I am a senior software developer and I am a team player through large independent and individual contribution. Other than that, I largely hate it. I hate the small talk, I hate most people's sloppiness in their work, and I hate being expected to cover for them when we don't deliver on our weekly deliverables. If I am at fault, then the blame is mine and I will take it (and resign if required), but if someone else screwed up, I am not willing to take any of the criticism for them.

At my current level, I can get away with this. Work is tracked in our project management tool and each week, I always complete my sprint work on schedule and have it verified through QA. Most of the others do not. During retrospectives, I just say "I had a good sprint and got every ticket of mine done" and shut up after that and the project owner and my boss seem to get that I am not the problem when things aren't on schedule. I am the only dev in my group to not miss a sprint in the last year and focus their attention on them.

Letting my co-workers fail and making sure that I don't require help has been a solid strategy up until now.

However, I want to get to the level where I get to put people on the firing line and replace them with more competent ones. That requires a demonstration of people skills. I am a careerist, so I can put on a show at least temporarily.

What would be a good project I could undertake that would demonstrate being a team player in a very public way which would not require actually being one with too many people?

  • @ErnestFriedman-Hill what do you mean? – faketeamplay Jan 12 '20 at 15:29
  • @ErnestFriedman-Hill Machiavellian would be sabotage. I have never sabotaged anyone. – faketeamplay Jan 12 '20 at 15:30
  • @ErnestFriedman-Hill are you really that dedicated to being a team player? Seems extreme. – faketeamplay Jan 12 '20 at 15:33
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    What would be a good project I could undertake... This is the wrong question. It's both off topic (I agree with the current close vote, since it sounds like you're trying to get us to find you an existing project to join) and doesn't make sense as a strategy. Unless I've misunderstood, you want to demonstrate teamwork to get a promotion but not at your actual job. – BSMP Jan 12 '20 at 21:10
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    "How can I demonstrate that I'm a team player?" - It sounds like you're not. A better question might be "How can I be a better team player?" – Gamora Jan 15 '20 at 14:35

Best thing you could do would be to mentor someone in order to bring their skills up a level.

You would need to identify someone that was (a) under performing (not just in your view, but your managers view as well) (b) you believe has the ability and interest in doing better (c) you believe you would be able to help, and (d) would be willing to work with you. These are somewhat interrelated, but not the same thing, and if you miss any of them you’ll be worse off than you are now.

After identifying who you want to work with, see if you can convince your boss to let you do so.

Best scenario is your boss says yes, and you successfully help your co-worker improve, second best is your manager agrees that the person needs help, that you could successfully give it, but refuses because of organizational process or procedures. A failed attempt may be useful (at least you were willing to try), but if it fails for interpersonal reasons, you’d have been better off not trying.


The very fact that you want "to put people on the firing line" shows that you aren't a team player. Also, the fact that you say "I had a good sprint and got every ticket of mine done", but then don't say anything about helping others to finish the sprint also goes to show you aren't a team player. Then there's your statement of "I am not willing to take any of the criticism for them". Being a team player includes sometimes dealing with someone else's criticism and not pointing fingers all the time. "{...} would not require actually being one with too many people", but being a team player generally means dealing with more than just one or two other people. Being a team player usually means being able to work with pretty much anyone.

"Letting my co-workers fail and making sure that I don't require help" is a sure sign that you aren't a team player. Most likely, your managers already know this. They may put up with you because of your skill, speed, and other qualities that make for good work, but they may also realize that you aren't actually doing much to make sure your whole team and department are being successful.

Generally a sprint is for the whole team, not for individuals. If you aren't helping other's to complete the sprint, you might be part of the reason why it's not finished successfully.

From the sounds of it, the only way you can make a statement to your managers that you are a team player is to change nearly everything you do, to include more people in your sphere of influence in a positive way. Helping people, asking for help, talking to people, asking where you can do more, and generally being active in the team and trying to make it more cohesive. You'll have to do this for a considerable amount of time (probably years) and need to do it in a genuine way, otherwise it'll be easily spotted as fake. And a fake attempt at being a team player is almost a guaranteed way to do more damage than is already done as well as getting yourself in trouble.

There's no "quick and easy way" to prove you being a team player, unless your managers are as gullible and shallow as you unfortunately show yourself to be.

In a comment, you say "I have never sabotaged anyone." I'd have to disagree with that. You have sabotaged your team by not supporting them. You are trying to sabotage people by wanting "to put people on the firing line". You are sabotaging yourself by trying to fake your way into a position of power. From your statement of "At my current level, I can get away with this", it shows you already have some power, but you want even more power specifically to hurt people, which is rarely a good trait to have in a manager and definitely not a trait of a team player.

