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The problem with being a team player

POSTED: August 22, 2012 4:00 a.m.

It seems like everything lately is focused on teams and it's not about upcoming SEC play either. Work has become team-based as well, and I am not quite sure how I feel about that.

My first experience working with a team of any sort was in college.

I have always been a hard-worker and was one of those people who actually loved spending hours researching for a paper.

Would probably have been a professional student if Mama hadn't told me to get my tater out and find a job. But I was in one of my upper-level psychology classes when the professor put us in teams that he selected.

I squirmed in my seat. Out of the other two girls, I knew one was an OK student, not an over-achiever but at least did her work; the other one rarely made an appearance and when she did, she used class as naptime.

I was livid, but kept my mouth shut.

For two weeks that is; then we were nearing the completion time for our project and the slacker girl hadn't even turned in a footnote.

I called the professor at home. He had evidently not heeded the warning from the other professors to not put his home number on the syllabus if I was in his class.

My call was greeted with peals of laughter.

"I was wondering how long it would take for you to call about this," the professor said. Apparently he had set up the mismatched teams on purpose to see how his students reacted. I was not nearly as amused as he was.

"That girl is not getting my ‘A,'" I told him.

The professor was still laughing the next week when the other girl and I turned in our paper.

So I learned to not really like teams. If you are on a team where everyone does their job and can offer ideas or support, it's great. Usually, it's more like the slackers from college managed to graduate and find jobs after all, right beside us.

"We've just got to get the people on the right seat in the bus," my friend and former boss K.J. said once.

"I think we've got the right people on the bus, we just need to find them their right seat."

I think he stole that from Dave Ramsey.

"I think some folks missed the bus," was my reply. "Or at least missed their stop."

Working in teams can be frustrating; when co-workers don't do their job, it can make the whole department look bad and cause morale problems. Even worse - the ones who do their part on the team can be accused of not being a team player.

I've even been accused of not being a team player before, when I did my part in the grand scheme of things.

I was hurt - it was like my efforts had gone unnoticed and were not important.

Others were heralded as team players, captains and all around great Americans.

But then again, some people get credit just for showing up. And if I hear one more football analogy, I think I may burn my UGA sweatshirt in effigy.

"I hate teams," I told Mama. "I hated them in grade school when I was picked last for dodgeball because I was a chunk, I hated them in college and I really detest them now."

Mama understood my lamentations.

"We haven't learned a whole lot from teams, except how some people get out of doing their work and let other people do their jobs."

She paused. "Next time someone tells you that you aren't a team player tell them tennis - singles tennis - that was your sport."

Well played Mama, well played.

Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist and certified life coach. She lives in the north Georgia mountains with her family and four insane, but fairly well behaved dogs.

 

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