I am on the search for employment in a shop that is better suited to my background. While sifting through various employment ads I come across the term "team player" constantly. As shop owners, what qualifies as a team player, in your view? Is this a veiled way of saying the candidate must be willing and able to do everything from driving the forklift to making local deliveries, etc. in addition to shop work? I'm confused.
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor I:
A champion cabinetmaker once told me that the only person whose birthday is important was his boss's. He said that if you can figure out what this means, then prosperity will flow to you.
Note: this is not exactly the phrasing I might use in an interview situation.
A team player lives outside their own head. They think about things that impact the whole company, not just themselves. They aren't threatened by new employees or other workers; they work to help make their co-workers' jobs easier. They see a problem and take action, so it doesn't fester.
My grandpa said his long marriage was successful because they each contributed 80% to the relationship. If things got rough they were both giving at least enough effort to keep the marriage whole. That's teamwork.
Keep 'em coming... Some of you guys are so easy to rattle ;)
To me a team player is most of the things mentioned above and has nothing to do with being a yes man. It is the guy who stays over 30 minutes if he knows it will save 120 minutes the next day; the employee who hasn't forgotten that his check and his productivity are still related.
My shop is immaculate and I do have a man that works 16 hours per week keeping it that way. He has no other duties, but yes, if you shit in the toilet, you will be expected to take your turn wiping the toilet out. I find it improves everyone's aim, including my own. And yes, my top men make more than your high end quote and if we need them to deliver and install a job, it's not a problem.
When they asked her how proud she must be of these leaders, she said that she wasn't that impressed at all. To her at least 10% of any group had some leadership capability. What impressed this woman were the people who could provide leadership but who could also still be led.
Is this the "yes man" you disparage?
A "yes man" does it to gain favor with the boss... A team player does it to be part of a team. It all comes down to attitude. Just as you say it's telling that an employer would want you to clean a toilet, your attitude regarding cleaning the toilet is also telling. When everyone else is willing, I guess what you have to ask yourself is what makes you so special that someone else has to clean up after you, or someone else has to be paid to clean up after you?
As far as "rattling" us goes... another personality red flag.
Funny thing is, I've lived long enough to know that the minute you think you are indispensable, the Good Lord provides a way to humble you. Best of luck in finding an employer that matches your attitude.
- Eddie Rickenbacker
This profession is not a typical corporate job. I have, and if necessary will continue to: clean toilets, make deliveries, stack lumber, sweep floors, etc.
Just remember, if you have a guy you value, treat him (her) as a professional. They take pride in what they do and have fed their families with their skills for years. Treat them with some respect - and maybe throw in an "atta boy" every once in a while. It can go a long way.
I am not an owner, but I am a manager. When an area of production is lagging behind, my primary responsibility is to find out why and see if it can be corrected for the future - but as a stop gap, I will get my hands dirty and help get things back on track. When I do this, I make myself subordinate to the person who was originally tasked and do what they require of me, even though I am the boss. If given the choice of how to help out, I always take the crappiest portion of the project on myself. I do this to show the staff that I will never ask them to do anything I am unwilling or unable to do myself. That, to me, is being a team player from a leader's perspective.
As far as the expectations I have for my staff? Treat each other with courtesy and professionalism (getting into a screaming match here will get both parties a three day period at home to think up better conflict resolution methods, regardless of who started it), volunteer help to coworkers rather than waiting to be asked, show up to work on time every day, and work right until the end of the day.
Being a popular catch phrase and open to interpretation, team player should not be used for meaningful communications. It is just too much of a linguistic shorthand. If I were being interviewed and heard it without an extensive qualifying explanation, I'd consider looking elsewhere. I apologize if I ever used it in an interview with a candidate.
Sort of like asking if you like babies or puppies, who would ever say no?
I once had a boss that said "I'm a real team player, as long as everyone on the team understands I'm in charge." This was clearer to me than if he said he wanted me to be a team player. Different teams exist in any business larger than a few people, even though no one will admit it. "On the team?" Everyone will nod in agreement, even if the production manager that knows the schedule is impossible thinks the boss is crazy and resents this exercise of getting everyone together and extracting team player agreements despite the impossibility of the task. Is he to be faulted for not being on the team?
