Me vs. We

Published: May 19, 2016

The drivers of workplace behavior can be both selfish and altruistic. Our personal desire for achievement can overtake our mission to advance the lives of others. When our own needs clamor for satisfaction, the greater good sometimes gets sacrificed. Few of us, however, live in isolation. Most of us are members of relationships, families, teams, and organizations where goals are shared.

A single teammate more focused on the “me” rather than the “we” can grind momentum to a halt. The team can still perform but won’t have the synergies and efficiencies that arise from true collaboration. The win that justifies “me” priorities is easier to accomplish with the advantages of a team. Usually, the benefits are elusive without a commitment to honing a set of interaction competencies. Everybody wins when the whole team is skilled at the following behaviors:

  • Sacrifice: placing other needs in front of your own.
  • Generosity: creating goodwill by sharing knowledge, assets, and resources.
  • Compromise: forging win-win opportunities.
  • Negotiation: balancing gains and losses respectfully.
  • Listening: seeing the world through another lens.
  • Collaboration: linking strengths to promote growth.
  • Coordination: conducting an orchestra of variables.
  • Interdependence: fusing your future outcomes with the path of another.

Team aptitudes are learned. They are not in the traditional on-boarding curriculum of most jobs. The good news is that each day is filled with opportunities to practice. Take a walk around the workplace. Check in with your coworkers. Each exchange is a new lesson.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.