Teamwork vs Individualism: Using Professional Empathy to be a Better Coworker

In the workplace of today, teamwork is common, even mandatory, and generally accepted as best practice in a dynamic work environment.   That being said, the spirit of individualism is alive and well and can lead to moments of tension or awkwardness.  Striking the proper balance between teamwork and individual expression can be difficult.

You have probably experienced individualism push back against teamwork both ways – on the giving and receiving ends.  When someone steps into your work territory your hackles go up.  When you offer help to someone (or even more just do a coworker’s task without prior discussion) you are very surprised (even shocked) when they are not happy about it.

Why in the world would someone not want your input, ideas, creativity, and possibly even genius thoughts to be brought to the table?  There are several possible reasons.  They:

  1. Have their own ideas about the task or project.
  2. Don’t want to appear incompetent or like they need help.  They are concerned about perceptions of their boss or peers.
  3. Are a little bit insecure.
  4. Know their role, have been doing it for a while and are comfortable with the established boundaries.

These same points can be used to measure your reaction as well.  Maybe you are able to see the big picture better than others.  You may understand and appreciate the advantages of hearing, seeing, and experiencing others’ ideas.  Even if this is so, it can still feel strange and awkward when you sense a trespasser.  If this is something you can identify with, use that to help generate a sense of professional empathy.  If someone bristles at your help, then think about why you would bristle at someone else’s help and proceed with caution.

Beware!  When you are helping someone in your organization and you are entering someone else’s territory without permission (or even with permission – vocally or by omission) you may not get the appreciation you think you deserve and you may leave behind a bad taste.

Yes, walls need to be broken down sometimes.  Yes, problems need to be solved creatively. And, yes, collaboration is a good thing.  But tread softly the first time.  Be sensitive to others being hurt or offended.

Ensure that you are working toward a common goal and not just pushing your agenda. I will leave you with these suggested steps in the collaborative process:

  1. Assess the situation.  Be aware of the personalities involved, especially those who have more competitive personalities.
  2. Secure permission to be involved.
  3. Be flexible while being a part of the process and solution.
  4. Allow time for discussion, feedback, and debriefing.

 

BRH

 

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan

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The Who, What, Why, and How of Personality Assessments

I am a big fan of personality assessments used in the workplace or for any type of teambuilding.  We use this tool often in our work. Besides being plain ol’ fun, it provides individuals, teammates, and supervisors insight they would not otherwise have.

 

Who?

The assessment can be used for individual employees, teams, boards, groups or even families.

 

What?

A personality profile describes who you are as a unique person. The assessment we have chosen to use is the Workplace Big Five. It provides general information (see two sample assessments below) about each person who completes the assessment questionnaire based on 5 essential personality characteristics.  Each individual will get scores in the following categories:

  • Need for Stability
  • Extraversion
  • Originality
  • Accommodation
  • Consolidation

The assessment only takes 15 minutes, but, if the individual doesn’t overthink their responses and goes with their first response, reveals much. We learn, among many other things:

  • How they respond to stress.
  • Whether they are stimulated by people and activity or not.
  • Whether they are open to change or prefer the status quo.
  • How they respond to authority.
  • How much they plan.
  • How each of these characteristics interacts with the other.

 

Why?

The purpose of completing the assessment can be multi-fold or for one aim:

  • Selection
  • Promotion
  • Validation
  • Development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Collaboration

It is always helpful for each individual who participates to become more self-aware of his/her personality, individuality, competencies and motivations. There are no good or bad scores. The results help the individual explore their unique personality styles, how their personality exhibits itself in the workplace, and how it helps them relate to team members.

In a group setting, it is so freeing to see how you are alike and different from your teammates. If someone discovers she has a low ‘warmth’ score, she might become more conscious of how this effects her encounters with others. Conversely, there are ah-ha moments such as “Oh, ______ is not acting like that to get under my skin, that is just who she is.”

The estimate is that 60% of your personality is based on who you were at birth (nature), while 40% is based on what has occurred since then (nurture). The old adage, “A tiger can’t change its stripes” comes to mind. Did you know that under the tiger’s fur, the skin is also striped? The interpretation is that we can’t change our essential nature. We are who we are down to the skin. Nonetheless, being self-aware can make all the difference in the world.

 

How?

If you would like to learn more about assessments and how they can be used with coaching or teaching, we would love to hear from you anytime!

BRH

 

Powers & Associates is certified to assess the The WorkPlace Big Five by:

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WorkPlace Big Five Assessment Samples

See a sample trait report here:  Trait Report

See a sample narrator report here:   Narrator Report