“Team Player” is a fictional story about a person involved in a situation that illustrates ethical choices. The story helps us to recognize ethical issues and reminds us how important one person’s actions can be in maintaining a collegial workplace.
At the first meeting of the special projects team, Rex, the newly appointed team leader, announced his game plan.
“Our job is to create results,” he said. “I’m going to put in the hours to make that happen, and I expect all of you to do the same.”
Those words raised concerns for Rafael. During his three years at the university, he’d enjoyed being part of a group that worked hard to accomplish goals while mostly keeping to a 40-hour work week, and his personal life depended on it.
Rafael had reason to worry. As work on the special project took shape, Rex made it clear he expected all his team members to put in 60 to 70 hours a week for the duration of the project.
One evening at 5:30, Rex intercepted Rafael as he was walking out the door.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” asked Rex.
“To meet with my son’s teacher,” said Rafael.
“Funny, I have a son and I’ve never met his teacher,” said Rex. “My wife handles all that stuff in my family. What kind of a man are you?”
“I’m a single dad, and I am very involved in his school life,” said Rafael, heading out the door.
From then on, Rex found opportunities to belittle Rafael in front of others, referring to him as “a prima donna” and “not a team player.” Rafael took the comments in stride, sometimes calmly saying, “I get my work done; no one can say I don’t.”
Unfortunately, Rex often held impromptu meetings at times when Rafael wasn’t around and made no effort to update Rafael on decisions made in his absence, even though the decisions would affect his work.
One afternoon Rafael got a call from their supervisor, Ginny, who said she had an urgent concern. She closed the door to her office as Rafael sat down nervously.
“I’ve gotten some information that troubles me, Rafael. Rex tells me you have been undermining his authority and making it difficult for him to achieve the goals he has set for the special project.”
Rafael listened with growing defensiveness. “I ask for clarifications during meetings. I don’t deliberately undermine him!”
“He told me you snicker under your breath every time he makes a point about improving quality,” said Ginny. “He also says you’re sabotaging the project.”
Rafael’s face felt hot. “That is a complete lie!” he said. “It’s true we don’t get along, but I would never do something like that.”
“So you do admit you’ve been uncooperative?” Ginny asked.
“No,” he said. “I do my work. But I’ve got a son in high school and I just can’t work the kind of hours he demands.”
“Well, Rafael, see what you can do,” said Ginny. “We’ve got some ambitious goals as a division, and I need you to get on board with what Rex is trying to accomplish.”
Without stopping at his desk, Rafael stormed into Rex’s office, where the team leader sat perusing a spreadsheet.
“I need to talk to you right now!” Rafael said, closing the door behind him.
Rex looked up, startled.
“Ginny told me you accused me of sabotaging you. You know that’s a lie,” said Rafael. “I don’t know what you have against me, but if you don’t get off my case, you may be looking at some real sabotage.”
Check out the FAQ section of this edition to review some questions and answers related to this article.