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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

How Selfish Behavior Can Kill Teams

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Selfish behavior empowers individuals on committees and kills teams.

It’s always amazing to me the frequency in which organizations believe they have a group of people who are working together, and they call it a team.

It is not always clearly evident what a team is. Companies send people who work together away on retreats or on weekend training, they repel off mountains and they fall into each other’s arms on silly exercises they call team-building, everyone comes back and nothing has changed. We didn’t have a team when they were went and we didn’t have a team when they came back. We always had a committee.

Committees work this way. Individuals on the committee have deep self-interests about themselves and the organization which are rarely shared or discussed. When people do things or behave in certain ways that align in their own self-interest without regard to the effect on others, this is selfish behavior. On committees, individuals win and individuals lose…individually.

Teams work this way. Everyone wins and loses together. Everyone on the team has their self-interests aligned into a common goal which benefits everyone on the team. Teams work toward a common, clear goal which is very often bigger than the team.

Committees are like the show Survivor. Members will fight for you as along as it serves them, their self-interest and their purpose of winning.You can get kicked off the island if you don’t conform and lose enough.

Teams are like being on a life-raft. They may disagree and fight for ideas they believe in, and at the same time, will bond together for the best interest of the team and the organization. Everyone will sink if they don’t work together for a common goal of reaching a destination.

Selfish behavior kills teams. When individuals do not have a deep understanding of themselves, how they behave and why they behave that way, they do great damage to themselves, others and the organization.

The best way I have found to define selfish behavior is:

“When I behave or do what I want to do or behave the way I want to and it takes away from others or hurts the team, that is selfish behavior”.

As humans, we are all flawed beings. We will display this behavior, not one of us is immune to it. The real key is awareness of when we are doing it, how we are doing it and why.

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