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Suppress your staff’s selfish side

Lead workers to put the team first

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Lisa manages 10 customer service representatives. She likes their dedication, but she notices that they vie for her attention and bad-mouth each other in private. She’s especially concerned that they don’t share information about customers’ inquiries with their teammates; instead, they insist on coming to her individually to report on the feedback they’re getting from the field.

Because Lisa’s employees are so protective of their turf, they’re reluctant to work together. They believe in making themselves look good at the expense of their co-workers. That leads them to behave selfishly, whether they’re hiding key data from team members or failing to warn colleagues when they unwittingly violate company policy.

If you’re managing a group of workers who approach every task with an I-come-first attitude, then you’ve got trouble. Their selfishness may translate into less collaboration and more feuding and fighting for credit.

Apply these strategies to suppress their selfish sides and encourage them to make personal sacrifices for the greater good of the team:

Set an example. Model the kind of behavior you seek. Spread credit around in a vocal, visible manner. For instance, if your region is recognized at a company award banquet for producing the highest sales, let members of your crew accept the honors. Also, beware of keeping secrets from certain employees or blatantly playing favorites.

Reward cooperation, not competition. Examine your incentive pay program and other recognition systems. Do you reward individuals for outperforming their co-workers? If so, try a different approach that encourages cooperation. Example: Give bonuses to entire teams that exceed certain goals.

Praise selfless acts. Don’t assume that employees will automatically “take a bullet” to enhance the team’s success. Let’s be honest: Many employees care more about themselves than any team. They’re looking out for their own interests and safeguarding what’s theirs. Still, you can chip away at this mind-set by lavishing praise on individuals who put themselves second and make sacrifices for the good of the unit. Example: When a worker repeatedly works late (without overtime pay) to help a colleague who’s ill, make sure the entire team knows how much you admire such a selfless act. Give this individual a small reward or call the person’s spouse to say how much you appreciate the worker’s classy behavior.

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