Being a loner has never been known to be a good thing. It may have worked for John Bender and Jason Dean, but that’s high school, and those where characters from movies (extra points if you know which ones).

These days, organizations are touting the need for collaboration so much so that it could send even the most extroverted person running towards a dark corner with their headphones and laptop.

The workplace should be designed to evoke collaboration and make good use of today’s open floor plans, long communal tables and oversized bean bags so you can cozy up to your coworker, plug in and power away. The benefits of collaboration are too long to list but I love this graph containing the 12 habits of highly collaborative organizations which came from this excellent Forbes article:

Collaboration as a team will require all individuals to come together and make equal efforts to do their part. Having a loner (or lone wolf as some people like to call it) immediately puts the team at jeopardy and signals that there is both a breakdown in communication, management as well as a potential derailment in the near future.

It’s important to remember that part of our human condition is the desire and need to interact with others. For loners, their desire to interact is simply lower than most and they find their enjoyment when focusing on singular activities that require their utmost concentration, such as work. Remember, it’s not that they dislike people – they would just rather work on “work” versus building social relationships.

Obviously, there will be times where you’ll need to find that quiet corner, sleep pod, nook, room, bench, tree or even your car to hammer out that email, finish up your report or take a call, but be careful…lingering too long in any one place could send mixed message to your team labeling you as a loner, something you don’t want.

Here Are 4 Common Signs You’re A Loner On Your Team:

  1. You hate attending team meetings/outings. Loners struggle to be both in a group setting as well as discussing topics that they believe could be solved or resolved by some other means. They despise small talk and find the social banter annoying.
  2. You don’t like to share your ideas. The thought of sharing your inner most self with others is enough to have you run for the door. Loners sometimes feel that sharing their ideas is a deep violation of intellectual property rights. These are your ideas and the thought that you would open yourself up to ridicule is unconscionable.
  3. You don’t eat with your team. Remember collaboration isn’t just critical to the project, it’s also important to the team dynamic. That means whenever possible, even at lunch time to bond, build and spend time with those you most likely spend the most time with. Regardless of the impact having a lunch with your peers can provide, loners would rather eat alone and be left in deep thought.
  4. You resist sharing information and responsibility. Loners would rather work by themselves even at the risk of over working themselves into a frenzy before ever considering reaching out to their team. Their standards are so specific that no one could live up to the bar they have set forth for themselves.

Final thoughts:

Technology today has enabled us to pretty much work from anywhere and with a growing remote workforce, you have the recipe for both lateral and literal movement. Even remote workers are not absolved from being labeled a loner. In fact, being remote puts more of the onus on them to show up and be engaged when they are needed most. We all need our space from time to time to gather our thoughts, make a private call or simply gather our thoughts. As Einstein once said:

  • Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.

The key is to not let these private moments become a daily ritual that slowly pushes you further from your team.

The floor is yours: How do you foster collaboration on your team?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua /

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