There is an “I” in team

Cara Szellemes
5 min readMar 17, 2021
There is an “I” in Team

We’ve all heard the saying “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” But is supporting employees in their individual pursuits really anti-team?

Evidence suggests otherwise. In the 1990s the Harvard Business School did research that demonstrated the benefits of giving employees paid time to follow their own individual pursuits. Since then, some notable companies have introduced unstructured time into their workplaces: Atlassian, Google and Intuit to name a few.

However, the concept of unstructured time is still a radical idea for most corporations. Talking about achieving personal goals can be like saying Voldemort’s name out loud in the context of team-building and workplace culture.

Let’s have a look at why

In typical workplace culture, being a team player is highly valued. When you look at language around individuals and individual pursuits and ambitions, being focused on individual goals and pursuits can occur as self-indulgent, self-centred and un-team-like. Have you ever noticed that team players are favoured and admired and anyone not seen to be a team player is considered a “maverick,” a “loose cannon” or an independent rebel…. Or just plain selfish?

I get why that view exists. However, I would assert that putting the ‘I’ back into team is essential to workplace productivity, employee engagement and growth.

Here’s why.

Putting the ‘I’ back into team is essential to workplace productivity, employee engagement and growth.

What we’re currently doing isn’t working

Globally, 85% of employees are disengaged in their work. How corporates typically respond to a lack of employee engagement is to develop a rewards system. Dangle a carrot and that’ll be enough to retain good workers, right? Send out an employee engagement survey and your employees will feel heard. Sure.

But studies show engagement is getting worse, not better. Workplace absenteeism and presenteeism are at all-time highs. Workplace wellbeing has also been greatly affected by Covid19. If these stats are going to change, a different approach is needed.

The benefits of supporting individual pursuits

Cara Szellemes

Amazon №1 Bestselling author of Your Brilliant Un-Career, Web2 and Web3 Content Strategist, Founder of 180Selfcare and Your Story Bank.