Being part of a team is unavoidable for most people in business. Team working is considered a key management skill and no-one who had their career in mind and wanted to progress within an organisation would openly admit to not having the best interests of their team at heart.
However, the reality is that some people do more damage to the team that they are a part of than if they were not there. Often this is sub-conscious, but sometimes the individual concerned is aware of what they are doing.
Why would someone who is part of a team not want what is best for the team? More often than not the clue to their attitude can be found in the question 'why should I?'
In some cases this attitude comes from lack of or a loss of motivation. If motivation does not exist, or if it has been worn down by events over a period of time, a person can be left with a feeling of exhaustion. They may feel that they have no more to give, or that they do not believe enough in what they are being asked to do to dig deep and make extra effort.
If this is the case then the whole team will need to take some time away from the task to discuss frankly the job they are doing, what is important and why that is. They will need to refresh their attitude towards their work.
Lack of motivation can come from lack of reward in low paid jobs, but money is often not the cause. People need to believe that the job they are doing has a point, and the more important this point is perceived as being the higher generally the motivation. A good leader needs to capture the essence of the task in a compelling and convincing way. High performing teams do not so much do a job as promote a cause.
This cause can be customer service expressed in an emotive way, for example a company selling chairs may promote the idea that their purpose is to make their customers comfortable. A good armchair can improve a person's quality of life; as an idea that is much more compelling than simply selling chairs.
Sabotaging the team may not be connected with motivation or the reality of what is actually happening. Some people simply cannot give of themselves to a common cause. They purposefully hold back on the contribution that they make believing that the team does not deserve any more than the most perfunctory contribution from them.
'Why should I? What's in it for me? They get more than enough from me' are the sort of things going through this sort of person's mind. This is not an easy situation to deal with for a manager, even if it is fairly easy to identify. The reason it is easy to identify is that you, as that person's manager, will be aware of it and so will that person's team mates.
Someone behaving in their way can have a very demoralising effect on the rest of the team and because of this it needs to be dealt with quickly and firmly. The behaviour needs to be identified and the individual in question needs to be told to improve and managed very closely. If the situation does not improve they may need to face disciplinary action and ultimately moved out of the team. It is a very serious problem and it needs dealing with in a firm way.
A team is a group of people working together towards a common goal. A group of people is not necessarily a team and in order to make them into a team it is essential to bring them together and make sure that they are all pulling in the same direction. That is the team leader's job, and it's a job that is best not left until tomorrow.