You should have the latter attitude, because it is in your best interest to do so. But when you are interviewing, you should interview them as well to determine what their attitude is. If they say they are looking for a team player, ask them to describe the prefect team player. This will tell you if they want a servant to scrub toilets when told, or someone who will contribute to the success of the company.
I'm a very well paid and valuable employee. If I'm asked to clean the toilet, I'll do it without complaint, and try to do a better job of it than anyone else in the company. I want my employer to understand without a doubt that I will do whatever it takes. But while I am doing it I will be wondering why they are wasting my talent on a minimum wage task. I may also begin to look for other employment where my skills won't be wasted.
This is an issue that cuts two ways. You need to be the kind of person they are looking for, and you need to know if you can be satisfied working there once you find out.
P.S. Be prepared to define team player for them. Follow up by living your life like you say.
As an employer, I too don't want to have to fight with an employee over certain issues. In fact, I've fired employees that were fighting our systems too hard. But you remove those people pretty fast. If they stay on, then they've signed up for basically what we have going on. After that, I want people who are creative, communicative, cooperative, have initiative, and are not afraid to make mistakes.
Eat your humble pie, and be glad for the work. There is a lot of money to be made, but you must command it. If you feel you are at a dead end, then go start a shop.
When work slowed down, the team player who was willing to do any task always had work. It may be a $22/hr guy sweeping up behind machinery or doing maintenance, but it was work and they were paid at their regular rate. Good workers got to stay home a day now and then when there was no work, at full pay.
Non team players (that's a polite term for them) who wouldn't do other routine work because they thought it beneath them were simply told there was no work for them and they got to have the day off without pay.
It was usually former union workers who ended up staying home without pay. They seemed to have an "I'm special" mentality. Amazingly, the close to minimum wage gofer in the long run made a better employee and mastered many skills that were not a part of his job.
Any of you employees who feel otherwise should just start your own shops. Problem solved. I've had more than one guy who thought he was the cat's meow go and start his own shop. Every one later said, "Holy sh**, I had no idea!"
When I see somebody use the words "highly skilled" and "talents" in a mocking tone, it kind of irks me. This is the attitude that makes for a lousy workplace. "Team player" is just a cliche that some guys use for mindless obedience. What a good employer really wants is loyalty and respect, which is what a good employee wants. Loyalty and respect are things that are earned, not acquired on demand. I've never had any problem doing dirty work or extra stuff for guys that were good to me. I've also dealt with guys who treated their employees like a burden, and made people feel guilty about wanting to get paid.
Cabinetmaking and woodworking may not be brain surgery, but doing it at a high level does require a fair amount of skill, experience, and intelligence. The attitude that "I can find a handful of you on every corner" indicates a complete lack of regard and respect for the people that you take on as employees. I agree that any employee who thinks his skills are such that he can't be replaced is delusional. I also feel it is arrogant and condescending for an employer to believe that his craftsmen are too inept and naive to ever run a business as he does, thus they should feel grateful that he provides a place for them to ply their skills. A good functioning shop is a place where an employer respects his employees, who are his bread and butter, and the guys that do the work do it not only to make a living, but because they take some pride in what they do.
"Team player" has become the politically correct version of "When I say jump, you ask how high." Showing a little respect never hurt anybody, and would probably pay dividends towards getting employees to become more than guys looking for a paycheck. Employers with more ego than brains ignore this, and manage their human resources as though it was their own little serfdom. A little give and take will make for a less hostile working environment with lower turnover.
Given the current economic environment, if you "can find a handful of you guys on every corner," I wonder if your current staff will stay if economic conditions improve. Perhaps then, if you need experienced workers, there will not be skilled cabinetmakers hanging out on street corners.
As a side note, I am curious how many of the shop owners posting were team players when they were employees? Were you the kind of employee you prefer to have now? Seems as though a team player would have stayed where he was, if indeed he was a team player. Remember from whence you came.
A concept to which every employer wishes every employee would subscribe. Unfortunately, I've usually found that while most employees will pay nominal lip service to this concept, when the chips are down, next to none really mean it, and are usually looking for any opportunity to profit themselves.
Later, contributor L gets to the meat of the matter: "Any of you employees who feel otherwise should just start your own shops. Problem solved."
