Being an Effective Team Player

When most of us enter the workforce today, the first role we would be given would be that of a team player. Hence, it is important that we learn how to become an effective team player who is valued as an asset to the team.

1. Be supportive and be reliable

You can be a valuable asset to the team by simply delivering your work on time, and consistently producing high quality work. By committing yourself to completing something for the group, people would depend on you to produce good work and recognize you as an indispensable team member. In addition, it is also important to support other people on your team by offering positive feedback, and providing help if they need it. Such behaviour exemplify a sense of team loyalty and helps to build trust between group members.

One’s willingness to collaborate and help others will make a good impression on other people in general and strengthen the relationship between one and one’s team members. In relation to this, conscientiousness is a personality trait which is useful in this aspect since conscientious people are usually responsible and dependable, and will therefore be good at backing up other team members and at sensing when support is truly needed.

Avoid social loafing, which is to coast on the group’s effort, even if certain contributions cannot be directly attributed to you. As an individual, you are jointly responsible for the team’s purpose, goals and deliverables, and hence consistently making contributions to the team would make you more well regarded amongst your colleagues and upper management.

2. Be flexible

With today’s fast pace of work, things can change quickly – people have join or leave the team, goals may be redefined and budgets may be cut. Hence, it is important that you not fight change but use it a new opportunity for growth instead.

Openness to experience and agreeableness are two personality which are relevant in this aspect. Open people are usually more creative, autonomous and flexible and hence open team members communicate better with one another and are able to generate more ideas. Teams which are composed of more open people are hence creative and innovative. Agreeable people are usually more compliant and conforming to group norms and are hence generally more well liked and have higher performance in general. In addition, it may also be helpful to be high self-monitoring. Self monitoring refers to an individual’s ability to adjust his or her behaviour to external, situational factors. Individuals high in self monitoring show considerable adaptability in adjusting their behaviour to external situational factors. They are highly sensitive to external cues and can behave differently in different situations and capable of presenting striking contradictions between their public persona and their private self and can therefore adapt themselves better to different situations.

In general, one’s willingness to remain comfortable and positive in a constantly changing environment is an important skill, which the upper management is likely to take notice.

3. Be a Good Communicator

To be a good communicator, you need to be able to give constructive feedback by focusing on idea and behaviours, instead of individuals. Receiving feedback requires listening well, asking for clarification if the comment is unclear, and being open to change and other ideas.

It is also important to be involved and active within the group to contribute ideas and suggestions which can help the group to achieve its overall goals. When communicating with team members, be it to challenge their thinking or to show support, it is important to stay positive and respectful. Being consistently calm and objective will make a good impression,

Finally, in addition to those top three tips, at a firm level, the company needs to have an organizational culture as a pretext that allows the above actions to be carried out well. There would need to be a high climate of trust within the team as interpersonal trust among team members facilitates cooperation, reduces the need to monitor each others’ behaviour. Team members are more likely to take risks and expose vulnerabilities when they believe they can trust others on their team. There would also need to be a well designed performance evaluation and reward system in place. On top of evaluating and rewarding employees for individual contributions, management should also modify the traditional individual oriented evaluation and reward systems to reflect team performance.

Hence, being an effective team player is a collective effort involving the organizational culture and your colleague, all of which need to be taken into account.

Handling Office Politics Effectively

Organizational politics – the term alone has negative connotations, and it is essentially the focus on the use of power to affect decision making in an organization or on self-serving behaviours. However, in today’s workplace, it is impossible to avoid office politics entirely. Politics means humans and humans means politics. Therefore, it is important to understand how to maneuver the complicated webs of professional relationships and power distances in the workplace.

1. Understand Decision Making in the Workplace

It has been proven that political relationships are moderated by an individual’s understanding of the decision making and organizational structure within the workplace. An individual who has  a clear understanding of who is responsible for making decisions and why they were selected to be the decision makers would have a better understanding of how and why things happen they way they do better than someone who does not understand the decision making process in the organization. When both politics and understanding are high, one’s job performance is likely to increase.

Therefore, it is important to examine and come up with your own organizational chart of political power by asking yourself questions such as – Who are the real influencers? Are there groups or cliques that have formed? and then subsequently study the work culture and determine the atmosphere at work. It is found that organizations with high uncertainty, such as having unclear objectives, vague performance measures and ambiguity, such as unclear hierarchical communication flows or lines of authority, would have employees which are more likely to engage in organizational politics, since a fraudulent claim can be less easily challenged.

Hence, one would need to determine the work culture, favoured behaviours and status symbols which are valued in the workplace in order to manage organizational politics effectively.

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2. Build Relationships and Allies

Subsequently, it is necessary to build relationships that cross the hierarchical structure in all directions, such as networking between peers, bosses and executives below you. By being part of multiple networks but yet remaining neutral, one would be able to keep one’s finger on the pulse and insider news within the organization.

