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What Went Hong: Teamwork

Why building a team mentality is worth more than just combining strengths.


February 2, 2022
By James Hong

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Let’s talk about teamwork today. I bring this up because of a conversation I recently had with a worker. He said, “I’m stronger than a small guy, that’s just a fact. I can lift more, reach more and do more! There is no way a small guy can do what I can.”

I’m not convinced that this kind of thinking is isolated. It may be factual on some level, however it entirely excludes the concept of teamwork – not to mention ingenuity – which birthed the term “working smart, not working hard.” Of course, we must follow good protocol when using our bodies for labour. When I was a young guy on site, we always used teamwork to get things done. If something was too heavy for one guy another would help out. If a job required some serious planning, the smart guy would take that on. Without devaluing any individual qualities that team members bring to the job, we can recognize that everyone has their own individual qualities to contribute. It’s important to remember that and just as important to utilize people’s individual skills.

The guy mouthing off about how strong he is could never thrive as part of a team let alone understand the importance of it. When we adopt team work as a principle, it enhances our sense of camaraderie in having each other’s’ back. We gain an unconscious responsibility to watch over each other, which is the best possible approach to safety and positive productivity. After all, we need a team approach, especially with all the obstacles we face today. We are facing extremely difficult weather patterns now and will continue to in the future, demonstrated recently by the flooding tragedy in British Columbia and other incidents all over the world. New variants of COVID don’t seem to be ending anytime soon, in fact it’s looking more and more like the strategy will be learning to live with it. The only certain thing these days is we only have each other.

Let’s not forget mental health when it comes to teamwork. When we align ourselves with the principle of teamwork, it sensitizes us to our fellow workers, which, in turn, gives us a sense that our backs are covered and a better feeling of good will. We can notice small indications of “something is a bit off” with Joe today and maybe we take the time to check in with our co-worker. I’m not saying we should jump into psychotherapy mode, however being aware of an individual’s energy helps us to stay in tune and communicative which can make a real difference. Sometimes asking “How are you?” and taking a moment is all one needs to lift the mood. That’s all we can hope to achieve with teamwork: making a positive impact on the people we work with and the work itself. Let’s make a concerted effort, even if only a small one.

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Remember when we were kids hanging out with our friends? There wasn’t some kind of training or self-awareness lingo back then; you did it because the group, no matter how small, was your team. That’s all we really need to do, is to stay attuned, connected, with a good dose of laughter and watch either other’s back.

Let’s work together, keep each other safe and all benefit as a result. Safe work is good work!

Be safe. Be well.  


James Hong is an OHS consultant and writer for the construction industry.