It's performance review time. When you read the "needs improvement" section, you cringe at the description: "Not a team player." You may be hardworking, dependable and highly skilled, but if you are introverted, quiet or simply prefer to work alone, your boss may assume you are unwilling or unable to work as an effective team member. In a competitive work environment, even a perceived shortcoming can land you on the chopping block. Changing your boss' mind can mean the difference between a promotion and the unemployment line.
Get a little chummy with your co-workers, even if it is your nature to be shy or reclusive. Ask about tasks they are working on, clients they are interacting with or other aspects of the current project. Mingle with colleagues during lunch, coffee breaks and the occasional happy hour. Your co-workers and manager will see you as interested and caring. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself!
Step up when a colleague needs help. Volunteer for tasks. Feigning a project with an unforgiving deadline or faking an important phone call might get you out of yet another assignment, but it will not help your cause. Rolling up your sleeves when your team needs you can have a great impact on your manager's opinion of you.
Seek out advice, assistance and feedback from others. If you think asking for help will make you seem less competent, think again. Opening yourself to input and aid from your colleagues shows that you consider yourself part of the team.
Be flexible when things do not go as planned. Chances are good that circumstances will change during a project or everyday work. Whining or becoming angry when you have to accommodate unexpected conditions only makes you look like a diva. Adjust without complaining, and look at changes as opportunities for growth or learning.
Commend a co-worker to your manager. Talking up your colleagues shows that you work closely enough with them to learn where their skills lie, and also suggests that you are able to think of others before yourself, which is what being a team player is all about.
Tricia Goss' credits include Fitness Plus, Good News Tucson and Layover Magazine. She is certified in Microsoft application and served as the newsletter editor for OfficeUsers.org. She has also contributed to The Dollar Stretcher, Life Tips and Childcare Magazine.