The Difference Between “Employees” and Real “Team Members”

I consulted with an organization recently who had a long-time employee that exemplified the difference between an “employee” and a real “team member.” In a nutshell, here’s some of the biggest differences that leaders should be noticing:

1) A team member looks for work to do. An employee does the work assigned.

2) A team member shares ideas. An employee shares complaints.

3) A team member deserves a raise. An employee demands a raise.

4) A team member leaves when he’s finished. An employee leaves at 5 o’clock.

5) A team member shares credit. An employee takes credit.

6) A team member thinks like an owner. An employee thinks like an employee.

7) A team member has a passion. An employee has a job.

8) A team member sees from the customer’s perspective. An employee sees from his perspective.

9) A team member thinks about the organization. An employee thinks about himself.

Any others I left out?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I love this. I would just add one word. “An employee ALWAYS leaves at 5pm.” I do believe in work life balance and to a team member, there will always be more work to do. Knowing when to switch off, go home, and recharge is an important part of being a productive team member.

    • That’s true Adam. I’ve seen people kill themselves to finish the important work they didn’t get done while destroying their family lives.

  • Liz G.

    How about, “A team member steps up. an employee steps out.”
    Just heard your interview on Think International. I love the concept that “TV is America’s last great campfire.” Great visual!

  • I love seeing posts like this. It gives us all a great idea of what to look for in adding people to our teams.

    I’d add – A team member takes personal accountability. An employee looks to place blame.

  • This is great Phil! Thanks for posting!

  • Hubert Gardner

    A team member takes ownership of assignments. An employee “rents” tasks, then is late paying what’s due. A team player accepts responsibility for failure of an assignment-even he did his part. An employee makes excuses for himself, while blaming others/controllable circumstances.

  • Great post, Phil.
    A team member buys lunch. An employee pillages through the break room fridge. ; )

  • Kirt Salisbury

    A team member is there for the goals of the company or it’s President…an employee is there for his/her OWN agenda…which may be hidden!

  • Matt Pattavina

    This is bs