Agreeableness May Be the Secret to Employing a Team Player
When hiring a future employee, what should someone look for? Some might say motivation, achievement, leadership skills, or responsibility. While these all might be true, they may not be enough to contribute to a team environment. Organizations today are utilizing teams in order to reap several benefits. Group projects can foster creative ideas, different perspectives, and an increase of interpersonal relations among colleagues (Levi, 2014). So what makes a good team player? Is it someone who will sit idle and flow with the group’s decisions? Is it a person who is open to brain-storming others’ ideas? Perhaps there is no single answer to this question. Generally, employers look for someone who they believe will contribute to the group, meet deadlines, and help create a helpful atmosphere for others to work in.
While there are several benefits to group projects, not everyone is as thrilled by the idea. When co-workers are told they will be working in a group you often hear a couple moans or sighs of relief. The moans typically come from the people who believe they will be doing all the work and pulling others’ weight, while the sighs of relief are from the people who think they are about to have a week of vacation. From personal experience when I was told I would be assigned to a group project I was fretful of all the work I was about to take on in order to cover someone else’s “slack”. For the longest time I believed group projects were not worth the time or effort. However, when I was assigned to a group where everyone put in their best work, the end result was even better than something I could have done alone. This got me thinking, “Is there such a thing as a good team player - someone who will help generate ideas, do their work, and increase prosocial behavior?”
Past research says yes! There is such a thing as a good team player, it is just challenging to define. A common avenue to look into team player characteristics is to examine one’s personality traits. One key personality trait evident in most team players is a strong sense of agreeableness. Agreeableness has been described as “kindness, trust, and warmth versus selfishness, distrust, and hostility” (Driskell, Salas, Goodwin, & O’Shea, 2006, pg. 255). Those who are more agreeable are likely to work better with others, and therefore to be a great contributor to a team. Agreeableness consists of two main components: trust and cooperation.
The trust component of agreeableness is about believing that others are honest; trusting individuals do not doubt the intentions and motives of those around them. If people generally “see the good in others” they are more likely to work cooperatively with people. However, this trust in others does not necessarily mean they are gullible; they believe in those around them until one’s actions prove otherwise. High trust should lead to greater cooperation, greater effort towards the group task, and better helping behaviors (Dirks, 1999). Trusting individuals are more likely to seek and receive feedback, resolve conflicts, and communicate openly. To sum it up, they are easy to work with.
The cooperative component of agreeableness is about engaging in prosocial behavior, meaning trying to maximize outcomes both for themselves and for those around them. Cooperative people tend to be more collectivistic rather than individualistic—they will place the demands of the group before personal desire. This can really help bring a group together to work towards a common goal. This type of person does not want to put stress on the group, so they will do their part and help others as well.
Next time you’re looking to hire a team player, you should be on the lookout for agreeableness. Agreeable employees are trusting and cooperative, making for a great addition to any team.
Dirks, K. T. (1999). The effects of interpersonal trust on work group performance. Journal of
Applied Psychology, 84, 445–455.
Driskell, J. E., Salas, E., Goodwin, G. F., & O’Shea, P. G. (2006). What makes a good team
player? Personality and team effectiveness. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 10, 249-271.
Levi, D. (2014). Group dynamics for teams. Los Angeles, CA, SAGE Publications, Inc.