Downsides of Refusing to Take One for the Team

May 15, 2017

Downsides of Refusing to Take One for the Team

In the previous post, YOU made your case for going to an important conference but were overruled by the boss. But YOU might feel that you didn’t fight hard enough. You might be right—more argument might make a difference. However, you could win the battle but lose the war.

Winning the battle but losing the war

As I have mentioned in other posts, the pressure to get along within a team can be overwhelming. And from the manager’s or company’s point of view, that’s a good thing. A harmonious work environment is pleasant and assumed to be optimally productive. (This isn’t always true, of course—see my post Getting Along Can Do You In).

But in order to create this harmony, everybody in the group has to implicitly agree not to rock the boat. Those who break that rule (like continuing to push going to a conference) are at least frowned upon, if not actively sanctioned.

“That’s not fair!” I can hear you say. “People should not be punished for sticking up for themselves.” Absolutely right. However, the desire for harmony trumps almost everything else in the work place.

What are the downsides of declining to take one for the team?

So what can continuing to fight to go to the conference get you? You can be seen as:

  • Self-serving. Of course, so are the others since they want to go also, but the one who keeps pushing is more likely to be viewed this way by colleagues and boss. I’m not saying it’s fair—just that it is.
  • Argumentative. This is where the need for harmony kicks in. Argumentative people are seen as difficult. The act of arguing, in and of itself, is seen as negative, even if the points themselves are valid.
  • Not a team player The big one. Those who won’t contribute to the team by taking one for it are—if not actively disliked—looked at in askance. Can I trust this guy to have my back?
  • Trouble-maker.
  • Less likely to be considered for future perks. Why would you give a perk to a self-serving, argumentative, troublemaking loner?

None of these may be true, but it really doesn’t matter. First, nobody will actually call you these out loud and second, perception is reality. If I think you’re a jerk even if you aren’t, I’m still gonna act as if you are.

So, I should never stick up for myself?

Of course not. When something is important to you, you need to keep pushing. You may want to try some of the tactics suggested in the next post to get what you want while still maintaining good relations.  But what’s important is not whether to keep pushing but how important the issue is to you. If it is a hill to die on, go for it. If it isn’t, then decide how far to push the issue and when to gracefully back down.

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