One can also practice ingratiation, which is a psychological technique in which an individual tries to become more likeable to their target. One can engage in genuine flattery through expressing admiration and respect for one’s superiors, self-conformity by agreeing with the opinions of one’s colleagues and showing that one shares similar beliefs and values, self-presentation in which the one emphasizes their own attributes in order to be seen positively in the eyes of others, and finally and favour doing, by providing support and help when needed to others. Favor doing may also help to generate reciprocity in the future.

All these techniques will ultimately help an individual in gaining likeability between his colleagues and superiors, thereby building more allies.

3. Neutralize Negative Behaviors and Understand “Difficult” People

Finally, it is necessary to get to know people whom you may dislike and maintain a professional relationship with them. One can be courteous to these people, and at the same time understand their motivations and goals, so that one would be able to effectively avoid or counter the impact of negative policking behavior engaged by some of these people.

Therefore, it is important to know how to manage office politics as a means to maximize job gains in the workplace and also to prevent those who are less capable than you in managing you. This will also  increase job satisfaction by decreasing the job anxiety and stress associated typically in trying to manage office politics.

References

Office Politics: Must you play? A handbook for success. Connor, Cheryl, 2013. Last accessed 30 March. http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2013/04/14/office-politics-must-you-play-a-handbook-for-survivalsuccess/

Organizational Behaviour, Ronnis, Stephen and Judge, Timothy.

Dealing with Office Politics, Anon, 2013. Last accessed 2 April.http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_85.htm

Managing Diversity – A double edged sword

Diversity at the workplace

In today’s globalized world, it may be sensible to draw the conclusion that greater workforce diversity is beneficial in the workplace, since organizations can draw upon a variety of skills and knowledge from a diverse group of people to better cater needs to customers from different markets. However, diversity might also lead to decreased team performance and team effectiveness, if poorly managed.

Diversity - the model

On one hand, diversity may cause process losses, due to team conformity, because people tend to be attracted to those whose attitudes and values are similar to their own, and most people are motivated through such social acceptance. Organizations and teams have a natural tendency to drive out diversity since people are generally attracted to those whose attitudes and values are similar to their own, and according the social identity theory, most people are motivated through such acceptance. In addition, diversity have also been shown to hamper communication, inherently increasing the potential for conflict due to different belief structures and values.

People tend to be attracted to those similar to them and interactions with people who are similar are therefore more satisfying. Hence, in a widely diverse team, lower team satisfaction may predict lower commitment, organization citizenship and long term operational effectiveness.

On the other hand, diversity creates process gains. Having a diverse team with people from different backgrounds means a better representation of today’s environmental complexity and hence an increased ability to understand and respond to local preferences. A diverse team would also have a greater variety of ideas and perspectives to draw upon, resulting in higher creativity and innovation, which provides a company with a significant competitive advantage.  In addition, new research even suggests that diverse groups outperformed homogenous ones as diversity triggered more careful information processing and prevents groupthink.

Managing Diversity

Therefore, in order to manage diversity, it is important to overcome the barriers in communication by implementing an open and supportive communication and feedback system. To overcome differences in beliefs and values, it is also important for the team leader to come up with a superordinate team identity and implement a specific, inspirational common goal for all members of the team to work towards. With a focused, common goal, it is also more likely for the team to go into task conflicts, which is constructive conflict where debate and disagreements is formed with respect to the task at hand, rather than interpersonal conflicts.

But in order for such implementations to take place effectively, I believe that it ultimately boils down to the personality of individual team members, not just the manager. Hence, it is critical to choose team members who are open and are good at communication so that they can understand and build upon multiple perspectives and effectively convey their own ideas as well.

Graduates at DUKE NUS

Applying this back to the DUKE NUS case discussed in class, all initial members of the team (Kamei, Cook and Stramer) were very open to new ideas and similarly proposed such a method of learning for the medical curriculum at DUKE NUS. By having a team discussion, students were able to learn a topic from one another and each individual was able to manage the group process of arriving at a collective answer. In addition, having the students facilitate the discussion in a seminar style setting helps to build team management skills and supports open communication, which will help them as they progress in their career to work with multinational medical practitioners.

Therefore, I feel that managers should take note of hiring not the person of the right fit to the company, but rather with an openness to diversity and new ideas.

References

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/hr_neale_groupdiversity.shtml

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2006/january-06/diversity-in-teams-a-two-edged-sword-requires-careful-handling.html

Kochan, Bezrukova, Ely, Jackson, Joshi, Jehn, Leonard, Levine and Thomas (2002) The Effects of Diversity on Business Performance: Report of the Diversity Research Network
http://www.solargeneral.com/library/diversity-at-work.pdf
Stahl, Maznevski, Voigt and Jonse (2007) Unraveling the Diversity-Performance Link in Multicultural Teams: Meta-analysis of Studiesn on the Impact of Cultural Diversity in Teams
http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/research/doc.cfm?did=2742