He's right again. I've watched no end of team player types decide that they knew everything and would therefore strike out on their own, only to implode because they really had no clue.
Good help is not just hard to find, it's very hard to determine when you actually have it. Bottom line? Trust, but verify frequently as your trust will, unfortunately due to the nature of mankind, usually be misplaced.
Contributor T, my guys have all worked for me long before this economy, through this economy and hopefully after this economy. You actually hit on a good point. Like I said, if someone wants to do things their own way, they should start their own business. You think business owners go into business to do things how their employees tell them to? I think not. Now, a good owner will listen to their employees and utilize suggestions and implement ideas. Others will not. It's their will to do as they wish.
When interviewing employees, I get them to tell stories about former co-workers and bosses. If everyone was an %$#@##$, I figure I will be too, in that person's eyes. A team player might have actually liked other people he worked with.
Asking the team player question is a good idea. I also like to ask the "Do you like to party?" question.
Employees get a weekly paycheck reminder that they are not self-employed. Self-employment is not for everybody, and suggesting it to someone who maybe just wants an opportunity to engage in a dialogue is like telling clients that complain about a misaligned door that maybe next time they should build it themselves. Being self-employed, I recognize what is involved in keeping a business viable. And while it is difficult, especially now, it is not rocket surgery, either. Nonetheless, having been self-employed will make me a better employee, should the need arise.
My point is it is about mutual respect. I’m not sure where “team player” fits into this. I think everybody is their own dictionary on this one.
As an employee, there were times when I was handed a complex project and told to “take care of it.” And there were times when I was told to clean the bathroom. I did both, even though I could not understand the economic rationale behind having a high-wage employee do this while the shop helpers were sanding. I can understand where, as an employee, it can be hard to wrap your head around that disparity and wonder about your place in the scheme of things. Cabinetmakers are people, too. The more thin-skinned amongst us will take something like that personally.
I can also understand the employer perspective - this is your business, you built it up, you are taking the risk, you made the sacrifices, and you deserve the autonomy to make the decisions as you see fit. You don’t want employees to second guess your decision making. You would not want to hire someone who is argumentative for no reason, or who is continually argumentative, or who is a prima donna. Some soon-to-be-ex employees will just be problematic, no matter what.
I brought up the point about the type of employee the shop owners may have been only to remind us all of The Golden Rule. Treating others as you would want to be treated, not as you were treated. If people adhered more to the Golden Rule, there would be less need for other rules.
Contributor U said it best when he said the relationship (it is every bit a relationship) is based on loyalty and respect. Going both ways on an open street. "Team player" is meaningless and disrespectful since it is undefined and implies cooperation with management at any cost, in a top down sort of way.
Anyone that says "my guys" just lost my respect, and would have to really work hard to get it back. No one owns anyone else. Sure, it is just a phrase, but it is indicative of an attitude that will pollute the relationship. Every time I have seen beyond the scenes where someone uses "my guys," I see a pyramid hierarchy, with information flowing only one way, and employees with a Stepin Fetchit attitude, aka team players.
All of my business's employees are co-workers. We all work together or separately, with mutual respect for each other. We work towards the stated goals, and we know if those goals change from day to day, week to week. Some of us do different jobs from others. Some are more skilled, some less skilled. Some are paid more than others, some less. No one takes a risk but me, the owner. We are all important, but no one is so important that he can dictate what the attitude towards him will be. Respect is earned, not granted. Anyone can be replaced, and anyone can leave. Except me.
Not everyone wants to or can start a business - is it wrong to just want to be a good employee? I know the original questioner to be a skilled woodworker, intent on improving his skills in a receptive environment. He does not want to start a business. That is not a fault or weakness - perhaps he knows his limitations or his strengths well enough to make his own choices.
As Dr. Seuss said: "Our workers say 'Work us!' at the Circus McGurkus!"
If the 1st and 2nd string quarterbacks get injured, and my defensive back (who has an excellent throwing arm) refuses to quarterback because it is not his job, then... You know the rest.
The company has to come first. Without it, all these people would be out of a job, vendors don't get paid, customers don't get their product, the owner loses a lifetime of investment. With a bad employee, just one individual is out of a job. The team concept puts the emphasis on the greater good of the organization.