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How to shine as a team player and lift others along the way

Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

January 24, 2024

Ever worked in an office that’s full of egos? Bosses micromanage or claim work as their own. Teammates don’t share knowledge and interrupt. Transparency is low, stress is high, and communication breakdowns are as certain as night follows day. If your answer’s yes, then condolences. If no, then congratulations — chances are, you’re working with good team players, and you’re one too.

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’ — Henry Ford

A Salesforce study found that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. So good teamwork isn’t just about having fun — it’s a workplace essential. Here’s how to master this skill. 

What makes a great team member?

Grabbing coffee for the team is great, but it’s not just about being nice, nor is it about hitting every deadline. It’s about contributing to a collective effort and making the group’s success your priority. 

A great team member brings a unique blend of skills and attitudes to the table, enhancing the team’s performance and creating a positive work environment.

Core traits of a great team player 

The below applies to everyone, from the CEO to the newest junior. 

  • Reliable: They consistently meet deadlines and produce quality work, which builds trust within the team. 
  • Communicative: They give feedback and openly share ideas and knowledge.
  • Adaptable: Projects evolve, and unforeseen challenges pop up. A great team member can pivot and adjust their approach without losing momentum. 
  • Collaborative: They know the team’s success is their success. They actively listen, respect others’ ideas, and contribute to discussions.
  • Empathetic: Understanding and relating to colleagues’ feelings and perspectives helps forge a supportive and respectful team environment. 
  • Positive: A friendly, positive demeanor can be contagious and motivate others, even when facing challenges.
  • Aspirational: They’re committed to continuous learning. They seek feedback, learn from mistakes, and look for ways to sharpen their skills and contribute more effectively to the team.

Why should you be a good team player?

It’s about personal growth, workplace harmony, and seeing the bigger picture.

1. Personal growth

To feel fulfilled in our jobs, we need to look beyond the paycheck. Being a good team player helps you learn and improve communication and collaboration skills amongst others. This, in turn, helps you feel more fulfilled in your job while enriching your professional portfolio. 

2. Increases job satisfaction

As well as boosting your sense of purpose, working well in a team creates a sense of belonging and achievement. When the team succeeds, you share in that success, leading to higher job satisfaction. 

3. Fosters a supportive work environment

Good team players are nice to be around. They help create a space where people feel positive and empowered to contribute. This can lead to lower stress levels, higher productivity, better mental health, and a more positive outlook on work.

4. Leads to better results

Teams that work well together are more likely to produce high-quality results. Collaboration brings diverse perspectives and skills to the table, leading to better solutions.

5. Enhances your reputation

Being recognized as a good team player gives your professional rep a bit of a boost. That might lead to more opportunities within your organization, like promotions, or being chosen for important projects. 

6. Contributes to the success of the organization

Teams are fundamental to most organizations, from the smallest start-up to the biggest corporation. When teams function well, the organization is more likely to hit its goals. And as a good team player, you’re directly contributing to this.

20 ways you can be a better team player today

Here’s how to be someone everyone wants on their team. 

1. Communicate clearly and effectively

Good communication is the cornerstone of successful teamwork. Articulate your ideas clearly, listen actively, and encourage open conversation. Ask questions to clarify and confirm understanding, and give regular updates on your progress. 

2. Be reliable

Your team’s success depends on each member carrying their share of the weight. Always meet deadlines and keep your promises. If you foresee a delay, let people know early on. This reliability builds trust and sets a positive example for others.

3. Offer help

Be proactive in offering help to teammates. Whether it’s sharing resources or giving support during crunch times, your willingness to help can create a positive, collaborative culture

4. Respect differences

Teams are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Embrace this diversity by showing respect for different viewpoints and using them to enrich discussions and decisions.

5. Stay positive

A positive attitude is infectious and plays a key role in overcoming challenges. Keep morale high by focusing on solutions rather than problems, and encourage your teammates to do the same. A University of Warwick study found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity.

6. Be open to feedback

Feedback is an opportunity for growth. Accept it gracefully and use it to improve your performance. Also, don’t shy away from seeking feedback; it shows you’re committed to getting better.

When it comes to giving feedback, be specific and focus on the behavior, not the person. Offer suggestions for improvement and express your confidence in their ability to change. This helps keep things positive and action-focused.

