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Does Your Dislike of Team Work Stem From Your Childhood?
Does Your Dislike of Team Work Stem From Your Childhood?

“Teamwork” is not just a buzzword thrown around the office but also a concept integral to human existence. After all, almost all human activities occur in groups: individuals congregate together when working, learning, playing, or worshipping.

So, why is group inclusion so important to us? What does it mean if you dislike working in teams? Read on to learn more about the psychology behind groups and how your childhood affects your social development.

The psychology behind groups

For the most part, autonomous individuals are fully capable of living independently. However, many prefer not to; regardless of country and time, humans seek group inclusion over exclusion.

Such behaviour has been attributed to the human need to belong (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Humans seek positive, lasting interpersonal relationships—and if this need is left unfulfilled, individuals are likely to respond negatively. Deliberate exclusion (or ostracism) has been found to be highly stressful, impacting an individual’s mental and emotional well-being (Williams, 2007).

Groups are also desirable because they help construct one’s social identity. When asking the existential question “Who am I?” individuals do not just define themselves by their personality traits, likes, and dislikes but also consider their familial connections and group memberships. Therefore, it is common for individuals to define themselves as a “mother,” a “sibling,” or a “friend.”

Notably, there are also more concrete advantages to group inclusion. Individuals have unique strengths and skills; when a team works together, everyone can benefit from collective effort. Moreover, group work allows for sharing responsibilities, thus improving efficiency and productivity. Therefore, many organisations and businesses highlight the importance of teamwork.

However, if teamwork is essential to humans, why do many individuals hate it?

Attachment and emotional development in infancy

Part of your dislike toward teamwork may stem from your childhood experiences.

According to Bowlby’s Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis (1951), the disruption of attachment between an infant and their primary caregiver (typically the mother) can lead to social and emotional difficulties for the former. In particular, affected infants find it more difficult to empathise with others, a quality essential for effective teamwork.

While there are criticisms levied towards Bowlby’s theory, there is still logic to his conclusion. Infants are completely dependent on their caregivers; the adults around them shape their worldview. Infants learn when to cry and who to call when distressed through these caregivers. As they grow, they also learn how to communicate their emotions and develop strong bonds from their caregivers.

In other words, how can infants learn how to connect with others when their caregivers do not model it for them? 

The importance of play in early childhood 

An affinity for teamwork is developed through play during early childhood.

Cooperative play allows children to interact with each other. They are exposed to different personalities, which helps to develop their emotional awareness and propensity for pro-social behaviour.

If children do not have sufficient play opportunities, they may not learn to interact or empathise with others. As such, teamwork might be challenging for them in the future.


Teamwork is essential to human existence and is thus widely encouraged in most organisations. However, some individuals struggle with working in groups due to childhood experiences.

If you are struggling with teamwork and would like professional guidance, consider contacting ExecutiveCounselling.com. We provide private counselling online in Singapore, which has been found to be effective. We also offer infidelity and marriage counselling, life coaching services, and career counselling for professionals.


Baumeister, R., & Leary, M. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529.

Williams, K. D. (2007). Ostracism. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 425-452.

Bowlby, J. (1951). Maternal care and mental health. World Health Organization Monograph.