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How to Succeed When You’re Actually Not a Team Player

Many people prefer to work alone. But, that’s not always possible in today’s collaboration-obsessed work culture.
not a team player
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If you live and work in the U.S., then you know what it’s like to be a part of a society that rewards extroversion – it’s frequently associated with leadership and success.

It can be hard to be an introvert, or even just someone who prefers to work alone, in such an environment. But, there are ways to thrive, even lead, when you’re not exactly what most people would call a team player.

Here are a few tips for being yourself at work and being successful, even if you prefer a lot of alone time:

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1. Know yourself

Know your own strengths and weaknesses at work. Rather than pushing back or fighting against your natural inclinations, try working toward understanding and then embracing them. If you’re an introvert, accept that. Try to stop seeing it as a weakness or even as something you’d like to change. Introverts bring a lot of unique strengths to the table such as excellent listening skills and a great ability to focus. So, accept yourself the way you are. It will help you to be more successful.

2. Focus on listening

Most people think that you have to talk a lot in order to “contribute” in a meaningful way to a team task. But, that simply isn’t true.

Not all contributions come in the form of conversation. Being a good listener is just as important in business as anything else. So, if you find yourself in a team environment and don’t feel like jumping in too much, focus on listening and understanding others’ points of view instead.

You may even want to try taking notes on the main points of the conversation or meeting. You might just find they come in handy down the road.

3. Set and maintain boundaries

There are limits to what you’re willing, or maybe even able, to contribute when you’re the kind of person who doesn’t love working in groups. So, be sure to set boundaries that protect yourself and that honor your needs.

Good team players communicate their own expectations and needs and honor what others bring to the table too. If you’ve said you need to leave work at 5 p.m. in order to pick up your kids, it’s all right to leave an email, or even an important conversation, until the next morning. Setting and maintaining appropriate and realistic boundaries should help you be at your best.

4. Offer more solutions than problems

Being a good team player is mostly about attitude. You don’t have to be something you’re not in order to get along well with others at work. Just focus on being positive rather than negative.

Negative coworkers can be a real drain, as you likely already know from experience. Make sure you don’t head down that path.

One way to stay positive is to aim to offer more solutions than problems at work. If you find yourself complaining about this or that, notice it, and step back. The next time you contribute, make sure you have something positive to say.

5. Schedule some alone time

People who enjoy working in teams tend to feel energized by the experience. However, not everyone loves being around other people that much. If you prefer working alone, be mindful of that when setting your schedule. If you have a big meeting planned for Monday morning, try to schedule a few hours for quiet and independent work in the afternoon. It might help to have that block to look forward to, and it will also help you recover and replenish your energy.

Tell Us What You Think

Is not being a great “team player” impacting your professional success? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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