The Importance of Teamwork

“No man is an island.” -unknown

“There is no ‘I’ in team.” -unknown

“Two heads are better than one.” –unknown

These are some of the clichés used to justify the importance and benefit of teamwork. Coming from an individualistic country that to a certain extent glorifies social Darwinism and the idea that only the strong will survive, it is no surprise that teamwork is not my favorite thing to do. I don’t trust people when it comes to my grades. I prefer to rely on myself, work by myself, and be judged on my merit alone; however, when forced to work with others, I prefer to work with those whose skills/intellect/work ethic equal or surpass mine—that way, there is seemingly no weak link in the group.

In fact, in my undergraduate days, I had a class where we were graded as a group for every assignment. We even took tests together. I did not like this idea as I prefer my fate in numerical grading rests upon my own shoulders. I did not want to take the chance that someone’s misinterpretation or lack of understanding of a topic (which could easily happen to me as well) would negatively impact my grade. Nor did I want to be the person who negatively affected someone else’s grade. Also, I did not want someone who did not do their share of the work to reap the benefits of my hard work and dedication and reap the benefits just because he or she was riding my or other group members who took the project seriously coattails.

As far as I was concerned, this group project thing was not going to work that well but I was willing to give it a try only because there was an escape clause:

In class, we would take a test as a group. Then, we would take a test on the same material individually. This was done so the professor could see who was pulling their share of the weight and who was not. For example, if the group received 90 out of 100 on the group test, and one person received an 80 on their individual test, they would get the group grade because it was clear that the person studied and contributed to the group.  However, if one person received a 50 out of 100 on their individual test, then there was a clear hint that the group member did not contribute much to the group. In that case, they would get a deduction from the group grade.

This grading method also helped to see whether group synergy worked with the notion that as a group, with the different information, the grade would be better. In many cases, the group grade would be better than any individual test grades and many were fine with the group grade and saw the benefit of teamwork.

However, every test that I took in that class as an individual was higher than the groups. To my professor, this meant one of two things. Either I was not trying as hard with the group test or group synergy was not working as they were not listening to my answers to questions hence why the grade was lower. Honestly, while we were taking tests, I would try to tell the group what the correct answer was but someone else would swear they were right (and others agreed) so rather than fuss about it I just let them mark the wrong answer. However, many times, I did step in when I noticed that too many wrong answers were being given.

My standpoint was if they don’t listen, it doesn’t matter because I’ll take the test myself. I’ll get my own grade.

And that is what I did.

I met with my professor and she told me how she noticed I was the only one whose individual tests were consistently higher than the groups. I responded, I guess there is no “I” in team, but there is a “Me.” LOL


Those days are over as I have been forced to work in group projects where the group grade is the final grade and all my fears have resurfaced. I still don’t prefer group work and I still feel like the pressure rests on my shoulders (along with others who are seriously committed to getting the best grade possible) and I still feel that others who do less work benefit from my hard work, but that is a part of life.

In theory, group work has many advantages. In an ideal world, there would be less work per person as each person does their share. There would be more creativity as each member brings their own experiences, thoughts, and opinions to the group. And although each group would go through its patches of conflict, at the end, the final product would be better than any individual product.

I hope that is the case this time.

Thankfully, I’m not as selfish as I once was and I am learning to trust others to do their share of the work. It’s not easy for me, but I’m trying. However, whenever I am let down, it just reaffirms my internal belief that individualism works best for me.

What are your thoughts on teamwork?