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Team player or problem? Do you work well with others?

Most often in FIFO or DIDO roles, you don’t get to choose your team mates.

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Most often in FIFO or DIDO roles, you don’t get to choose your team mates. You get assigned to a ‘swing’ and that’s the end of that. Even if you’re in a project-based role, you might have to work side by side with your team for six to 12 months before the project is complete and you’re reassigned to another project. Now, if you get along with your team mates, that’s great. But I’m sure you’ve all worked in a least one team where things just didn’t ‘gel’. Either the team didn’t perform to its targets, the manager wasn’t able to get everyone on-board with their ideas, or there was a ‘problem child’. Each of these could mean awkwardness, poor performance or even aggression in extreme cases.

Some things are inside our control, and some are not. I don’t encourage anyone trying to change things outside of their control. Quite simply, it’s a waste of time. But what is inside your control? You can’t change other people, but you can change the way you interact with them and how you perform as part of your team. Making small changes in these areas can quite often have a big impact on the situation and how the other person acts.

If you’re in a team where things aren’t quite going to plan, some of these ideas might help:

  • You might be working with people from different backgrounds, or from various parts of Australia or overseas with differing views, ideas and cultures. Often the first reaction is to steer clear of what we see as being different. Sometimes all it takes is to find something you have in common to really start changing the way you work together. What common ground do you have? Sport, family, a hobby like fishing, music, four-wheel driving, cooking – the list goes on? A simple question like “what keeps you busy when you’re not at work?” could be all it takes to get someone talking. Odds are, you’ll find something you have in common with most anyone – if you try.

  • If you’ve already tried to get to know someone, but it’s just not working, what then? You’ve still got to work with them, right? You don’t need to be friends with everyone you work with – sometimes a level of respect is all we can hope for.

  • What about the problem child – the teammate who causes no end of grief for you and your colleagues. I won’t get into the safety or technical side of things, because that’s a different matter. One thing to be careful of is letting a small issue turn into a huge problem, either because it isn’t dealt with quickly enough and has festered and blown out of all proportion, or the person now thinks that their behaviour is normal and acceptable. Providing feedback is the first point of call here. Now, that doesn’t mean saying something like “What do you think you’re doing, you idiot?!” (or other choice words) because that really doesn’t tell the other person what the issue is. Be specific and let them know what the problem is as soon as it arises. That way, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing an improvement. If you let things go for months and months, you’re not going to achieve the change you want.

  • When we’re working in a team environment, the way we act (to a certain extent) is driven by the reactions of other people. Are they encouraging or discouraging of what we’re doing? These reactions are largely unspoken, of course, and often very subtle. So, following this idea, if you don’t tell someone they’re doing the wrong thing, or behaving/talking in an unacceptable manner … and they don’t pick up on the subtle cues from the team, what’s going to happen? The person isn’t going to change. And they’re going to think their behaviour is normal and acceptable (even if you think it’s clearly not). Again, giving feedback soon after the issue arises will raise the person’s awareness of the problem. This will either lead to changed behaviour, or it will give you a signal that you need to take the matter further. (Hopefully, it’s the former!)

If you’ve tried everything you can think of and you’re still not getting anywhere, have a chat to your manager or superintendent, or even your HR department.

Happy team working!

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