My best advice to you is to find a new job and learn from a more well defined team what being a team player actually is and let your current team recover from your toxic attitude. Most likely, they are under-performing because of you.

Whether you have issues with a co-worker or your boss, working in a toxic office setting is detrimental not only to your health and wellness, but your overall career. Or, you might even be that toxic coworker and not realize it.



In addition to the existing answer, suggesting mentoring one of your colleagues, here are two additional suggestions for showing teamwork:

  1. Try to take on more work in each sprint. If you are going for extended periods always completing your work for the current sprint, you may be under-committing relative to what you could do, even if you are doing as much as your colleagues.

  2. If you finish your work for a sprint far enough in advance, ask around and see if there is a way you can help someone who is running behind. Do not make a big thing of it, but if you do that consistently people will notice you are helping and it will enhance your teamwork reputation.

I am concerned that, in the long term, you may be setting yourself up for failure. It sounds from the question and your user name as though you want to get into a position for which teamwork and people skills are necessary by temporarily putting on a show. I hope that is not how you are really thinking. If you become a manager just to get hiring and firing power, without learning the skills needed for the job, you will be a terrible manager, a manager with unhappy subordinates busy polishing their resumes and advising their friends to stay away. You will do much better if you learn, one way or another, how to help people improve before doing so becomes part of your job.


The key point missing here is your vision of what it means to be in a leadership position is short-sighted. That's okay, many people who aren't in leadership positions don't inherently understand them. And, while you're receiving criticism for your intentions, it does seem like you have a reasonable goal: You want to be the boss of a high performing team. You should stick with that goal. But you need to rethink your road map of getting there.

You're basically proposing to get rid of under-performers and replace them with competent staff. On the surface, that's not inherently a bad plan, sometimes you do need to do that. But it can't be your only plan. Think of it this way: If every manager in every employer operated with that as their only tool to achieve the goal of a high performing team, professional development would totally cease. No individual contributors would grow. The job market's focus would narrow and become ultra competitive on only a small number of employees, and no one would actually be able to staff a full team. Even if you lucked out and hired all the good people left, you'd be stagnant. This method may work in a shortsighted way, but it won't work permanently.

Instead, as a leader, you need to have other strategies. Importantly, you need to be able to help a poor performer grow into a better performer. Leadership isn't always about sitting on the throne of judgement. Sometimes, it's about getting in the trenches and solving people's problems.

Good leaders who see an underperforming employee don't immediately ask, should I fire this person and replace them with something better? Instead, good leaders consider the following:

  • Why does this performance problem exist? What is the root cause? Often, performance problems exist because of bad process or other institutional root causes, not because an individual person lacks skills or makes mistakes. What can you do about the process to improve the person's work?
  • Have I, as a leader, planned and assigned this work appropriately? Have I created a mismatch between task and resource? Could I solve this problem simply by changing who works on what in the future?
  • Do my team members have the resources they need? Do they have the right technology? Do they have access to the right people in the business/client/end user/project team?
  • Are the tasks themselves reasonable? Are they clearly defined? Are there actually clear success criteria against which is it actually fair to measure performance?

Many of those questions will lead to work for you, as a leader, rather than focusing on "bad" employees. Maybe you need to work on process improvement, or resources, or relationships with other departments or stakeholders. Maybe you can make your whole team more effective all at once by solving some organizational problems, rather than by focusing on what you think a person on your team did wrong.

Only after you've asked yourself those sorts of questions do you get to,

  • Does this resource have the skills needed to do the job?
  • Are they motivated to do their best work?
  • Do they feel personally connected to their own outcomes?

And, even when you're asking these employee-directed questions, a bad answer is an opportunity to improve the employee before it is an opportunity to get rid of them. In other words, once you've ruled out all the non-employee factors, and you have decided it really is the person that's at fault, you can consider the following options:

  • Can I coach this person?
  • If I don't have the skills myself, can I have someone else on the team mentor them?
  • Do they need training?
  • Do they need reassignment to a different role?
  • Is this person aware of the situation, and interested in improving?
  • Could a conversation with this person lead to them coming up with some ideas on how they could improve?

This may all sound like a lot of work, but in many cases, it's less work (and expense) than turning over a position (costs of hiring, training, onboarding, and so on). Plus, since you mentioned that you are career oriented, consider that a leader who can actually solve organizational problems and help other staff grow is going to be more effective in senior leadership positions than one who simply fires people they don't like.

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