Konubinix' opinionated web of thoughts

Should I Be a Team Player or a Goal Player?


Coopération is one of my values.

When I am in a team, I try my best to have collaborative decisions and make sure we understand each other to reach our common goal together. To me, in the end, the team reaches the goal, not the individuals, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Using an analogy about collective ball sports: If I believe that keeping the ball can make us win, should I keep it or still pass it to my team mate like we agreed?

Teams are often composed of roles in which people are more legitimate to take certain decisions.

Yet, it sometimes happens that we disagree on what should be done with regards to our common goal. Sometimes, It even feels like the person with the legitimate role does not take the appropriate decision.

I assume here that the matter was discussed in length and that people still did not reach a consensus. I assume therefore that it is not by lack of communication that the issue remains.

In such situation, what would mean doing my best? How far should I follow the plan of my team even when it sounds stupid to me?

what is the problem?

There are at least to contradictory horizons of focus at stake:

  1. rationality (meaning the coherence between the action and the common goal)
  2. being a team player,

Being a team player implies that I should sometimes disagree and commit, even when my gut feeling tells me it has had a bad idea. On the other hand, I might want to move towards the common goal anyway, thinking that when seeing the outcome, the disagreeing team mates will be forced to acknowledge how good the decision was.

The latter argument is actually a logical fallacy: one positive result does not prove the decision was good and we shall evaluate the bet, not the outcome. But that does not prevent me to have the intuition I should do it anyway.

So here is the dilemma: letting go of the team decision or letting go of the decision that I believe is the good one?

I should be a team player

Epistemic modesty tells me that I might be wrong believing I am right against the team decision. I may just not have seen what compromise was at stake after all from the team perspective. When the decision comes from a legitimate role, aside from the lack of common ground to discuss, I feel like disregarding per’s decision would mean a lack of trust in doing per’s role.

Also, taking the initiative of not following the team’s decision leads to the super hero antipattern, that does not work in the long run.

For that reasons, I think I should rather follow the team’s decision.

I should try to avoid being right for the wrong reasons

Letting go of the believed good decision is not easy if you feel invested in the common goal. This leads to cognitive dissonance between “I should move towards the common goal” and “I believe this decision does not move toward the common goal”. This can lead to minimization in which I just let go of the common goal as well.

In that case, I would do the right thing, but will fall into the feeling good bias.

I need to remember to do my best and accept that sometimes the good decision is not the one I wish it would be.

I should try to disagree and commit

and apply the idea of the team with the most charitable interpretation and try to find the balance between applying stupidly the decision and applying the decision against my will the best I can. Finding this balance is maybe the most difficult part of this dilemma.

I should try to change the system if I feel like it needs to be changed

Sometimes, the “bad” decision is issued by a sole person, legitimate according to per role. In that case, other team players might say that the person(s) taking the decision is(are) not legitimate after all or don’t know what they are talking about.

Even when I share this thought, this is no reason to deny the role of the person. It is a good reason thought to make this disagreement transparent and eventually try to change the game instead of overlooking the player.

If you do disrespect per’s decision, you might accept as well that at some point one will disrespect yours for the same reasons.

also, see Socrate : la dernière interview.

try to adopt another consensus

If you feel that the decision was taken by the wrong people or needed more debates, you likely want your team to simply change its way of making decisions.

I should try to discuss the common goal

Maybe we don’t share the same ideas because we diverge on what is to be done. Sharing a common vision might be a good thing to avoid having different ideas.

use decision hygiene

May it is communication issue, or maybe no one actually has a clear idea how good or bad the decision is.

It can be useful here to trigger a Mediating Assessments Protocol, to delay our intuition and let more for system 2 thinking.

learn from this situation

In any case, this is the sign that there is no obviously right decision. This means that future outcomes will bring meaningful insights. They won’t validate or invalidate the decision, but they will help educate our system 1 and update our prior.

To do so, this decision needs to

  1. be written down explicitly, like in a decision record,
  2. be reviewed regularly, to find out how the futures event are linked to that decision,

Somehow, writing the decision down also tend to smooth one’s emotion about it and helps accepting it.

Notes linking here