Teamwork in the workplace

Teaching teens about teamwork at Local Young Entrepreneur’s Day event.

I recently had the opportunity to teach 84 teenagers about teamwork in the workplace. Participants were from Berrien, Ottawa and Van Buren County as a part of the Edward Lowe Foundation Young Entrepreneur’s Day on May 7, 2013. Following a team building activity to engage the teens in thinking about teamwork, there was a discussion related to workplace teamwork.

Michigan State University Extension suggests that teamwork in the workplace may be defined differently business to business and person to person, but it generally includes these four elements:

  • Cooperation – contribute and share the workload.
  • Relationships – willingness to cooperate. You cannot just do one’s own thing separately from others. This includes respect for yourself and one another.
  • Learning – reaching a common goal while learning about one another, new knowledge and skills along the way.
  • Leadership – may be shared or established through a team leader.

 Why is teamwork important at work?

  • Delegating tasks – employees that are team players understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses which makes it easier to divide tasks.
  • Efficiency – well trained and functional teams are able to get tasks done efficiently and quickly.
  • Ideas – teams that work well together are comfortable solving problems, identifying solutions and coming up with new opportunities.
  • Support – a strong team environment provides support during challenging and stressful situations.

 Disadvantages of teamwork in the workplace

  • Unequal participation – not doing your part affects the success of the team.
  • Not a team player – some people do not function well around others; they need to be in an independent environment.
  • Might limit creativity because sites are set on the “goal.”
  • Start-up might take more time until the team has settled in and found its team chemistry.
  • As human beings, conflict will occur.

 Building teamwork at work

  • Start with you. Know yourself and your work style.  What are your strengths and weaknesses and where do you fit on a team?
  • Make a commitment to the “goal” and be positive.
  • Choose a leader that employee’s trust or be supportive of who has been chosen to lead.
  • Encourage and support recognition and incentives.
  • Work and team roles need to be clear – ask questions if you need clarity.
  • Always be on the lookout for problems and challenges – that is being proactive.
  • Conflict needs to be addressed – know your conflict management style, get training or coaching and be prepared to help address the conflict.

 As part of the students’ end-of-program survey:

  • 79 percent indicated that they learned something new from the session.
  • 81 percent indicated that the session was useful to them.

For resources related to workforce preparation, check out the careers link on the Michigan 4-H Youth Development page.

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