The Corruption of True Teamwork

Is our society operating on corrupted versions of true teamwork?

Our global society works through teams and there are many situations in life where we need to be part of a team. Families may see themselves as a team; corporations call upon their employees to contribute to and do their part for the team; we value working together as a team and most of us will have experienced a sense of satisfaction whenever a team pulls together to address a crisis – such as in a widespread disaster – or to collaborate to produce something. This can be anything from a newsletter to a product to sales figures or, indeed, to any outcome.

Then there are the sporting teams that many of us affiliate with, sponsor and barrack for. This type of team highlights that there remains within many concepts of teamwork the reality of individualism and self-gain. In the sporting arena, we are adversarial with all teams other than our own and the aim of the game is to defeat all the other teams and secure personal glory for our own, often at any cost. The many recently publicised doping scandals, ball tampering scandals and other unscrupulous practices attest to this. This type of team indicates that our concept of teamwork is accompanied by a slightly larger version of ‘self,’ where self is extended to include those who support the same team to the rejection of those who don’t – at times to the point of denigration and violence.

Hence, our teams are based on competition and winning and the teamwork and cooperation that occurs does so only in the context of one’s own team. In other words, our teams are actually highly exclusive.

Nor is this exclusivity limited to sporting teams. In business, there is fierce competition to secure a large percentage of the market share for the products that each corporate team produces and there is huge competition among brands – even when the brands are produced by different arms of the one same parent company! Such rivalry can be often observed in siblings in the same family and there is even a body of psychological literature on this ubiquitous phenomenon, which ironically, is seen as normal (1). This belief-based normality is often encouraged and validated in schools, both by the allocating of children to differing sporting houses, by encouraging the participation in competitive sport both at school and then between schools, as well as by having academically competing teams in the classroom.

The latter phenomenon – working in groups or teams in class – is seen as a ‘good thing’ as children can share their expertise and knowledge with each other. However, teachers like myself often observe how there can still be an edge to these situations and that students still want to know which team effort was the best and whose information was right and whose was wrong. This reveals another aspect of what we have taken on as teamwork, namely a continuum of competence and value that extends from the best to the worst, with all shades in between the two extremes.

Is it possible that for some of us there is a comfort in allocating oneself a position on this line, even if one’s position is at the ‘lower’ end? After all, as the saying goes, we at least know where we stand. When it comes to teams (and groups), anything that differentiates and distinguishes us from other teams (groups), anything that individualises and identifies us, we’re there – in it up to our necks. These distinctions can take many forms, including income level, brand of car, footy team, type of school, where we like to holiday, all the way down to what we like to eat and when, the clothing that we wear and the country in which we live. There are ‘people like us,’ and then there are…. the rest, everyone else.

As I’ve witnessed in the profession of teaching – and many other social contexts – even the good or positive teams have the propensity to demonstrate the same qualities of the ‘all about me’ focus, equally as much as the more overtly competitive teams.

This brief set of observations reveals some of the characteristics we have accepted and normalised as being characteristics of a team: individualism, self-gain, adversarial nature, exclusivity, competition, rivalry, notions of right and wrong, the best and the least, winners and losers.

Looked at in this way, has our current model of team and teamwork been corrupted and so are we working with a model that is fundamentally flawed from the outset and hence must always be limiting in its scope and activity?

Is it time for us to begin the process of re-defining and conceptualising what is a true team and if so, what will be the foundational concepts?

Working from the notion that we often perceive the teams we literally identify with as an extended (or even inflated) version of our ‘self,’ could the very notion of self be a root flaw in the activity of the term ‘team’ so that if we have a team of individual selves, we do not truly have a team? Is there a deeper truth on offer within the phrase “There is no ‘i’ in team”?

One version of this phrase has historically indicated that the individual’s interests must be sacrificed for the sake of the team, often bringing a sense of doing the right thing and even overriding what one feels within themselves. There is a sense that many selves are suppressed in order that one individual attains a form of glory. This glory then becomes an aspirational goal for the multiple other selves under the belief that ‘every dog will have its day.’

