Letting the Team Down

We all have good days and bad days, sick days and vibrant, healthy days. Some days we earn a “well done” and some days, we’re told we should do better.

Some jobs, however, don’t leave much room for humanness. Some jobs expect superhuman performance. When exceptional performance is the rule, a normal performance becomes a letdown.  And a perpetually undermanned, over-tasked, workforce will always be asking more of you. With increased responsibility, instead of the structure being at fault, it’s all on you. Bad days might be seen as lazy, selfish, and inconsiderate to the team.

Here’s how it goes. Let’s say you’re having a bad day. Your a bit slower than usual, but you are cautious to do your job correctly. Your boss approaches. He or she notes your slowness. “Come on, you’re letting the team down,” he or she says. And what can you tell them? You know you’re doing the best you can, but today, that’s not enough. It’s as though your work is insignificant, as though you’re not trying.

First of all, know that it’s not teamwork to put down someone down. The team shouldn’t be a force to fear. The team should be on your side; not just “out there” somewhere. Team doesn’t count like 1 + 1 + 1 + 1. Team is a multiplier where the players feed off of each others’ energies; it’s not a divisor which breaks down individuals at a distance. Teamwork is not the same as competition; it isn’t the same as being pushed forward by the anxiety of an external out-performing team.

Sometimes, all we can do is fight our battles, best we can. Perhaps, we’re supposed to work faster. Sometimes we can do it, but sometimes we can’t. No one should blame your sense of community for your lack of speed. If you’re working individually, then the theoretical team isn’t a factor, and the criticism is an addition to your bad day (not constructive). Sometimes you’d like to do more but you have to accept that you’re doing the best you can. Nobody is holding your hand to see what you’re dealing with, nobody is there to help you deal with it.

So believe in yourself, and don’t forget that you’re human. If people think that teamwork in concept will make you work faster everyday, they’re incorrectly using the term “teamwork.”

No kernel of knowledge can press my abilities beyond themselves. I’m forced to do the best I can do. Please forgive me if today that’s not good enough for you. Today, it just so happens that I’m fighting against even more than usual. You don’t have to see it, but I am glad (someone somewhere will be glad that) I did. Please let me do my job the best that I know how. Thank you.


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