Why You Should Reward Your Team Players

Ioana Marinescu

Are some of your employees adding more value to the team? Are you paying attention? Or are you only focusing on individual performance? Research on toxic workers shows that good team players are extremely valuable and avoiding toxic hires is key.

Once you have hired some good team players, you should reward them. Alas, many employers do not reward team players enough. A great example is from professional basketball. My fellow economics researchers Petere Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler and Joseph Price have looked at the data to find out who the best individual players are, and who contributes the most to team success. What can we conclude from their work?

An excellent team player adds 60 percent more value to the team than a selfish player. When looking at basketball, researchers have crunched the data to figure out how much each player is contributing to team success. Each player obviously contributes their own direct talent, which is what a purely selfish player would contribute. But an excellent team player further adds 60 percent additional value to the team, by making strategic passes to teammates for example. Suppose you add two excellent team players: This is like adding more than three people to the team.

The best individual contributors are not always the best team players. The beauty of measuring both individual and team contributions is that we can rat out the selfish players. And researchers indeed find out that some players, while excellent on their own, do not contribute so much to the team. Among top players, Carmelo Anthony is not a good team player relative to Chris Andersen.

Compensation mostly ignores team contribution. Finally, researchers looked at how basketball players were paid. Was their team contribution acknowledged? Surprisingly, great team players don’t get paid much more than similarly talented selfish players. Professional basketball does not reward team players. Incentive matters, so it is likely that everyone’s efforts for the team would be enhanced if team players were better compensated.

Don’t make the same mistake as the NBA: Reward your team players!

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