However, there does exist a very real possibility of situations where one’s true self is naturally enhanced in the awareness that, energetically, there is an underlying One-ness to us all. This view requires a paradigm shift to acknowledging that everything that we do is felt by, and contributes to, the all that we are all a part of, as well as a huge connection with the true depth of our personal and collective responsibility to this whole. Saying yes to this level of awareness and responsibility connects us with the interdependence that exists well beyond any individual teams to profound levels of mutuality and Brotherhood and to vast reservoirs of respect and care not witnessed under the corrupted, historical paradigm.

Parenting is one such example of this. The current model locates us in isolated families where Mum and Dad parent their children, perhaps at times backed up by grandparents and other relatives. An alternative and considerably more expansive model of parenting offers how every adult who enters a child’s field of experience is potentially a parent to the child; that every adult is aware of this and brings the same level of care and responsibility as do the parents, in the knowing that everything they do or express reflects certain qualities to the child for good or ill. This awareness also extends to adults who never physically see the child but who construct or market products that the child will ultimately utilise or consume. If a company manufactures beds and another bedding, do each of those companies consider that the quality in which they manufacture their goods and services, the relationships among their staff, their motivation for business, ALL bring a reflection of quality to children who use what they sell or make? This makes for a very broad understanding of Team and the true responsibility that goes with this.

Additionally, this latter situation would place parents in the position of needing to discern the prevailing energy of products and services that they buy. Refusing to buy goods that have been manufactured on the basis of greed for example, are then revealed and wiser, more supportive choices become possible. In this way, our collective, broader team becomes wiser too, as we all start to call out energies like greed or self-gain, which are actually inimical to us all.

In the face of such awareness, one can most assuredly state that our current and historical models of team and teamwork are indeed corrupt insofar as they serve only the immediate self-interest of a narrow group, disregarding the whole of which we are part. Working with the whole serves all of us and opens us up to deeper aspects of ourselves that we have long since forgotten or ignored. These aspects actually support us to connect with our true Self, our Soul.

This awareness of our true ‘team’ – humanity – then invites a true and purposeful way of interacting in our more localised and personal smaller teams: it is no longer just about ‘me and mine’ but about the relationship of ‘me and mine’ to our global family. This can all occur with a relatively simple shift in awareness that the ‘I’ lives within an inextricably interdependent whole that it will one day surrender itself back into. Then what is required is to move in a loving and caring manner, knowing that our every movement reflects this quality to everyone else, giving them permission to do and be likewise. In this model, we are none of us a ‘dog’ waiting for ‘its day.’ Every day is our day and can be lived as a beautiful confirmation and expansion of the loving qualities that are part of us all.

The most challenging part of this process is perhaps, the honest admission that long ago we ditched this true model and way of being for a series of increasingly corrupt and dehumanising alternatives in order to entrench the reality of individualism. Now it falls to us all to reclaim these true ways of being from the corrupted versions we have all complicitly created.

By Coleen Hensey, BA (Hons), Grad. Dip.Ed

References:

  1. Melbourne Child Psychology & School Psychology Services, P. (2019). How to Reduce Sibling Rivalry. [online] Melbournechildpsychology.com.au. Available at: https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/how-to-reduce-sibling-rivalry/ [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018]

Related Reading:
Corporate Social Responsibility – How could our working world be?
Corruption at work – what is it?
Human nature and our schooling – examining the purpose of education

177 thoughts on “The Corruption of True Teamwork

  1. I’ve worked in a team that has no adversary borders only support for each member and the purpose of comig together for everyone’s benefit, both inside and outside of the group. Such team work has supported me to appreciate everyone’s contribution is a platform for the end result where nobody is left behind.

    1. I used to study drama at university and the joy in productions for me wasn’t in the performance and being seen but that everyone was working together with a common purpose. The relationships and trust that we built were gorgeous as we all depended on each other to do our jobs. With everyone pulling their weight and appreciating the contribution everyone else made, we created a foundation of team work that has stayed with me.

  2. Our desire to be seen as the best at something actually blocks good team work because when we strive to be “the best” we are in constant comparison with those around us and are therefore unable to see their potential and what they bring to the picture.

    1. Absolutely making it about us and how we ‘look’ or are perceived blocks true teamwork and seeing and truly supporting the bigger picture.

