The Laughing Toastmaster: Are You a Team Player? It Depends on the Team!

A new illness is sweeping through the corporate world causing havoc and creating what experts call ‘angry job desertion’.

‘I quit! You know why they call it teamwork? Because it’s a lot of work!’

Known as TPSD (Team Player Stress Disorder), symptoms include shortness of breath, racing heart, sense of terror or impending doom and an urge to laugh and cry hysterically whenever you’re in the presence of fellow team members.

Like many TPSD sufferers, I kept my condition hidden for many years, afraid of being found out and forced to move to the area of the living dead (Accounting) or to the company’s mental health unit (Human Resources).

I lived a dual life, a private one and a public one. To the outside world I was the perfect team player. I went to all the office parties (as fun as getting a root canal), signed ‘Good Luck’ cards for colleagues I’d never met and donated hundreds of pounds to team members who supported charities by doing impossible feats like windsurfing, sunbathing and alpine skiing.

The team was good like that. Once we collected £300 for Freddie’s charity and then found out he’d quit and vanished with the money. Guess he ‘took it for the team’.

As for me? I took it all in stride. My screen saver was the team photo with the caption ‘There’s no ‘I’ in Team’. My boss would smile and say, ‘I wish everyone had your attitude Sarah’. Never mind my name is Sonia.

As for the much anticipated ‘Team Outings’, they were mainly geared to pacify the team’s gorilla grunters wild Cro-Magnon urges. Take the ‘GO-CART OUTING’, which was like Mad Max Movie without Mel Gibson for eye candy. The air had so much testosterone I was worried I’d grow an Adam’s apple.

When the ‘PAINT BALL OUTING’ came around I walked into a corporate ambush and was shot in the back by the assistant manager. Regarded with pity and contempt by the team, I was forced to sit out the rest of the bloodbath. Best team outing of my life.

It all came to a head when George was named ‘Team Player of the Year’. That’s when TPSD really hit me. I couldn’t believe it! If anyone deserved it was me! OK, maybe George was the only team member that actually WORKED … but he enjoyed it!

Plus, what happened to our team motto: ‘Success is Best When Shared’?

I only had myself to blame. During the job interview, when asked, ‘Are you a team player? I shouted ‘YES!’ with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader on tequila.

It’s such a stupid question. Of course, you’re going to answer, ‘Yes’, or you won’t get the job. But truthfully, I think many of us would want to answer, ‘It depends on the team’.

A team consist of people who WANT to work together (think friends working on finishing their drinks so they can order another round), not those who are FORCED to work together (think coalition governments).

After George’s coronation, I resigned myself to a life of TPSD suffering, convinced I was a misfit that would never fit in.

Everything changed when I went to a Toastmaster meeting. What an amazing experience! It was the first time I had seen a team work together with so much energy, fun and enthusiasm! They were organized, upbeat and every speaker smashed it! Best of all, they applauded as if their palms were made of leather

It didn’t feel like ‘team-work’, but more of a ‘team-perk’ to be part of it!

At the end of the evening the president came up to me and said, ‘Sonia, I hope you enjoyed our meeting. The Toastmaster club’s goal is for every member to find their voice and shine. We’re a group of like-minded people who want to achieve great things in a supportive environment’.

Then he whispered, ‘Many of us are misfits that for the first time, fit together’.

I joined that night.

Note: If you have been affected by this blog and/or suffer from TPSD, go to your nearest Toastmaster club and see what joyous teamwork is all about.


Sonia Aste is an engineer, writer and comedian who no longer suffers from TPSD.

She’s a Toastmaster and member at Riverside Communicators Club.
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