Career Advice

22 Tell-Tale Signs an Employee Is Not a Team Player

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” –Phil Jackson (1945- ), Basketball Player, Coach, and Executive

When a person applies for a job, they provide a resume and other evidence of their personal achievements. In preparing for an interview, they test themselves on questions about how well they solve problems and work on their own. When interviewed for the position, they respond in the first-person singular “I” rather than the plural “we.” Each of these steps focuses on signs an employee is not a team player, but instead a talented individual who soars above others in a competitive way.

In many work environments, individuals come together and form cohesive units and teams. In the public and private sectors–in non-profits and for-profits–obvious signs an employee is not a team player have an effect on morale and productivity.

A single coworker who works against the best interests of the team has the ability to devastate the project at hand. In some situations, one disruptive team member may jeopardize future contracts or opportunities for their employer.

Listed below are 22 common signs an employee is not a team player. Some of these signs may slightly overlap, but each stands on its own as a signal that an individual has put personal priorities and ambitions above the teamwork and collaboration that agencies, businesses, and other enterprises expect for success.

Be on the Lookout for These Signs an Employee Is Not a Team Player:

1. Failing to Carry Their Weight

Slackers negatively affect everyone’s productivity. When they miss deadlines with diversionary tactics and crowd the conversation with excuses, others have to compensate for their lack of actions. Sending emails to appear busy does little as real-world deadlines loom. Management sometimes has to question team members individually to determine who has failed to carry their share of the burden.

2. Refraining from Interactions with Colleagues

An introvert can contribute to the team’s success with focused tasks, such as performing research or collecting data. Simply because a person is shy or soft-spoken does not mean they lack the ability to support the team. A poor team player fails to interact or has difficulty collaborating for a different reason. A peer who refuses to interact with you and other employees cracks the team’s structural foundation.

Read More: 7 Best Ways On How To Deal With Unresponsive Coworkers

3. Refusing to Listen to Other People’s Ideas

Beyond refusing to interact, a team member who does not even listen to or acknowledge receiving another person’s suggestions or ideas harms the group’s dynamic. The concept of teamwork means nothing if one member ignores the voices of others assigned to work collaboratively on a task or project.

4. Occupying the Center of the Universe

A colleague may have skills and knowledge that outshine others for a particular project. If, however, this coworker acts as the most enlightened one who deserves to occupy the sole role as the center of the universe, they will alienate their peers and sow discord. A team member should never push peers to the coldest, most remote part of the ecosystem. Other team members should be able to gravitate or rotate around a team member without being placed on a trajectory into outer space.

5. Accepting No Other Alternatives

That common phrase, “My way or the highway,” sends a clear message to others involved in a project or work environment with shared responsibilities. A dismissive posture conflicts with collaboration. Leaders should remain open to criticism and suggestions, and explain why their game plan offers the best alternative.

6. Hoarding and Never Sharing Good Ideas

Rather than collaborate with you, they focus on their self-interests and personal ambition. They see the team’s objectives only through the perspective of their self-promotion. Their communications with you and other coworkers occur more to affirm and take credit for what others have said than to add their ideas to the larger conversation.

7. Taking Issue with Most or All Coworkers

In all workspaces, you will find colleagues that you may avoid, dislike, or refrain from interacting with whenever possible. However, if an employee announces that everyone around them is unprofessional, unintelligent, or ineffective, perhaps they should look into the mirror and ask tough questions.

8. Ignoring the Team Leader

A team player who avoids, ignores, or passive-aggressively circumvents the team leader hurts everyone else involved. Whether done in spite or in an effort to carry favor with a supervisor higher up the ladder, the mistrust they show and the paranoia they may have that others will do the same against them poison the office culture.

9. Stealing the Team’s Thunder

A colleague can burn bridges by hoarding trophies that belong to all team members. Achievements should be shared with you and others whenever your collaborative and creative labor brings success to a project. Taking credit while denying it to others who also contributed sends a terrible message.

10. Keeping the Ball for the Perfect Shot

A self-centered employee sometimes holds onto opportunities or resources too long, to the detriment of the entire team. They also grab the projects that give them the highest rewards in a lowly manner, leaving others to do much of the work as they jockey for position and the clock runs out.