    2. One of the most joyful things for me is to appreciate what others bring, but this wouldn’t be possible unless I were secure in myself and appreciated what I bring also. With a foundation of self worth, there is no need to go into comparison and competition, there is simply appreciation. If anyone these days does trigger something in me where I may feel less, then to me that is a signpost that I need to work on whatever that something is.

      1. Very spot on Michelle – I like what you say about the joy of seeing what other people bring. When we are stuck in our drive, need or whatever you want to call it – to be the best, we ignore the gold from others, we cannot see their essence and truly connect with who they are.

      2. To me it is this appreciation of others that keeps the joy alive. There is nothing I love more than to meet new people and form connections simply because what they bring is so unique and special. The enrichment that is possible from this is gold.

  3. “Every day is our day and can be lived as a beautiful confirmation and expansion of the loving qualities that are part of us all.” I love this, and yes I can feel the truth of this in my own life.

  4. I love what you have shared here Coleen ‘This awareness of our true ‘team’ – humanity – then invites a true and purposeful way of interacting in our more localised and personal smaller teams: it is no longer just about ‘me and mine’ but about the relationship of ‘me and mine’ to our global family.’ What if every single one of us saw the team as being not just in a friendship, relationship, family or office but as you say globally and we worked in harmony all 7 billion of us. We have a long way to go for this to happen and it starts with ourselves first .. how are we living and how are we truly with others in each and every interaction.

  5. I love the idea of families working as teams. So often they are consumed with rivalry, quarrel, resentments and upsets. One family I know supports children from a young age to take responsibility for carrying out certain household tasks suited to their age. Increased awareness shows us that true families work purposefully as teams not for themselves alone, but for the One family we’re all part of.

    1. I love this Kehinde. There is a real joy in the pulling together for a common purpose that we can all relate to. When we see this in action we can’t be helped but be touched by it, but more enriching to be a part of it.

  6. I have been in so many well meaning teams where someone sabotages the meetings with their own agenda, I understand exactly what is happening here and how it all falls apart. It feels very different when people come together with true teamwork.

    1. Yes I’ve witnessed this too. We’ve been brought up to be competitive and vie for recognition; team work is an anathema to individual rule especially when it’s realised how much quality can come through a team that’s working in unison. That’s quite a bitter pill considering all the effort an individual puts into being an individual, so sabotage is a way of resisting this and refusing to accept the beauty of teamwork.

    2. We only have to look at the chaos in the UK government right now to see that personal agenda brings nothing to a situation but discord. Is it possible that in the halls of power everyone is beginning to feel this acutely? I know that I am. Whilst many may not be ready to ditch their personal investments in favour of something we can collectively work towards, they may be forced to observe the difference when we finally have to come together to resolve a very tricky situation.

  7. I used to prefer team sports when I was growing up to individual ones because of that working together element but honestly as much as I was good at it, I never liked the competitive side of things and that all that effort and working together was still to beat or defeat another group or team.

    1. Yes and I reckon sometimes we get a bit swayed by the ‘pulling together’ thing and perhaps see it through rose tinted glasses without always checking what it is we are ‘pulling together’ for or getting behind?

    2. Yep when we come together as a community no matter how big or small it really makes a difference to our wellbeing. A member of my family has recently just started going to a weekly club in the local community and loves it, I have really noticed how much this has lifted her its lovely to see.

  8. Remember, corruption is not something ‘out there’ but equally within all of us, if we so choose. How many of us are aware of the many and insidious ways we make ourselves less, indulge in comfort, while others face abuse, torture, threats? To take care of our individual self and immediate family and remain detached from the community of brothers we’re all equally part of is a loss of essence and truth. When we clean up our own act all of humanity benefits.

    1. We have all contributed to this corruption and any change starts with us being willing to examine this and make different choices in how we behave. This is then reflected to others and they are faced with a choice of how to respond.

  9. We’ve attempted to corrupt everything of true beauty and truth, we really have. The only saving grace is that the origin of everything that is borne from true beauty and truth can’t be altered in any way, we can’t even put the tiniest blemish on the outer layer.

