You can be forgiven for putting your work first when you need to, getting your vital tasks finished before helping coworkers with theirs. After all, you're at work to complete the tasks your charged with. But that's not say to that being a team player isn't important.
Nobody wants to work with someone who is always too busy for a quick informal chat or who appears to have little interest in helping out with any aspect of the business that doesn't make his/her job easier. Being known as a team player is much more gratifying than being known as the office scrooge, and being open to helping others can pay dividends when you need help most.
Are you a team player? If you are, you should be doing these 6 things:
Participate in group meetings and planning sessions. Don't drag your feet if you're asked to join a group meeting which may not directly impact your work. Instead, actively contribute to the conversations your co-workers invite you to. Your feedback is more valuable than you think, and you'll look bad if you express how little you care to be at the team meeting.
Avoid office politics. Try your best to pretend not to hear disparaging comments leveled against your coworkers. Don't join in on the gossip. Try your best to gracefully remove yourself from the conversation when it turns to dishing dirt, even if you agree wholeheartedly with what's being said. You never know who may be listening, and staying out of these conversations will keep you clear of trouble.
Appreciate other people's style. You may think that the way you complete a task is the best way to do it, but in reality it's just the best way for you to do it. Share ways to increase productivity for tasks you share with others, but be sure to respect those whose technique is different from yours.
Don't assume others know everything you know. And don't disparage them when they don't. Only you have the experience of living in your own head, and even what you think is most obvious about a question at hand may not be known to everyone in the room. If someone doesn't know what you're talking about, explain it politely without rubbing it in their face that you think they should already know it.
Get to know your coworkers. You don't have to be best friends, but you should get to know a bit about your coworkers' lives outside of the office. Don't force it or fake it—people are very good at telling when you're making small talk because you know you should instead of talking to them because you're genuinely interested. Being friendly and positive will go a long way, and your coworkers will be more apt to help you out when you're in need if you're friendly.
Meet your deadlines. Get your work done on time. When you're working on a collaborative project, there's no better way to be a team player than to do what you need to do when you said you would do it.
Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene