Too Much Teamwork Is Terrible


Work in an office that isn’t just you and you alone? Feel like you spend far too much time working in teams and far too little time getting your own work done? You are not alone. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review found that in the past 20 years, “collaborative activities” have increased 50%.

For some of us, that sounds bad enough on its face, but the real problem, HBR found, was that all the teamwork leaves you little or no time to actually, you know, work.

How much time do people spend in meetings, on the phone, and responding to e-mails? At many companies the proportion hovers around 80%, leaving employees little time for all the critical work they must complete on their own. Performance suffers as they are buried under an avalanche of requests for input or advice, access to resources, or attendance at a meeting. They take assignments home, and soon, according to a large body of evidence on stress, burnout and turnover become real risks.

The study also found that female employees bear far more of this burden, in large part thanks to traditional gender stereotypes: since women are “communal and caring” they are more expected to mentor and train junior colleagues and help other people with their workloads.

Perhaps worst of all, the study confirmed what you always suspected to be true: being available for the most teamwork does not necessarily mean that your employer sees you as the top employee.

We typically see an overlap of only about 50% between the top collaborative contributors in an organization and those employees deemed to be the top performers. […] But we also find that roughly 20% of organizational “stars” don’t help; they hit their numbers (and earn kudos for it) but don’t amplify the success of their colleagues. In these cases […] leaders are hoping for A (collaboration) while rewarding B (individual achievement).

Ban teamwork. Or at least reduce it drastically.

Featured image: “comical teamwork when it goes wrong sign isolated on white background” from Shutterstock.


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