    1. Connected to multi-dimensionality, we feel the beauty and glory that is our origins despite the corrupted nature of the world we live in.

  10. Working together with a group of people who are focused on the purpose of what everyone brings together is a delight for us all when there are no self agendas, simply true teamwork.

  11. I hadn’t considered teamwork on this level before but actually we are constantly contributing to something and knowing this brings more responsibility and accountability which is perhaps why we choose not to be aware of it.

  12. I’m realising I’m very aware of ‘teams’ after reading this – so which ‘teams’ I feel more at ease with and which ones I don’t because I’m not welcomed because I don’t have the status to be a part of particular teams. This could be social class, regions etc. It feels such a reduction of the support we can offer one another. It seems like only in extreme difficulties are we ready to come together.

  13. In truth, we are stronger together, but that means all of us not just a segregated few, or a selected few. Together means together, every single one. If it’s not this, then we are just fooling ourselves where team work is concerned.

    1. We all live on the same planet and on a natural level have to breathe the same air and drink the same water. We also catch the same communicable disease and get affected by loss, grief and so on. On an economic level we have to deal with the markets in Asia as they deal with ours, we depend on the oil found in oil fields in the Middle East or in America as they need our products and services. When something happens over there, we feel the consequences over here. We are all connected – perhaps it is time to accept this.

  14. The scale of societal corruption is vast, with every public and private institution polluted. To stand apart from the rot, with clarity, observing yet not be affected by it and modelling truth not lies, is vital if we are to offer an alternative way.

  15. True teamwork is about building a wider relationship rather than trying to outdo others whether they are on your ‘team’ or part of another group.

  16. “Hence, our teams are based on competition and winning and the teamwork and cooperation that occurs does so only in the context of one’s own team. In other words, our teams are actually highly exclusive”. The truth of the matter is that we are one swirling mass of particles. In truth there is no such thing as individuality or ‘others’, therefore any notion of ‘beating another’ can’t by it’s very nature be true because there are no ‘others’, there is only the One Us. Which also indicates that each and every time we perceive that we have ‘beaten another, be that a team or an individual, we have in fact acted in a way that has gone against our very nature.

  17. Important to start deconstructing the current societal models we have, as you have done so here Colleen. We are very comfortable with where we are, but we know that it isn’t working. If we can begin to break through as to why it is not working with a willingness to be honest, we can start to construct the truer model based on love for all, working for all, living for all and not from behind one’s castle walls with the drawbridge up blaming everyone else for the mess, excusing, justifying and pardoning ourselves as innocents caught up in the firing line of everyone else’s making.

    1. So true, how willing are we to be honest and admit that the way we have been living and viewing life has not been working. The moment we do that we can see the value in considering this truer model based on Love for all and working for all.

  18. This is so true how people are not working together in true team work. We only have to look at the politics going on in UK at the moment to see how the disunity, self gain and recognition causes turmoil.

    1. Yet it only needs just one person, a true leader to unify and make sense of it all. Jacinda Ardern in NZ is currently making waves. A woman, a natural leader, a heart, an authenticity, a genuine desire to lead for the people – not from self interest but from a social conscience that doesn’t tolerate abuse. She is carving her way through with these qualities and she is building unity and trust. What she is doing sends a message that it can be done. It won’t take much, just a call from the people to say enough is enough and leaders such as this will start to emerge. Supply and demand. If we want true team work we will build it. If we want to self gain at the expense of others, allow it to happen or dismiss it when it does we will continue in the turmoil.

  19. I was absolutely appalled recently to hear that a goalkeeper of a football team that is high up in The Premier League received a barrage of hate mail, including death threats because of a mistake that he made that cost his team an important game. There can be absolutely no sense of any real teamwork to begin with if we are able to threaten those within our own team with violence.

    1. How lost we are that we can no longer hide the complete and utter lovelessness that pervades every aspect of what we call society. The thin veil of illusion that we are a civilised race of beings is being exposed.

