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How to be a good team player – and not the office doormat

If you feel that you're getting walked over, here are six ways to re-draw the boundaries.

How to be a good team player – and not the office doormat

Working in a team requires give and take and sometimes you might need to put in extra for the sake of the group's success. But that doesn't mean you should always be the one who's landed with grunt work or having to put in long hours.

Jamie Miller, UK Legal Recruitment Manager at Clayton Legal, explains: 'Being a good team player is a crucial attribute to have in the modern working world and there are few roles that don't require you to collaborate with others in one way or another.

'However, there is a fine line between being a team player and becoming a doormat, and willingly taking on peoples' tasks will inevitably lead to a situation where you're overloaded and can't do what's actually expected of you.'

If you feel that you're getting walked over, here are six ways to re-draw the boundaries.

1. Know exactly what you are responsible for

If you're unsure where your duties end and a team member's begin, ask your manager.

'Everyone in the team should know who is responsible for what part of the project, including specific tasks and deadlines,' says Jamie. 'If someone is continually not pulling their weight, think twice before you do their work. Instead, you may have to tell your manager why that part of the project wasn't delivered.

'It might seem harsh, but you don't want to always be picking up another person's work – and this is the most effective way to put a stop to the behaviour.'

2. Remember, your individual performance matters

Employers value team players, but your own work has to come first.

'While the success of the team is important, you will also be judged on your individual performance,' warns Corinne Mills of careers consultancy Personal Career Management and author of Career Coach

'If your regular work is suffering because of additional team responsibilities, then you need to push back and make sure that you don't appear to be underperforming as an individual.'

3. Volunteer selectively

When you're looking to get extra experience or be noticed for promotion, it can be tempting to take on every task that comes your way.

'Be selective about the projects you volunteer to work on. Focus your energies on those things that will develop skills to help you climb the career ladder, introduce you to influencers in the business, or get you recognition from senior staff,' advises Corinne.

'Everyone loves a team member who will take on those tasks that others don't want to do – but if you feel that your willingness to help is being abused, then simply stop volunteering or say that your workload is such that you can't take it on.'

4. Claim credit where it's due

It's a great feeling when you achieve success as a team, but that doesn't mean your personal contribution should go unnoticed. Unfortunately, you can't always rely on colleagues to ensure that credit is given where it's due.

'If you've done all the work on the project then don't leave it to someone else to present the work – insist that you give the briefing, or provide the feedback or at least make sure it is accredited as your work,' advises Corinne.

5. Is it outside your remit?

It's important to challenge yourself, but taking on work and making a poor job of it can damage your reputation.

'If you are being asked to do something outside your remit which you feel uncomfortable about, then it is worth checking in with your manager to see if this is something they expect you to get involved with, rather than your colleague,' suggests Corinne.

6. Just say "No"

If you have established a reputation as someone who is timid and eager to please, then you will need to change your behaviour in order to gain back the respect of the team.

Jamie says: 'Sometimes you just need to push back. Be polite but firm, give your reasons and share details of your workload if necessary, then keep your resolve. If you work for a good, supportive employer, no one is going to think any less of you for saying "No" every now and then.'