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On Being a Team Player

Ah spring!  Birds chirping, flowers blooming.   As I sit here smelling the freshly cut grass my mind wanders to thoughts of whether the grass may actually be greener on the proverbial other side.  An email just popped into my inbox from some recruiter I've never heard of for a consulting gig that appears to be a good fit for me.  Advanced SQL Server skills, knowledge of data modeling, ability to do performance tuning.  And it's a great rate and good location to boot.  

But there's one thing that's an instant turnoff for me.  "Must be a team player."  Please don't get me wrong...I love working on teams and I enjoy discussing technical problems with knowledgeable colleagues.  But "Must be a team player" is just fluff to me.  Of course your company wants a team player!  Why must that be stated prominently on the job req?  Makes no sense to me.  No company would ever advertise for Benevolent Dictators for their team and they would never advertise for a non-team player either.  I've [Freelinking: unknown plugin indicator "</span><span style="line-height"] about other needless phrases on job reqs...like "senior-level".  Everybody thinks they are senior-level.  Instead, tell me exact skills the job requires.  

I'm waiting for the day when "Must have good oral hygiene" is listed on a req.  Honestly I'd rather see that on a req than "team player."  There are SO many people walking around with bad breath and it affects team productivity when you have to work in a close-knit scrum room.  

Further, have you ever heard anyone describe themselves as "not being a team player"?  I've been accused of not being a team player and I'm sure others have too.  Being accused of not being a team player is sometimes a sign that you have a maverick who is willing to buck consensus for what she believes is right.  I'd rather have that "non-team player" than a team player who is merely a yes-man for the status quo.  That's how companies lose their market edge and go bankrupt.  Too many team players that don't have the backbone to affect positive change.  

I really question whether a company would want a "team player" for certain roles regardless.  Team players are great if you just need a staff programmer or jr DBA.  But if you need a good architect on a Death March Project, then maybe a team player isn't what you need.  Perhaps you need someone to question the most basic premises in your organization.  Perhaps you need someone who won't be afraid of being a maverick if it means the difference between success and failure, or profits and bankruptcy.

I just really hate seeing "must be a team player" on a job req.  It's a big turnoff for me.  Might as well say, "Requires 5 years of experience with SQL 2012"  (it's 2014 as of this post's publication).  Or perhaps, "requires proficiency with word processing applications and email".  Really?  This is for an IT job and I'm expected to be functionally literate with Outlook?  Oh my.  

Seriously though, I'm not sure how any senior-level person (I hate "senior-level" too, see above, but it's apropos for this post) could fathom applying for a job with "must be a team player" in the req.  I would rather apply for a job with a more concise description that does not contain fluff.  

1 comments

Comment: 
Dave, I take your point, but I wonder if it's not there as a result of hiring (or interviewing) people that are not team players? Being a team player doesn't have to be overloaded to mean that you have to be a yes-man.

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