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Are You a Team Player or a “Group Player”?

November 17, 2011 by Careerminds

For most of us, working with other people in the office is a regular occurrence. Even the top dogs at an organization need to work together every now and then, but are you working as a team member or just a group member?

While there may be nothing inherently wrong with group work (as opposed to team work), many people aren’t aware that there is a difference, and that may be affecting their ability to work as an effective teammate (as opposed to a groupmate). Depending on your work environment, you may be part of a group one day and part of a team the next, and in each situation, you’ll be expected to fulfill different expectations as far as contributions and collaboration with others.

Here’s a handy chart that might shed some light on the subject:

Group Work Team Work
Individual accountability Individual and mutual accountability
Come together to share information and perspectives Frequently come together for discussion, decision making, problem solving and planning
Focus on individual goals Focus on team goals
Produce individual work products Produce collective work products
Define individual roles, responsibilities and tasks Define individual roles, responsibilities and tasks to help team do its work; often share and rotate them
Concern with one’s own outcome and challenges Concern with outcomes of everyone and challenges the team faces
Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by manager Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by team leader with team members

The key differences between groups and teams are how often they meet—teams typically meet more frequently than groups, perhaps working together for the entirety of a project—and the overall focus of the members—groups are more individual task-focused, whereas teams are more focused on a broad collective goal.

A group works together on the basis of coordination. Members are assigned tasks, then go their separate ways to complete them, coming together once more to piece together a final product. The overarching goal is collective, but each person’s responsibility is his or her own.

A team, on the other hand, works in a more collaborative atmosphere. Members brainstorm, contribute ideas, offer constructive criticism, etc. together in order to create a direction and final product. The process is much more focused on sharing and collective decision making compared to group work.

As we’ve established, neither team work nor group work is necessarily better than the other; in different situations and environments, one may be expected to work as part of a team or a group dependent upon the nature of the office, the goals at hand, and so on. What’s important is that you can decipher which of these collectives you’re a part of, and that you are able to fulfill your duties appropriately. Build both your group work and team work skills so that you can succeed in either enivronment.

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