Working Alone or Working in Teams?

We need to be good at doing BOTH: working alone and working in teams. Successful teamwork is based on good communication skills — the ability to effectively express our thoughts, and the ability to interact with others.

Lately, I’ve noticed that some of my students are uncomfortable with teamwork and they resist team-building activities. In one of my classes, several students have either talked to me after class or emailed me about the “issues” they’re having with their teams. In each of these instances, I’ve noticed (and pointed out to them) that the issues are being caused by a lack of communication with their teammates. The solution is simple: better communication, especially via face-to-face interaction.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: Maybe “face-to-face” communication is now becoming a neglected form of communication? Many younger students (approximately 20 years old) don’t want to, or prefer not to, work in teams. Is this a new trend?…

Are we becoming too reliant on texting, postings and emails? Are we creating a society of people who have become too comfortable “hiding behind” their computers and devices? Yes, we need to work independently, but we also need to know how to work with others…What’s happening to us?… And do you agree that face-to-face communication (or at least a phone call where we hear each other’s voice) is becoming a lost art or neglected activity?

I’m curious to hear your ideas about this… Maybe we can team up to brainstorm some solutions? … Or maybe we should Skype — taking advantage of the newest form of face-to-face communication? 😉 Please let me know what you think by posting your comments here. Thanks!

Until next time,


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  1. I have always resisted working on team projects in school and at work. The main reason is an introvert my preferred mode of work is to work alone, but another big reason is that teams are forced upon us.

    I think instead of forcing people together, maybe there is a different way.

    Maybe allowing people to group themselves together based on similar interests or goals, or maybe by needs. For example, if I am working on a new project I may need people with a certain skill set to offset my own. I could post my needs and form a team based on these needs and I could participate on teams where my strengths could make a positive contribution.

    You raised some good questions. Thanks for allowing me to share my a few thoughts.


    • Kathy Magrino says

      You bring up some great points, Sandy. This past semester, the teams in one of my classes were simply thrown together in our first class meeting. We’ve had some successes, but several of the teams have had issues over the past few months… I like your idea of allowing everyone to “group themselves together based on similar interests or goals…” Maybe the next time I do something like this, I’ll have a “getting to know you” session before we establish teams. THANKS so much for participating in this discussion! I appreciate it!

  2. I need to learn to proofread my comments before hitting ‘submit’! LOL!!

    • Kathy Magrino says

      Don’t worry about it — I do the same thing too often!! I think we’re so excited about posting our comments, we tend to see the comments the way we hear them in our heads! Have a great day! 😉

  3. Hi Kathy, I thought carefully about your post and would agree that people are socializing themselves differently than we might be used to. There are several research studies done on the way peoples’ brains are changing to adapt to all the new Internet activities in which we engage. So our brains are wiring for more solo activities.

    You point out that we do feel discomfort in communicating our thoughts and feeling with others. I can see that if we do more on our own, since though we might have many more friends and contacts on the Internet, we do not have the same kind of engagement as we would face to face where a person’s body language also plays a big role in communicating a message. Our brain picks up on body language that is out of sync with our words. This is one element that comes into play during team work. We then are much more vulnerable face-to-face and many are beginning to feel uncomfortable with it as you point out so well.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    • Kathy Magrino says

      Your perspective about this is so enlightening, Robyn! I’m now wondering if it’s good or bad that “our brains are wiring for more solo activities”… and this raises so many questions: Is teamwork going to be a thing of the past in the very near future?! Will we need more specific “training” and education for effective face-to-face communication and activities?… Thank you for sharing your thoughts and information! 😉

  4. Kathy, here is a link to some research related to this posted on the Discovery Channel. I just posted the link for this site in twitter as I replied to your message.

    Here is a direct quote from that site:

    “There are no firm answers yet. But Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatrist at UCLA, argues that daily exposure to digital technologies such as the Internet and smart phones can alter how the brain works.

    When the brain spends more time on technology-related tasks and less time exposed to other people, it drifts away from fundamental social skills like reading facial expressions during conversation, Small asserts.

    So brain circuits involved in face-to-face contact can become weaker, he suggests. That may lead to social awkwardness, an inability to interpret nonverbal messages, isolation and less interest in traditional classroom learning.

    Small says the effect is strongest in so-called digital natives – people in their teens and 20s who have been “digitally hard-wired since toddlerhood.” He thinks it’s important to help the digital natives improve their social skills and older people – digital immigrants – improve their technology skills.”

    While I cannot say for sure that the preference for “solo” is part of this rewiring because it is not directly addressed, Kathy, the tendency appears to be forming because the technology is generally accessed by each person separately. The statement isn’t made directly and I want to note that. I had intended to say there appears to be a tendency toward solo in younger people.

  5. Kathy Magrino says

    Here’s the link that Robyn mentioned above:

    Thank you, Robyn! This research is very interesting!!
    – K

  6. Team building is really necessary for a very successful implementation of business plans.*`;

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