Bosses and managers often use the word team player as a form of praise. On the surface, this seems like a catch phrase used to describe employees who work well with others and tend to pass the ball instead of hogging it for themselves. But if you listen carefully, you'll notice that this term means several other things as well and may sometimes serve as a kind or code for traits that aren't necessarily positive.
What are some characteristics and qualities of a real team player, both good and not so good?
1. A team player shares credit.
When you see yourself as a member of a team, your victories are group victories. You know that the award you won or the deal you landed would not have come to fruition without the support of the group. Team players understand perfectly well that it takes many hands to make something happen, and when the spotlight swings their way, they make sure to redirect the light so it shines on everyone else.
2. A team player takes responsibility.
When you reach a goal or nail a presentation, the whole team should share in the victory. But when a project goes wrong, a true team player steps up to accept their share of the blame and their portion of the lessons that need to be learned. Even if they weren't directly responsible for the failure, they won't throw a teammate under the bus or let the culprit bear the burden all alone.
3. A team player works for the group.
When one member needs to stay late in the office to grind through their section of a team effort, a true team player stays close and shares the load. This may mean staying late too, or it may just mean offering a few words of encouragement before stepping out the door. When the team is losing morale or facing defeat, a true team player works to counter the slide and rally everyone's collective spirits.
4. A team player makes sacrifices for the greater good.
As long as the group is happy, winning, and having a good time, the true team player is happy too. This might mean getting tagged out, voluntarily drawing the short straw, or sitting on the sidelines while everyone gets to stay in the game. Team players don't mind missing out on something fun, taking on an unpleasant task, or accepting a demerit or punishment so the group doesn't have to.
5. A team player takes the big fall.
Employers sometimes target team players when they're looking for scapegoats, doormats, or an employee who will take the fall for someone else's mistakes or misdeeds—including those of the company as a whole. Unfortunately, they may also be the person a boss turns to do some dirty work or a task that doesn't feel right.
—For more on the real truths of the modern workplace, check out the Career Advice section of MyPerfectResume.