Why Teamwork Doesn’t Work – And Math to Prove It

You’ve seen it recently on help wanted ads:

  • Be a team player.
  • Able to work well in a team environment as well as alone.
  • Work in an exciting, vibrant, dynamic team environment.

Being a team player seems nice: You work with others with a similar interest, and the team effort should get more done, collectively.

The truth is less gets done with more people working toward the same goal. I’m not talking about major government projects. I’m mean small tasks. For example, let’s look at a team of 10 salesmen.

Danger #1: A team member’s productivity is measured by dividing 1 by the number of team members.

Team members are supposed to do their part: a little of this, a little of that, and with everyone contributing, the work will get done. But, this is where the problem arises.

When each team member thinks the others will pick up the slack, they will give less than 100% effort to complete the task.

The first equation:

1 / X = Productivity

… where X is the number of team members. In our case, we have 10, so:

1 / 10 = 0.1, or 10%

If each employee did give 100%, that would be great, and would be equal to 100 team members. Except, it breaks the point of a team: to work together and rely and support one another.

If the remaining 9 team members are contributing 10%, you’re paying them 100% of their wages for 10% of the work. Makes you wonder why you pay these people in the first place.

Danger #2: Motivation is crippled because no matter the effort, everyone gets an equal share of the prize.

In a competitive scenario, there would be no teams; each for their own. In the Olympics there are more events with individuals than teams. When an individual has to do the task themselves, they are far more motivated because they will get more of the reward.

When the athlete goes for the gold, and achieves it, they get the medal. When a team goes for the gold, in the Olympics, they each get a gold medal. Except, this is work. In work, a team member won’t be motivated to do their best because they aren’t going to get the greater amount of the reward. So, they only give as little effort as necessary, or 10%.

Consider the following equation with a one-million dollar contract:

$1,000,000 / 10 = $100,000 X 0.1 = $10,000

The team member who scored the contract is told that out of $1,000,000, his effort is valued at $10,000.00, not including expenses and wages deducted.

This is terrible motivation, but it gets worse. When you calculate expenses, the weeks and months spent talking, dining, wining, and schmoozing, we bring up, to say, $5,000 in expenses (including wages).

$10,000 – $5,000 = $5,000

The team member did the work himself. But, because he was a team member, he can’t claim all that reward. It’s wiped away – whoosh! – gone into the void. But, things change when the employee isn’t part of a team:

$1,000,000 X (1 employee x 100% effort) = $1,000,000

If your employee’s efforts are worth $1,000,000, then they should be given an equal amount. When the employee is a team member, their value is brought down to 0.05%, or $5,000. However, take them out of the team, and their value goes to $50,000!

However, because they are a team member, their work is valued at $5,000 / $1,00,000. Go figure why team members are unmotivated to perform their best.

Danger #3: When mistakes happen, you’re no longer a team member.

This one is a curveball that employers like a lot: When a cog in the wheel is loose, it needs to be fixed. The team member is pulled aside and, for a moment, becomes an individual. Employers do this because they know, as a team, you have strength and support; as an individual, you have fear and weakness. So, they punish you as an individual.

But wait, aren’t you supposed to be part of a team? Yes, you are, but not when you screw up. When you screw up, you’re an individual!

This is an insane way of treating employees, and again, one asks how team members are supposed to be motivated to do their best. They’re confused on who is responsible: when everyone achieves, it’s a team effort, but when someone goes wrong, it’s no longer a team effort? Somehow, this doesn’t make sense.

The equation is like this to the boss:

100% responsibility = 10% of the team members (or 1 team member).

Except, if this were a true team environment, it would be like this:

100% responsibility / 10 = 10% for each team member

But bosses don’t see it that way. They want to support the feel-good giddy idea of a team environment. However, when something goes wrong, they’re more than willing to thrust down the hammer on an individual.

All the responsibility falls on one employee, and it’s not the team leader, or the boss: it’s the individual who, suddenly, when they need the help the most, is torn from the pack and beaten to fall in line. I remember a country that did this back in the 1930s, except, I couldn’t understand them because I don’t speak German.

Danger #4: The boss’s share prevents team members from giving 100%.

When a team member decides to give 100% effort, they should be rewarded with 100% of the commission that would normally be shared amongst the team.

But, that’s not the way it goes. In a team environment, no matter how much work a team member gives, each member receives and equal share. But, that’s not the way it works. If you’re a team member, no matter how much effort you put forth, you’ll never get more than a so-called fair share.

The rules don’t apply to a boss; only the employee. The boss, on the other hand, will capitalize on the value brought in. Because the value of each team member equates to 0.05, or 5% total, the other 95% has to go somewhere.

Boss’s Share = $1,000,000 – (0.5 x 10 x $5,000) = $975,000

The problem here is the boss didn’t do the work! But, hey, getting $975,000 certainly teaches the boss not to give any effort. No wonder employees aren’t motivated to do better. The boss is busy stuffing her face with cocaine-laced Benjamins.

Solution?

The solution, a foolish boss would assume, is to motivate employees to give more. However, effort fits nowhere into the equation, because of danger number two.

So, then, how do team members get a bigger piece of the pie than the boss, even for the team as a whole?

Sorry, doesn’t happen. The math works against it. Even if each employee gave 100%, the efforts would still equate like so:

Boss’s Share = $1,000,000 – (10 X 10 X $5,000) = $500,000.

Now, the boss’s contribution was nothing and they still got the lion’s share. Each team member has to split $500,000 amongst themselves, for $50,000 each. That equates to 5% each, or 50% total. And yet, the boss still did nothing! They did nothing, and get 50%!

Have fun being a team member!

Wanted: Lost Prevention Detective

You gotta love job titles Americans conjure up. Like Loss Prevention Detective. What exactly is a Loss Prevention Detective? Well, through deductive reasoning, examining at the evidence and investigating the scene, I discovered it used to be called a Mall Cop.

An ad for a Loss Prevention Detective at a high-class store had a dress code of a black suit and tie, white shirt, sharp, well-dressed, with rubber-soled shoes. Are times so tough the mob needs side jobs? I guess there’s less demand in whacking. I don’t find men in suits intimidating, unless there’s three of them, each are Italian, and they have baseball bats.

Duties Include:

  • Stand in place for long periods of time watching customers walk in/out of store.
  • Walk around spying on customers, especially in the clothing section, making them feel awkward.
  • Kick out kids with pants sagging down to their knees.
  • Hold shoplifters in a closed-off space that looks like an interrogation room.
  • Look like a cop (but you won’t get a gun).

Requirements:

  • Available nights, weekends, weekdays, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, first days, closed days, open days, in a daze, through a maze, in different ways, last days, middle days, half days, full days, and eat bags of greasy Lays.
  • Must have life insurance, self-assurance, give reassurance.
  • Common sense, work when tense, skilled in self-defense.
  • Can handle a crowd, mob, riot, fighting brothers, angry mothers, hordes of crazy others.

Education and Experience:

  • High-school diploma or G.E.D.
  • 5-years riot control (our sales get a little out of hand).
  • Must pass a psychological evaluation, drug test, self-defense test, and live demonstration with psychotic customer.