I received an email this week from a mother seeking advice on a problem her son was having with his teammates.

Her son, Tyler, was the best player on his baseball team. She said he was naturally gifted but also “extremely dedicated.” Tyler had made considerable sacrifices to develop his skills that other members of his team had not.

After being named the MVP of a recent tournament, his fifth such award of the season, Tyler overheard some unsettling comments in the dugout:

Shocker, Tyler got MVP. How many awards is Tyler going to get? Tyler wins everything. They might as well rename it the Tyler Award. Big surprise, they gave Tyler another award.

It wasn’t only the words that bothered Tyler, it was also their accompanying tone and the spirit in which they were said. Tyler felt that he had performed well enough to receive the recognition, but his teammates’ response caused him  to be resentful of the attention.

Tyler’s teammates were jealous, envious, and—intentionally or unintentionally—creating a toxic environment that made him want to cower to appeasement.

His mother was adamant that she didn’t want Tyler to back off or “dummy himself down” to fit in. She worried, however, that if she didn’t provide Tyler with some guidance, that is exactly the approach he would take.

I have seen similar situations occur in other team settings. In the workplace, for instance, I have seen employees resent colleagues who show up early, stay late, and go above and beyond the call of duty. Instead of respecting and appreciating the effort, those employees feel ill will when their more dedicated colleagues get promotions.

Mismanaging that ill-will will eventually tear a team apart.

High achievers make poor teammates feel uncomfortable. The most toxic teammates I know despise having to rise to the level of their high achieving teammates. They would much rather remain comfortable and pull high achieving teammates down to their level.

Good teammates insist on the rise and resist the pull. My advice to Tyler and anyone in this situation is twofold:

  1. Always be the hardest worker on your team.
  2. Always be the kindest person on your team.

Much of what Tyler was feeling was beyond his control. He couldn’t control what awards he was given any more than he could control how others felt about him receiving those awards. Tyler needed to focus on what he could control—his effort and his attitude.

By always being the hardest worker on your team, you legitimize your accolades. You make it difficult for people to question your worthiness. Moreover, you create a sense of inner peace for yourself that allows you to feel at ease with positive recognition.

You worked hard and know in your heart that you earned whatever attention you receive.

By always being the kindest person on your team, you prevent yourself from appearing entitled. Kindness allows you to accept awards with graciousness, appear thankful for your blessings, demonstrate character, and show appreciation to those who contributed to your success.

Kindness endears because it isn’t about how others treat you, it’s about how you treat others regardless of how they treat you.

Any high achiever who backs off or dummies down their efforts to appease their teammates does their team a disservice. Good teammates refuse to take that approach because they know doing so isn’t what’s best for their team.

Good teammates understand that when one of us wins we all win. That knowledge allows them to accept their achievements as well as their teammates’ achievements.

As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the founder and CEO of the Good Teammate Factory. He is a former sports coach turned bestselling author, blogger, and keynote speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through his weekly Teammate Tuesday blog.

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