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O Magazine
2015-2017

Teamwork
Blues.

By Begoña
Gómez Urzaiz

In any country song, let’s say Coward of The Country, by Kenny Rogers, the following might happen: the father of the main character, Tommy, dies in jail when he’s ten years old. The neighbourhood sees Tommy as a bad seed they can expect nothing good from. Tommy’s uncle adopts him and tells him his father’s last words, in which he begged him not to become like him, to turn the other cheek whenever anyone teases him. A few years go by and Tommy meets the love of his life, Becky. With her, he can behave the way he really is and feels he doesn’t need to prove anything. Does happiness last long? Oh no. Becky is the victim of a multiple rape by the three Gatlin brothers. Tommy is enraged when he sees her broken and with her dress in tatters, and so he holds his father’s photograph to invoke him. He goes to the bar, closes the door and faces the Gatlins, whom he kills one by one. Then, he apologises to his dead father. Sometimes you just can’t turn the other cheek, father, sometimes you need to be a man (verbatim). And still, Tommy… is considered the coward in this town.

All that in four verses and a coda. Wow.

Today’s GIF could belong to the country genre and at the same time would be a sort of protest song. Work protest song to be precise. We see a chart entitled “how long does it take to complete a task,” with two vectors: time and people engaged in the said task. On the one hand, only the headline. On the other, a team of people. When one person is faced with a work problem, says the chart, he follows three steps: faces it, finds a solution and puts this solution to a test. End of story. The author of this GIF might be a bit optimistic, because he has forgotten the phases “procrastinate for a bit” and “waste time until the deadline comes,” and then “enter panic mode and finish it” as another very famous and viral chart on the creative process summarised quite well.

In any case, the alternative is a thousand times worse. There’s where things become really hillbilly. It all starts quite normally, when the team meets, and tasks are assigned, but then they argue about the assignment of the said tasks, start working individually in random crap that will end up being absolutely useless and then meet again. Ah no, Kevin isn’t here today. The meeting is postponed. So, spoiler: the person in charge of the task leaves his job, opens up a bar, is bankrupt, becomes a heroin junkie and the world comes to an end.

Anyone who in his everyday life has to bear the cross of working as part of a team or partake in frequent meetings will understand that this hyperbole is very moderate, slightly exaggerated if at all. Those born in the eighties, minimum, got to our working life ready for this. Our schooling years coincided with the boom of teamwork. Nothing, not even washing your hands, should be done individually. Everything had to be discussed, agreed upon and workshopped, and out of those awful low-table teams there were forged personalities that have been preserved until today. The undeserved leader. The one who thinks should be the leader but is too good for that bunch of losers. The one who judges everything but never proposes anything. The one who creates cliques (and starts an alternative WhatsApp chat, without the leader). The one who doesn’t say or do absolutely nothing but bears the fruits all the same. The one who looks for a consensus and ends up messing it up double.

There’s a Harvard professor –there’s always one, and the way they give credit to an argument, yay!–, J. Richard Hackman, from the Social Psychology Department, who suggests that this decade’s economic crisis was caused not only by the madness of the subprimes and of this, but also due to teamwork dynamics. “In a company I analysed –he tells the Harvard Business Review– being a ‘good team player’ was so much valued that individuals self-censored their contributions out of fear of breaking the harmony. The team, for the sake of cooperation and good will, embarked in a process that was bound to fail for reasons that some members of the team already perceived but didn’t dare mention when plans were being set up. One wonders whether the current financial situation would be as terrible should more people have talked to their teams about what they knew were incorrect practices.” Being a compromised team player, Hackman warns us, “be it a leader, ‘deviant’ or ordinary member, can be dangerous.” And could even lead you to heroine. Or to country music, and god only knows what’s worse!