toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

December 18, 2006

replaceable teamwork cogs

In her new workplace, Janice's greatest woe is excessive teamwork where nobody is indispensable and everybody is required to be able to do everybody else's work.

"I couldn't believe that I had no work that I could claim as my own," says Janice, "but job rotation or whatever they call it seems to be the new big thing in workplaces these days and as such it's pointless moaning about it or trying to find a position where I can have total control over what I do."

"Women who really hate the teamwork principle should start their own business - if they can - or change their attitude," advises Janice. "The rise of rotating teamwork and the fall of 'individuality ' seems to be a plain fact of working life these days."

"It has always been part of certain occupations - particularly the military - but now that management gurus have adopted it as the perfect way to run a commercial organization I suppose it is difficult to find a company that does not run on teamwork principles."

"While teamwork is absolutely necessary in occupations that require relying on another person for your life, such as space exploration," says Janice, "I am not so sure that it is the perfect way to run a commercial organization - but that's the way things are and I am coping with it as best I can."

"The theory behind teamwork - as applied to organizations - is that nobody is indispensable," explains Janice. "We are all cogs in a machine, and as such we are replaceable."

"Being considered replaceable means that we are unlikely to be given an area of work over which we have total control. No work will be identifiably ours."

"The advantage for management in having an organization run on these principles is clear," adds Janice. "If one person needs to be dropped from the team, the others can take over the workload."

Janice sees the whole purpose of teamwork as an attempt to take control away from individuals.

"You are expected to be versatile, capable of filling-in for anybody in your team," says Janice. "Decisions are made by team consultation, and tasks are rotated in order to ensure that nobody 'hogs' any particular job."

"With high staff turnover in workplaces it is vital that the show continues without interruption - and teamwork is how management ensures that the show does go on, with or without you."

"The disadvantage for management in having an organization run on excessive teamwork -- like the place I'm working in," says Janice, "is that very little gets done and what does get done is often shoddy. Nobody takes personal responsibility for anything they do. The old adage 'too many cooks spoil the broth' applies tenfold."

"I believe that when staff members do not have work that is identifiably theirs for which they are totally responsible they are not committed to the job, they are not interested in doing a good job and they will dump work on others without caring."

"Sure, working in a teamwork environment means that you get to pick up a lot of skills," says Janice. "This is a decided plus in an age where jobs might only last a very short time. The more skills you have, the more employable you become."

"If you are naturally versatile, like I am, then you will enjoy multiple tasks. If you aren't - and you are slow at learning new skills - then you will find it very difficult to fit in with a team."

With decisions being made by team consultation, Janice warns that you will find yourself attending a never-ending sessions of meetings, at the end of which nobody is really sure what the outcome was.

"If you are a go-getter, like I am," says Janice, "teamwork has the disadvantage in that it holds me back. It slows me down."

"Also, if you have a brilliant idea, and it is put into practice, you will not get credit for it. It is a team effort, remember?"

"Funnily enough, though," adds Janice, "when a mistake is found it is always sheeted home to one person - usually the fall guy in the team - whether or not he or she made the mistake."

"With teamwork there will always be one or more person who slacks, and there will always be one or more person who does twice as much as anybody else," sighs Janice. "And that person always seems to be me because I am a fast worker and believe in putting in a day's work for a day's pay."

Janice is convinced that most people are temperamentally unsuited for teamwork.

"Some people work better alone, some people enjoy doing their own work within a team structure and some people need the group dynamics to get them in a mood for work," explains Janice.

"It defies logic why a management system that suits only a small percentage of individuals is now in vogue in just about every organization worldwide," laughs Janice, "but since businesses are run to make a profit - not to suit the temperament of workers then I accept that it makes sense."

"Our task is to cope as best we can with a system of working together that may not come naturally to us," says Janice, "and if workplaces are becoming a nest of vipers, gossips, back-stabbers and slackers then we only have the misguided philosophy of teamwork to thank for this."

"While I appreciate that 21st century management prefers short-term employment contracts and favors staff that are versatile, highly skilled in many areas and totally replaceable," sighs Janice, "I still believe that there is nothing to compare with dedicated people doing one particular job that is identifiably theirs."

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