your fault. You don't want to hurt your coworkers, right? You're going to be a team player, right?

In your context, it probably means your boss believes you harbor resentment about your previous team quitting/getting fired and won't do what you're told. Your relationships with your current coworkers have nothing to do with it.
posted by AlsoMike at 5:05 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you not supposed to know this? Could you ask to meet with your boss, ask to address any concern, misunderstanding, lack of clarity, etc., about this?

If not, if you haven't already done this, could you at least make your case to the person who related this, hope it reaches the boss's ears?
posted by ambient2 at 5:33 PM on February 24, 2011

I disagree that your boss's mind may already be made up. This is a very stressful time for your department, and his concern is probably justified. You need to have a quick conversation with him about your concerns for the team. (NOT your concerns about being seen as a team player, don't even mention that!)

Come up with some ideas to foster a productive team atmosphere, should be pretty easy to find something that works within your situation. Google some, make up a list, force rank it, and take your best idea to your boss. Make it simple, quick, and effective. Tell him you'd like to take the lead in building some relationships, and then do it. I would suggest an Academy Award contest, and if you can throw it together tonight go ahead. If not, maybe a NCAA basketball pool, not using money? St Patrick's day game of some kind? Employee of the month program, with winner getting a parking space by the door. Chocolate/candy is one of the best motivators.

I've done this a lot in my past life, memail if you want to brainstorm some ideas. Good luck!
posted by raisingsand at 5:38 PM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the suggestions and advice. Obviously it's spans a pretty wide range.

I think I'm just going to go in to work tomorrow and do my job as I normally do it. Act a bit more positive than I've felt this week and take it as it comes. Perhaps on my way out tomorrow when I check in with my boss as I do every afternoon I can express some kind of sentiment about it being a busy week with staff coming and going but now we are ready to overcome some challenges that we weren't able to before.

I'm frustrated and I generally like my job and my coworkers. I'm learning to be more adaptable.
posted by splitinfinitive at 5:59 PM on February 24, 2011

I agree with raisingsand. It's not too late, and you can choose to look at this as a great growth opportunity.

What I would add is that the actions that contribute to someone being considered a teamplayer may be more directly correlated to leadership skills and work-specific decisions, rather than extracurricular team-building activities. While I agree that relationship-building and morale-building activities are important, your boss may be looking for someone to help drive the company forward in a time of duress.

Sounds like the organizational dynamics may be shifting, based on the fact that people are leaving (involuntarily or voluntarily). Do you really grok what the strategic objectives are during this period? Are you able to articulate the big picture, even when the sky may seem to be falling? Are you able to lead a team to do something that is sorely needed to move the company forward? Or are you hanging with the underlings and a) keeping inventory of all the slights and missteps that are not your fault or b) contributing to rumors and gossip? If it were my team, those would be the types of things that separate teamplayers from the rest of the crew.
posted by hampanda at 6:01 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

When possible, with every email or conversation you have with the guy, begin it with "I'm on it" and finish it up with "you got it" when it is possibly appropriate.

It will show up front that you are in the game and ready to move with out too much need for direction from him- unless he wants to give it too you.

In some cases you will need more info but by starting your conversations pointing out you are ready to work, he will have far less reservations that you are not in the game.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:16 PM on February 24, 2011

Gossip tells more about the person doing the gossiping than it does about the subject.
posted by gjc at 8:18 PM on February 24, 2011

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