    2. Sadly I think it is very common for people in the public domain to be receiving death threats and this is not out of the ordinary, although it should be. We really need to be asking ourselves how we have sunk so low as to this kind of behaviour being so common (but was there ever a time on the planet where we were collectively living higher?). Zooming out to the whole of humanity – as one team on planet earth, we don’t just threaten each other with violence constantly, we act out this violence too. It has never made sense to me that we see ourselves as separate and yet we champion it, glorifying the so called different teams we have categorised ourselves in without ever once considering that as one race we would flourish so much better if we simply recognised that we are all equal and are of one humanity, supporting, appreciating, sharing and loving all as we go.

  20. A true team never pitches against another, but always just grows the team and holds an openness and a humbleness of its own magnitude and magnificence.

  21. This is a great blog to consider all the areas that we might be a part of teams and to explore how we are in them – do we give ourselves up to be a part of the ‘team’ or do we hold what we know to be true and bring that to the benefit of the whole team? Family, work, community groups, council, support groups, schools, sports teams etc etc. the list goes on…

    1. The craving to be part of something conflicts with our need to hang onto our individuality unless we connect to the wider purpose of working together.

  22. Sometimes being part of a ‘team’ offers a feeling of ‘belonging’ and not being alone. But it is wise to ask what you are actually wanting to feel ‘belonged’ to – for whilst we know that everything is energy, though something may portray itself as being a particular way, energetically it may be a part of something that we do not and did not ever energetically belong to. If we are here to return to a source that lies deep within, then that is the only ‘team’ we really belong to and hence that will in time reflect itself on the outside. But when we seek to belong from the outside first, then this is not what brings us back to our true team or back home, but is instead a distraction to the very thing we seek.

  23. We are a member of many teams as we move through life but it is only when we acknowledge the greater team that we are all part of and feel the responsibility to act in ways that are for the benefit of all rather than the narrow self interest that we have so often restricted ourselves to that we can start to expose the corruption of true teamwork and how it has affected us all.

  24. « There is no ‘i’ in team » this could almost let us believe that there is no self in team work when in fact it is the exact opposite should we consider the real purpose of that specific teamwork, the true outcome. Are we getting together for self or are we working for an outcome which is going to support us all’ including other teams?

  25. We think that because we are in a team it is social, connecting, more rewarding and better however if we are there for self gain and feel the need to win then how can this be true team work? Where there are losers it begs to question the true purpose of what team work actually is.

  26. To call out the corrupt nature of every aspect of societal life means we’re no longer controlled by it. To express our knowing openly where-ever we are, raises the consciousness for all.

  27. Coleen your great blog is really an eye opener about true teamwork and how we as a society has bastardies it. Now it is on each of us how we want to go on from here – oneness could be now one option again.

  28. Agreed there is much corruption in this world. From reading this I reflected on, do we really understand what teamwork means? My understanding of teamwork now is truly working together as one where there is a flow, harmony and unity and from being a student of the Way of the Livingness I deeply appreciate the moments in my life where I have this.

  29. If teams actually worked ‘as teams should’ then there would be so many benefits to being part of a team. We would learn about true brotherhood, about how to support one another in order to lift the entire team up so that the team could then support those outside of the team. We would learn about the dynamics of working within a group and strive to constantly improve those dynamics. Ultimately we can’t evolve alone and so it doesn’t really matter how we quantify the ‘team’ that we belong to, we are all none the less part of a team or perhaps it’s more accurate to say ‘teams within teams’.

  30. We’ve actually corrupted most things, teamwork is just one of them. We’ve corrupted the meaning of love, the meaning of family, the true meaning of purpose. We’ve corrupted the true meaning of education, of art and of service. In fact to list any more things would imply that the list is exhaustive when really it’s not. So it’s more accurate to simply say that we’ve corrupted the meaning of life. And we have.

  31. I have noticed this common competition thing in education and schools – it is promoted as a healthy thing and a healthy way to get kids to achieve but I have experienced it myself in my own schooling and I remember the reality was a lot of pressure, stress and anxiousness and also separation between me and my class mates due to the competition thing. It really was awful. And the kids who could not keep up with it all or who opted to not join in with the competition thing were branded as stupid, lazy or drop outs when really they were the smart ones!

