Teamwork in the workplace

Teaching teens about teamwork is important in the world of work.

Teens working together
Teens learn teamwork skills as part of a 4-H school enrichment lesson. Photo by Michigan State University Extension.

Employers continue to indicate that being a team player is an important attribute as an employee. According to Michigan State University Career Services Network 12 Essentials for Success, recent college grads often report that the toughest challenge in their new job was adjusting to group work. The pressures of team dynamics and how to fit in a team can be a challenge as much of one’s education is an individual endeavor. Working with teens on their teamwork skills can be very beneficial to their success as an employee in the future. Teamwork in the workplace may be defined differently business-to-business and person-to-person, but it generally includes these four elements:

  • Cooperation – contribute and share the workload.
  • Relationships – willingness to cooperate. You cannot just do one’s own thing separately from others. This includes respect for yourself and one another.
  • Learning – reaching a common goal while learning about one another, new knowledge and skills along the way.
  • Leadership – may be shared or established through a team leader.

 Why is teamwork important at work?

  • Delegating tasks – employees that are team players understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses which makes it easier to divide tasks.
  • Efficiency – well trained and functional teams are able to get tasks done efficiently and quickly.
  • Ideas – teams that work well together are comfortable solving problems, identifying solutions and coming up with new opportunities.
  • Support – a strong team environment provides support during challenging and stressful situations.

 Disadvantages of teamwork in the workplace

  • Unequal participation – not doing your part affects the success of the team.
  • Not a team player – some people do not function well around others; they need to be in an independent environment.
  • Might limit creativity because sites are set on the “goal.”
  • Start-up might take more time until the team has settled in and found its team chemistry.
  • As human beings, conflict will occur.

 Building teamwork at work

  • Start with you. Know yourself and your work style.  What are your strengths and weaknesses and where do you fit on a team?
  • Make a commitment to the “goal” and be positive.
  • Choose a leader that employee’s trust or be supportive of who has been chosen to lead.
  • Encourage and support recognition and incentives.
  • Work and team roles need to be clear – ask questions if you need clarity.
  • Always be on the lookout for problems and challenges – that is being proactive.
  • Conflict needs to be addressed – know your conflict management style, get training or coaching and be prepared to help address the conflict.

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

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