7. Collaborate, don’t compete

It’s good to share your achievements, and this is especially true in a corporate setting. But remember to lift others as much as you promote yourself. Focus on the team’s objectives rather than personal accolades. Celebrate collective achievements and recognize each member’s contribution. 

8. Keep commitments

Your team relies on you to complete your tasks. By consistently meeting your commitments, you help ensure the team’s success. It’s about being someone your teammates can always count on.

9. Show flexibility

Projects often don’t go as planned. Be prepared to adapt to changes and tackle unexpected challenges. Your flexibility can help the team navigate tough times. 

10. Encourage others

A word of encouragement can really light a fire under someone. Acknowledge your teammates’ hard work and celebrate their successes. 

11. Handle conflicts constructively

Conflicts are inevitable, but how you handle them matters. Address issues directly and respectfully, seeking a resolution that benefits the team. Effective conflict management can actually lead to better understanding and stronger relationships.

12. Participate actively

During meetings and collaborative sessions, share your ideas and listen to others. If you struggle with overwhelm in brainstorming sessions and group meetings, chat to your manager and devise other ways you can contribute, for example, via virtual whiteboards. These offer a calmer atmosphere for people to share ideas.

13. Learn continuously

The best team players are always learning. Look for opportunities to expand your skills. This commitment to personal growth might also inspire others to pursue their own development, giving the whole team a power-up! 

14. Draw boundaries

It’s important to know your limits. Clearly communicate your boundaries to your team and respect theirs. This helps you keep a healthy work-life balance, prevents burnout, and fosters respect. 

15. Share information

Don’t hoard knowledge. Sharing information and resources can empower your teammates and enhance the team’s overall performance. It promotes transparency and trust, and it ensures that everyone is working from the most informed position possible.

16. Be a problem solver

When challenges arise, don’t just present the problem — look for solutions. Being solution-oriented makes you an asset to the team. 

17. Know your team and organization’s objectives

Understanding what everyone’s aiming for will help you keep a team focus rather than an individual one. As part of this, be sure to have regular chats with managers, team members, and people in different teams to get a fully-rounded view of what you’re all aiming for.

18. Be self-aware

Leverage your strengths for the benefit of the team and work on your weaknesses. Self-awareness helps you understand how you fit within the team and how you can best contribute.

19. Be open-minded

Be willing to consider new ideas and different approaches. Remember — it’s much harder to change your thinking or let something go if you’re personally invested. When you’re able to take a step back, you’ll be able to see different opinions as opportunities for growth rather than personal attacks.

20. Help (and be helped)

Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it, and be ready to offer help when others need it. This mutual support is the foundation of strong, resilient teams.

How to recognize bad team players

Here are some signs to look out for.

Poor communication

Bad team players often fail to communicate properly. They might withhold information, ignore messages, or be consistently unclear or vague in their communication. This leads to misunderstandings and can hinder the team’s progress.


They miss deadlines, are frequently late for meetings, or fail to complete their tasks consistently. This not only affects the project’s timeline but also shifts the burden to other team members, creating frustration and resentment.

Lack of collaboration

They might refuse to share ideas or resources or not contribute constructively during team discussions. This can stifle creativity and prevent the team from reaching its full potential. 

Be aware that some team members, especially those with neurodiversity, might not thrive in group settings. Just because someone’s quiet during brainstorming sessions doesn’t mean they’re not a team player; they could just be overwhelmed. If you’re a manager, create a range of opportunities for collaboration, from virtual whiteboards to asynchronous options.

Negative attitude

Constant complaining, pessimism, or a generally negative outlook can be toxic to team morale. Bad team players often focus on problems rather than solutions and can bring down the overall energy of the group.

Resistance to feedback

They react defensively to feedback or outright reject it. A bad team player might take things personally or blame others instead of taking the opportunity to improve. This resistance can hinder personal and team growth.

Disrespectful behavior

Showing disrespect towards colleagues, whether through words or actions, is a clear sign of a bad team player. This might include interrupting, disregarding opinions, engaging in gossip, creating cliques, or other unprofessional behavior.

Lack of commitment

They show little interest in the team’s objectives and put in the bare minimum effort. Their lack of commitment is demotivating for other team members who are working hard to achieve the team’s goals.


They are unwilling to adapt to new situations or consider different perspectives. While everyone needs a little support in the face of change, outright refusal to adapt is a red flag. 


Bad team players often put their interests above the team’s. They might take credit for others’ work, overemphasize their contributions, or push their agenda at the expense of the team’s objectives.

