TO READ A JOB DESCRIPTION, to interview, or to endure a corporate retreat is to encounter two words invoked with such reverence that you’d be forgiven for thinking they describe qualities as desirable as six-pack abs: “team player.” This dictum may not be the only valued trait in an employee, but try describing yourself otherwise and see how far beyond the handshake you get. Lately, however, the “team player” principle has presented dilemmas for Americans in and outside the workplace.
Take, for example, Penn State. E-mails reportedly came to light two weeks ago suggesting that former university officials knew more than they first admitted about Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children and chose to protect him and the university. While these men have been excoriated, their alleged actions can also be seen as those of solid team players: in short, a loyalty to the organization above all else.