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We are working in an environment in which we often hear the buzz words: team, team building, collaboration and their synonyms.
Working collaboratively as a team to achieve the objectives of the organisation is the ideal that managers in all fields are encouraged to aim for by the experts.
However, in many organisations - educational, non-educational, governmental or non-governmental - there is at least one worker who scoffs at the idea of team work, by actions of course. This worker is a selfish colleague. This colleague exhibits the following behaviours:
1. He/she is not interested in briefing sessions or any other form of staff meeting. This person attends these meetings but when he/she does, he/she stares blankly at nothing, seeming to be in another place at another time, or is obviously annoyed by the goings on, from time to time muttering to him/herself or rolling his/her eyes as the team leader outlines the things that need to be done that day.
This person usually separates him/herself from other colleagues, and if she is prodded to come closer, she reluctantly does, but stays at the fringe of the group. And this person does not contribute anything to discussions. If this person is pressed for a comment, this person says, in a very clipped, painstakingly polite voice, "It's okay," then his/her eyes wander off into some great void. He/She has nothing else to contribute to the proceedings. The tone of voice says it all.
2. This person wants to be given his/her job description and be left to do the job without interference from anyone, supervisor or colleagues. As long as he/she thinks he/she knows what to do, he/she wants to be left alone to do what he/she thinks needs to be done.
3. If this colleague is swamped with work that he/she is doing for the organisation and other colleagues volunteer to help, he/she refuses this help because the work is his/her job and he/she knows what he/she is doing.
This behaviour of this selfish colleague often frustrates other colleagues who cannot complete their work on a timely basis because the completion of their work depends on the completion of the work that the selfish colleague is doing.
4. If he/she is asked to work with a team, he/she is only concerned with the part of the work that he/she has to do, nothing else. He/She carefully does the part of the work that is assigned to him/her and leaves the rest to be done by those colleagues whose responsibility it is to do it. It doesn't matter that some colleagues may have been re-assigned to do tasks that have a direct bearing on the team's activity.
5. He/She doesn't hang out in the same areas in which his/her colleagues hang out. Instead, he/she creates space away from his/her colleagues to revel in his/her own company.
6. He/She likes to direct his/her colleagues in doing their jobs in the way that he/she sees fit, but he/she does not like to be given directions.
7. He/She hates to make mistakes in any aspect of his/her work, but he/she does make mistakes. He/She is not fun to be around when he/she makes mistakes. That is, if someone witnesses the mistake. He/She hates when anyone witnesses his/her mistakes and comments on them. As a result, instead of admitting that he/she has made a mistake he/she tries to fix it, sometimes unsuccessfully, a failure which puts him/her into a deeper funk than that caused by the original mistake.
8. He/She is a pro at ignoring those colleagues and/or clients who in his/her estimation have wronged him/her in some way.
9. He/she does not want to be seen as a slacker, so he/she wants to be directly involved in every aspect of the work in the department in which he/she works. And he/she wants to be told exactly what is going on there as every activity unfolds and exactly what he/she needs to do to assist. If he/she is bypassed, not because he/she is not competent, but because he/she is already engaged in some other activity, he/she feels slighted and until he/she gets over his/her feelings of hurt, he/she looks through the perceived offender whenever they meet. And, he/she finds other creative ways to ignore that offender.
10. Sometimes, this colleague is quite collegial. During these times, he/she likes to be the centre of attention while he/she shares on a wide range of topics that interest him/her. However, he/she, oftentimes, shows scant interest in the stories of others, unless they are ones which allow him/her to dispense his/her wisdom.
The selfish colleague is a challenge to work with, to associate with and to manage. Share your stories of your interactions with the selfish colleague below.
I am an Educator with many years of experience in the profession. I am also the author of two books, Investing in our success: A glimpse into our world and The Teacher's Gift. Look out for more titles as I am in the process of writing other books, exploring a myriad of issues in society. In addition, I blog about issues in education here and about the art of writing and my books in a sister blog. Feel free to follow me on Facebook by clicking on the icon at the top left corner of this page. I welcome your comments, so feel free to start a conversation by leaving your comments below.