Creating conflict

They often instigate or escalate conflicts, creating a hostile work environment. Instead of seeking constructive resolutions, they might engage in blame games or refuse to compromise.

Working with a bad teammate? Here’s how to deal 

There are a few ways to tackle this.

Communicate clearly

Address issues directly and respectfully. Choose a private setting to discuss your concerns and use ‘I’ statements to express how their behavior affects your work. For example, ‘I feel frustrated when deadlines are missed because it affects our project timeline,’ as opposed to ‘why did you miss this deadline?’, which sounds way more confrontational. 

Provide specific feedback

Be specific about what behaviors are problematic and how they impact the team. Offer constructive feedback and suggest ways they can improve. Remember to also acknowledge any positive contributions they make.

Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries and expectations. If their behavior is affecting your work, let them know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Setting boundaries helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures a respectful work environment.

Seek to understand

Sometimes, poor behavior stems from personal issues or misunderstandings. Try to understand their perspective and see if there’s a root cause you can address. Empathy can go a long way in resolving conflicts.

Involve a mediator

If direct communication doesn’t resolve the issue, consider involving a neutral third party, like a supervisor or HR representative. They can provide an objective perspective and facilitate a productive discussion.

Focus on solutions

Instead of dwelling on the problem, focus on finding ways around it. Work together to identify specific steps they can take to improve their behavior and contribute positively to the team.

Document the issues

Keep a record of incidents and your attempts to address them. This documentation can be helpful if you need to escalate the issue to management or HR.

Encourage peer support

Sometimes, peer intervention can be effective. If other team members are also affected, encourage them to provide feedback. A collective approach can reinforce the message that you need change — but make sure you don’t gang up on anyone. Lead with empathy and respect at all times.

Be a good example

Demonstrate the behavior you want to see. Be a good team player yourself, and show how positive behaviors contribute to the team’s success. This can set a standard and motivate others to follow suit.

Know when to escalate

If the situation doesn’t improve and is significantly impacting the team’s work, it may be time to escalate the issue to higher management. Provide them with specific examples and the steps you’ve taken to address the problem.

Are you a good team player?

Good team players tend to be highly reflective. Here are some questions to help you nurture that skill. 

1. How do you handle feedback?

Reflect on how you receive and act upon feedback. A good team player sees feedback as an opportunity to improve and is open to suggestions.

2. Do you actively listen?

Consider how well you listen to others. Are you attentive during discussions, and do you consider your teammates’ perspectives before responding?

3. How do you contribute to the team’s objectives?

Assess your commitment to the team’s goals. Do you understand these objectives, and do you align your work to achieve them?

4. Are you reliable?

Reflect on your punctuality, consistency in meeting deadlines, and dependability when tasks are assigned to you.

5. How do you communicate?

Consider the clarity and effectiveness of your communication. Do you share necessary information, and are you clear and respectful in your interactions?

6. Do you collaborate or compete?

Think about your approach to teamwork. Do you work with your colleagues towards common goals, or do you focus on outshining others?

7. How do you handle conflicts?

Reflect on your conflict resolution skills. Do you approach disagreements constructively and work towards a resolution that benefits the team?

8. Are you adaptable?

Consider how you deal with changes and unexpected challenges. Are you flexible and willing to adjust your approach when needed?

9. Do you show initiative?

Think about whether you’re proactive in offering help, suggesting ideas, and looking for ways to improve team processes and outcomes.

10. How do you influence the team’s atmosphere?

Reflect on the impact of your attitude on the team. Do you contribute to a positive environment, or do you often find yourself complaining or being negative?

11. Do you understand and respect others’ boundaries?

Consider how well you recognize and respect the limits of your colleagues, contributing to a healthy work-life balance for the team.

12. Are you self-aware?

Reflect on your understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and how they impact the team. Do you leverage your strengths and work on your weaknesses?

Final thoughts 

In a world where teamwork is more than just a buzzword but a key part of thriving businesses, being a great team player is an art worth mastering. 

Embracing the role of a team player means recognizing that our individual success is intertwined with that of our team. Whether it’s leveraging collaboration tools to streamline processes or taking the time to understand our teammates’ perspectives, every action contributes to a larger, shared goal. In this interconnected workplace, the true team player shines not just by standing out but by lifting others alongside them, turning individual achievements into collective triumphs.



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