  32. When I’ve been part of ‘teams’ in my life it’s been unavoidable and completely in my face just how much the team members (including myself) could not collaborate. We were just a bunch of individuals looking after ourselves. This blog is a great reminder that we need to look at these constructs we use in life and check whether they match up with what is actually lived.

  33. It is very obvious when people sometimes bring their own agenda to a team meeting, with a need to get that across rather than for the best outcome for the team. It is great to expose this, and bring back the understanding of true team work.

  34. Thank you Colleen. To expand our understanding of true team work from the multiplicity of teams that exist now, to one team, humanity, is inspired and offers a purposeful way to live.

  35. This is brilliant. So many great points being raised here. It is so true that we seem to often come together to separate from the rest to create an us-them divide, and we often operate under the perceived ideology of what is deemed as right, while in fact no one actually really wants to do that. It’s like when a group gets formed, regardless of its size, it could even be a couple, some kind of group consciousness, like a pack energy, gets birthed to take over and override what each of us has been holding as true, and what is unresolved in us on an individual basis gets magnified. There seems to be a massive lie about so-called teamwork that we champion. We might like to think that it’s a betterment on selfishness, but this sense of being part of a team feeds just as much identification and individuality, and actually even a bigger doses of righteousness.

    1. Yes a group or team might be working together but do we check what the group consciousness or intention of the team is and whether it is actually healthy?

    2. Great point that we carry our unresolved hurts into teamwork and this then gets in the way of true teamwork because we are not open to feeling what is needed when we are busy protecting ourselves from further hurts.

  36. “what is required is to move in a loving and caring manner, knowing that our every movement reflects this quality to everyone else, giving them permission to do and be likewise. In this model, we are none of us a ‘dog’ waiting for ‘its day.’” This is modelling a whole new way of living.

  37. Spot on Coleen, whenever or wherever there is competition and/or individualism within teamwork then it is no longer teamwork.

  38. Great to read this and reflect on the teams I’m involved with – is there corruption and where? Where is the true team work. Often we’re asked to work as a team but there is great resistance from the ‘self’ what’s in it for me, and only when it sees the benefits to itself or a select few, will it engage.

    1. Yep it is about getting ourselves and wants and needs out of the way and doing what is needed … something I am still learning.

  39. You only have to observe small children playing together to see what true team work is, but sadly it doesn’t take too long for this harmonious scenario to be tainted as they become influenced by the individualistic and often competitive behaviours of those around them. Children are the most astute observers of the adults in their lives, often adopting the behaviours they witness so they fit in or maybe get recognition and approval. And so the corruption begins.

    1. I love the analogy you have given here Ingrid. Young children offer much for us to learn from in terms of true team work – they do not take sides, they say things as they are, they hold an honesty that is refreshing and they do not take things personally. All ways that we can learn to take on board in our lives as adults.

  40. Yes, even if we are working as part of a team towards a common goal, if the goal is to better another group or better a part of the whole bigger ‘team’ of the human race is it not still destructive?

  41. Great article here Coleen that really examines everything we believe about teams and teamwork. I agree that teams can bring exclusivity and therefore separation between us as human beings.

  42. It is true that what we call team work is a pale shadow of the real thing, and in many ways the complete opposite, yet we do not discern the difference. If there is any competition then it cannot be the real thing, so say in a team sport, we may say and think that we are collaborating as a team competing with another team, but this is not true collaboration because it is held with the energy of competition, and so what will and does happen is that the competition spreads to within the team, fighting for a place in the team and or for recognition.

    1. Most versions of team work have an inward focus and are not all encompassing: This version is no different to our attachment to ‘self ‘or ‘individual’ Not until teams form to advance humanity, will we fully understand their true purpose.

    2. Where in any professional sport today can a team come together with the knowledge of what the others are being paid to do the same job? Which in most sports today, are obscene amounts.

      1. What they are paid is obscene but they are the modern day gladiators entertaining us in the colosseum. They may no longer fight to the death but they offer themselves up to be role models to keep us trapped in an existence where everything is for self.

  43. Where there is individualism and self gain there is no true team work; where there is a development of the relationship to self and a commitment to this relationship of letting go of individualism and self gain can we come together as one unified team that serves the all. It simply comes down to healing all that need for self gain and recognition in everything that we do.

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