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How to keep your “I” in team

Imagine, for a second, that you are an employer with multiple offices across the country, employing some 200 people of various skill levels. You’ve just signed a long-term lease agreement for a newly built office park and moved your head office there; and then within the next six months, 45% of your head office staff complement resigns.

That is not some elaborate account of an experience of a friend or of a friend’s aunt; it’s first-hand knowledge. This company was left having to fill four middle management positions two months after the move; one month later a department head left, followed by multiple other junior level skilled staff members.

When you speak to any of these ex-employees they will all give some variant of the same reason for leaving – company culture. Company or organisational culture is defined as “values and behaviours that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation”.

But we’re a team

a team building a puzzle

Many employers believe that throwing a generic team building day at the company twice a year and occasionally facilitating drinks after work to celebrate a birthday or important contract equates to a happy staff complement. These same employers are then left dumbfounded by situations such as the one described above: “Why is everyone leaving?”

Employers, here’s 5 ways to get (and keep) the best talent

While the ability to work in a team and achieve set goals together is a vital part of a successful career in just about any path, the fact remains that the team is made up of a bunch of “I’s”. Attempts to suppress the needs and wants of these “I’s” will only result in high staff turnover and dissatisfied employees.

If you are working for a company where you feel unhappy with the team culture it is easy to point fingers at top management with accusations of bad management and unimaginative philosophies, but it works both ways; you need to speak up.

Power to the “I”

Celebrating with air punch

While a good employer will be aware of the fact that each employee is different, and needs unique perks to feel motivated, a lot can be said for the employee who actually speaks up and asks for what they need. Here’s five ways you can keep your “I” in team.

#1 Get involved – usually social events or perks are not magically managed and organised by themselves. There’s a team of employees working on this so if you are unhappy with how events are planned or perks are structured get involved. If you are an introvert who does not enjoy forced interactions in the form of after-work drinks, suggest social events you think more people might enjoy such as a book club or cooking class.

#2 Ask for what you need – if working flexi hours or from home will make your life easier talk about it. It really is that simple. Negotiating for what you need to achieve ultimate job satisfaction should not be seen as anything but a priority and a good employer should be willing to negotiate to retain quality employees.

#3 Know when to compromise – if you are shown to be willing to “take one for the team” whether in work or social gatherings you are far more likely to have some bargaining power when it comes to asking for what you want. Need a day a week working from home? Attend the next social gathering and do the trip no one else can do. This will place you in the position of asking for that Wednesday at home.

Top tip: While a Wednesday spent working from home will give you some perks such as being able to spend a little more time with your kids or working in your lounge pants, it is important to word your request to show the benefits for the company. Highlight the fact that you want to use the time writing proposals or reports and will manage this much better uninterrupted in your home office as opposed to your open-plan desk at work.

#4 Get your head in the game – it will sound clichéd, but if you are looking for reasons to be unhappy nothing will make you happy. If you really are dissatisfied with the company and organisational culture it is time to look for something else. On the other hand, remember that nobody likes a negative Nelly. Do a hard evaluation, looking at all the benefits as well as the things you don’t like and, if you realise that it’s not all that bad, change your attitude. Get excited and revved up to be there and achieve. Create the culture you want within yourself. Positivity is infectious.

#5 Be a team player – Once you’ve asked for what you need to up your job satisfaction it is time to take a look at yourself and evaluate what you can do to up your colleagues’ happiness. Phrases that comes to mind are “Take the blame and give credit” and “What comes around, goes around”. If you work well in your designated team those people will learn to trust and appreciate you and have your back at work.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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