The Lone Wolf vs The Team Player

Lone Wolf

In an organization, no two workers can ever be the same. Every person has a quality which is unique to them alone and has a great impact on the way they perform their duties and behave while on the job. Some may enjoy working as part of a team while there are times they would much rather do a task alone without the aid or assistance of others. The general belief of such workers is that the smaller, less intensive projects or tasks to be performed will be easy to do alone and will go smoother and finish faster with a lower completion time when the work is done alone. However, there are some workers who would rather work in a team rather on their own regardless of the complexity of a project or task.

The former case is called a lone wolf and is someone that works and exists independently rather than with others as a member of a team. They have a strong preference for independence and doing most things on their own. By contrast, the latter case is a team player who needs the interaction of others to assist their own personal performance. Such believe that “two minds are better than one”. The effective point of understanding which employee fits into which category helps an organization manage the nature of work to be assigned to them as it is an essential part of organizational behaviour to analyse where they naturally fall, and in some cases, might fit one employee fitting into more than one category. A lone wolf usually finds the need to feel comfortable fitting into different kinds of personality types attempting to be chameleon-like to achieve success as well as be incredibly self-sufficient. But, a team player needs the interaction, banter and support of others to help achieve and strive for more.

This skill within an organization lies in knowing when to act as a lone wolf or a team player and then acting upon it by finding the right team to help one achieve more or simply knuckle down on their own when one needs to. But one must take the initiative and create the best environment for their personality, and will thus be able to achieve so much more happiness and success. Employers usually want employees to collaborate enthusiastically and sacrifice their self-interests for the company’s success. This usually proves very beneficial as cooperation effectively improves the smooth flow of operation within the organization. As a result, employers and the management seek opportunities to create project groups.

However, they must understand that teamwork comes at a cost since the organization has to assemble the right mix of people and manage team dissension and keep the group motivated. While the author, Susan Cain in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking said the modern workplace is “designed by extroverts for extroverts” which is apparent in the corporate world’s love of cubicles, endless focus on collaboration, and acceptance of a meeting culture, one must understand that this works fine for the majority of people on most projects, but presents a real problem for those of us who are introverted, and as facts suggest nearly one third of the total work force in the world comprises introverts. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that this large number can’t collaborate or simply don’t like people, it does mean that just that they can be more productive and most energized when working alone, since, in theory, introverts derive their energy from time alone. So, Miss Cain truly did hit the nail on the head because today’s rat race has led to a work place wherein whether you’re an introvert or prefer to work alone for reasons purely related to productivity, you may find yourself frustrated by today’s corporate environment, where collaboration and teamwork are considered the only way.

Organizations must realize that possessing the drive to turn an idea into a thriving business doesn’t require teamwork as much as it demands commitment and perseverance. In fact, for most entrepreneurial businesses or young companies, it takes several years of hard work, or a few years of rapid growth to actually be able to employ dozens or even hundreds of people. Only once that happen must an organization’s management realize that teamwork should take centre stage where these hundreds must work in sync to produce results. To expect every employee to be able to work in this synchronized manner would disable the true potential of some of the lone wolves, making them feel uncomfortable and out of place.

Understanding the needs and personalities of such employees must also include attempting to adapt the work environment to bring the best out of them. However, this will also include assisting the individual to be able to adapt to working in a team so that they can fit in to the modern work environment. If the employee has to have solitary time to hit the true centre of productivity, the organization must attempt to schedule quiet time away from people for him/her to work on projects. One way could be to assign one day per week where he/she could work in solitude, thus learning to manage a balance which will provide an incredible boost to their work output.

Another way could be to build team trust. Simple speeches about working together cannot encourage cooperation. In fact, studies suggest that many employees have grown frustrated and cynical of bosses who constantly lecture about the importance of teams. The management needs to instil trust by creating an environment where everyone lends a helping hand. In this way collaborations can be created with ease, and with boundaries in the professional relationships such as interfaces and expectations. Thus, the employee will make his priority not about how the work interfaces with the project but how the worker interfaces with the rest of the team. This can be done by the management by carving out specific functions or projects for which one is made responsible based on their personality. Then they can integrate these back into the main project quickly and regularly which will only take a small amount of effort to communicate with the rest of the team. This will make the lone wolf a team player. This method is called “Matching jobs with expertise”. By breaking big projects into smaller functions and processes, each employee will be able to contribute to the team’s success.

For most employees in an organization, collaboration is an essential part of the work life. But for others it can be a difficult method to work. By implementing some of the suggestions and techniques described above, an employee can have the best of both worlds. Even a lone wolf can see his or her efforts compounded by a good team. One of the main characters has outstanding individual potential, but he finds that his real challenge is to integrate solidly with the team. Once the employee finds that his or her impact can be multiplied many times over when he learns to trust the others in his team and can contribute to something much larger than he could accomplish alone, as the poet, John Donne, said in Meditation XVII : “No man is an island entire of itself.”

– Contributed by Dylan Sharma

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