Why I think I'm a "team player" - but I'm not

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Blue Jay
Blue Jay

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Joined: 18 Jun 2020
Gender: Female
Posts: 81
Location: Ionospheric F layer

11 Jun 2021, 10:34 pm

There's so much emphasis in workplaces on being a "team player", and until recently I've hovered between firmly believing I am a great team player, and being greatly bewildered because I'm treated as if I'm not.

My brain is wired to make things work, and to relentlessly do everything needed to make whatever I'm assigned to and what the company needs succesful. I'm also wired to understand all the "pieces" (in this case, coworkers, assets, etc) in play and how to strategize and organize them into the larger, most profitable "whole". I don't want to succeed at anyone else's expense - we're all part of the "whole", so I want everyone to succeed and have the resources they need to do their best job because I assume they want that as much as I do.

I've always thought that's what "team player" meant.

But it's not.

"Team player" in real world work means something like doing whatever it takes to not disturb the social status quo permeating the organization. It means things like "I won't tell on you if you don't tell on me", and "we all agree not to really work hard, because pretending to is more satisfying". It means things like being aware of and protecting the great difference between what people like your manager say that they don't really mean. It means things like happily praising each other and the organization, even when neither have accomplished squat of what they are being praised for.

Because I've been my own kind of "team player" and not even understood what "team player" means to most of the rest of the world, I've gotten sidelined, bullied, and isolated (and worse) at every job I've ever had. Every single job. Every one! And never understood why.

I just made my manger angry the other day by telling the truth about what was going on in my department. Which I thought he would want to hear because then he could fix the problem he claims to care about. But he didn't really want to hear it, and I'm once again "not a team player".

It's all so ridiculous. I have retirement coming in several years, and I don't think I'm going to figure this out (so I'm not falling into the traps) before that happens.

Professionally diagnosed: Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"Autism isn't an illness but it's a condition that messes with our ability to have our psychological needs met." - DuckHairback on this site.

Mountain Goat

Joined: 13 May 2019
Gender: Male
Posts: 11,259

12 Jun 2021, 4:35 am

I have been a team player by specializing so that I am an essential part of a team as without me they are stuck, but I am one who finds myself on the outside looking in.