11. Trusting Only Their Own Work

An employee who believes that they alone can deliver trustworthy results occupies a space fogged by delusion. If they mistrust all of their coworkers, question their competence, or see the positive contributions of their peers as a negative conspiracy, everyone will suffer.

12. Refusing to Accept Help from Others Who Struggle

Sometimes, a team member may refuse to accept assistance from a peer because they claim that the person’s past performance was far from perfect. Rather than mentor their coworkers, they condemn them without realizing that learning from past failures will bring success to the entire team. Encourage others to grow from mistakes.

13. Bossing Others Around While Deflecting Blame

Teamwork suffers when a member acts arrogant and impatient with peers while deflecting or dismissing any blame or criticism that affects their portion of a project. While demonstrating leadership is an important characteristic in professional growth, true leaders inspire and collaborate.

14. Failing to Recognize the Success of Others

In an environment that expects and celebrates collaboration, a coworker who ignores or downplays the success of colleagues stands out. Whether due to jealousy, poor attitude, or waking up on the wrong side of the bed, a person who fails to celebrate the accomplishments and success of others appears bitter, petty, and resentful.

15. Failing to Accept Responsibility in Defeat

In life, as in sports, there are few perfect seasons. Sometimes a proposal or initiative fails, or a project with high hopes takes a big fall. In those difficult situations, team members may experience anger, frustration, or despair. One who refuses to share appropriate levels of blame sends a stubborn message at the worst possible time.

16. Putting Money and Ego above Everything Else

Few people see work as an act of charity. The work you do pays your bills, and puts a roof over your head and food on the table. But those who value work only in terms of dollars earned and ego acquired have both a balance sheet and a balance of life that requires adjusting.

17. Refusing to Pay Their Share

Demonstrating leadership sometimes requires sharing the burden and silent sacrifice. You win allies and gain respect when you treat others to lunch, make charitable donations to important causes, and give your time to others in need. By paying it forward, you pay more than your share and set a positive tone.

18. Never Sharing in the Office’s Social Compact

In settings where everyone takes their turns making the coffee, bringing in the bagels, or taking out the trash, the outlier who sees no benefit or claims those acts are below them has a negative impact on others. Take your turn and others will do their share.

19. Never Investing Concern in the Wellbeing of Others

Beyond the demands of the job, everyone experiences those moments when they need time alone to focus or regroup. When a colleague expresses little concern or interest in the wellbeing of their coworkers during difficult times, this behavior creates an awkward situation for everyone.

Read More: How To Motivate Peers At Work: 10 Effective Ways

20. Lacking Empathy in Tough Moments

Sometimes a coworker suffers a misfortunate event or is shown the door. Even if this person was someone you did not like, showing empathy builds your personal credibility. When one laughs at the struggles and failures of others, they should expect little sympathy or support to flow their way.

21. Refusing to Accept Help

Even the greatest leader benefits from guidance and needs support. Accepting help from others builds or strengthens important bonds that go beyond a single moment or a particular employer. Helping others and accepting the help offered by your peers may open new doors in the future.

22. Complaining about Work

You will have days when you want to quit your job and walk away, perhaps many of them. The team members will grow tired of a peer who always complains about work and expects others to listen and offer a treasure trove of sympathy. If you find displeasure in your current job, work-life balance, or corporate culture, search for a better alternative for your own wellbeing.

Read More: 10 Best Ways To Deal With Employees Who Complain About Workload

Value the Team, Rather than Fighting against It

“You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.”–Toni Morrison (1931-2019), American Novelist

Instead of demonstrating the top 22 signs an employee is not a team player, you can flourish by following these five practices:

Treat Others with Respect: Show the respect you expect from others and celebrate their successes and achievements.

Participate and Collaborate: Active participants show up on time, contribute, share, accept criticism, and offer support.

Help and Guide Others: Share your experiences and support. Keep the promises you have made with your colleagues.

Listen Actively: Consider a variety of viewpoints without arguing or interrupting.

Solve Problems: Rather than avoid or deflect, step up and solve problems whenever possible.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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