Are You a Bad Teammate? How to Tell


Teammember Blog
Do you hurt your teammates? Do you sabotage the team efforts? Do you hurt your success without even knowing it?


There is probably nothing easier than pointing out the faults in others. They come to us almost like golf balls on tees ready to be hit sometimes. If only the same could be said about identifying our own faults or own deficiencies.

A story: As a young Vice President, I went through my first round of 360 Degree surveys very early in my executive career and for that, I am very fortunate. I can still remember when then first scores came back, I was so confident I would score well. First, my performance would suggest it. The sales and revenue numbers had never been better in the history of the company since I had taken over. Secondly, I felt like I was always very candid with everyone about how I thought and felt and so, of course, they would be the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My peer group, the other VPs in the company (and my teammates), cracked me with a volley of crucial critiques that couldn’t have been more poignant and perfect. In the summary comments of their surveys, the most common phrase used in some variation was “not a true teammate.”

It cut to the core.

I grew up on sports teams and in theatre groups where teamwork was everything. I had been called many things in my life but never “not a teammate.” Anger, resentment, disagreement all naturally followed until I finally decided to grow up and figure out what I had done or was doing to cause them to feel the way they did.

Here is what I learned:

Bad teammates aren’t Honest

I mentioned before how I had a reputation for being candid with my teammates and others in the organization. I had felt I never had an issue with this, and I do owe much of it to reading Winning by Jack Welch (which is a great book). But I learned there was a difference between what I felt was being “candid” and what was just plain being a jerk. I was unfortunately on the latter side. I was brutal. I was mean. Being candid, is giving straightforward poignant and honest feedback that is helfpul to the development to the person.  You cant only give half-truths or even exaggerate. Communication coach Eduard Ezeanu suggests that honesty is essential for a team and culture to truly succeed. Listen to Kim Scott tell her story about when her boss, Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, tell her she can “sound stupid.”

As Scott says it,

“If [Sandberg] hadn’t said it just that way, I would’ve kept blowing her off. I wouldn’t have addressed the problem.”

Bad teammates aren’t truly Transparent

Bad teammates do not expose their processes, stack rankings of employees to their teammates. They constantly protect them from negative feedback and act like helicopter parents trying to mock-mentor them through their career. True transparency would be to show your full warts and all to your teammates and let them pick you apart. It is in the debate that you will bond as a team.

Bad teammates aren’t Accountable

Bad teammates spend considerable time and energy being upset by whose job it is to hold someone accountable. If a teammate tells them they screwed up, or an employee, or whomever, defensiveness rises and the battle begins as to why it isn’t that person’s job to “hold them accountable.” Good teammates understand that with accountability, hierarchy doesn’t matter. Who cares! If this were baseball and you got a strike, does it matter if it’s the umpire, opposing player, or fan in the stands that called it a strike? Does any of that change the fact YOU still missed the ball? No! So fix your grip and swing again. Good teammates check their ego and, as Joseph Grenny documented in Harvard Business Review, hold themselves accountable.

I spent considerable time with every executive interviewing them gathering feedback and these were the core issues (and they also said I talked too much in meetings which I still do).

In the end, bad teammates aren’t teammates at all. They are loners. They are off the team on the bench. Don’t be that person.


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