By Amanda Tillman, Career Coach
We’ve all known colleagues who are only out for themselves, without regard for others’ needs, and willing to do whatever it takes to get that promotion or recognition. Some of us may have been the targets of co-workers’ gossip or bad-mouthing, jealousy, or making someone else feel used. Yes, competition can be very detrimental in the workplace. But does it always have to be? I think the answer is a resounding “No.”
If cultivated and nurtured, workplace competition can be very beneficial, leading to high job satisfaction. For example, cooperating to meet departmental quotas and standards and helping each other to meet the needs of all clients makes everyone look good. Pitching in to help a colleague, even when it’s not your direct responsibility, goes a long way toward building a strong team. A visual display of each team’s progress and results and “shout outs” at staff meetings can motivate everyone to do even better.
Creating a workplace environment that encourages positive competition does not happen overnight. It may take time to get some employees on board who are well versed in the more negative forms of workplace competition. Here are some important ways to help create and encourage productive competition in your workplace.
Acknowledge the successes.
A simple email to the team congratulating an individual or the team for achieving a goal can go a very long way, especially if you send that email out to the entire company. You may be surprised to find how encouraging it is to hear from another department a kind word on your success or the success of the team.
Don’t let the big picture get blurry.
Whether it is sales, human services, or education, remember it’s not about you, but about the goals of the company. Usually, success lies with the consumers, measured by whether or not they come back for more of the service you provide. Ultimately you want a team working together for the success of the company. While you may be able to see the road to success in crystal clear high definition, others may not even see a road at all. Instead they see a path filled with mundane and seemingly pointless tasks. When there is a big picture task to be completed, but one that’s as boring as watching paint dry, Mike Smalls, founder and CEO of Hoopla Software, suggests trying to turn it into a fun competition. Not only have you eliminated the dread of completing the required task, but you have also helped your team see the larger goal more clearly.
Accept that you do not know everything and have humility to ask those who do.
One of the biggest challenges in creating a workplace with beneficial competition is encouraging employees to recognize and embrace their own strengths and weaknesses. We should view weaknesses as opportunities to learn and grow. For example, says Viviana Cherbel, writing about workplace competition, if a colleague knows how to do something you don’t, ask her how! On the flip side, help those colleagues who come to you with questions or for guidance, without letting it go to your head. It‘s all about the give and take of experience and knowledge.
Keep the competition in check.
This usually lies in the hands of management. Managers must be involved with their individual team members. They should consistently remind everyone of the bigger picture goals and what each individual can contribute to help achieve those goals. Managers should also be able to step in when competition starts to veer in an unhealthy direction, and get everyone back on track.
Competition can be productive if done the right way and with constructive intentions. Imagine going to work every day in an environment that promotes positive and productive competition. You will be challenged by your colleagues to be better, while building stronger relationships with them at the same time. You will know your team “has your back,” and your work will be more interesting and stimulating.
By Amanda Tillman, Career Coach, JCS Career Center
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about the JCS Career Center click here or call 410-466-9200.
Mike Smalls, http://marketing.vorsight.com/blog/bid/82961/4-Ways-to-Promote-Friendly-Workplace-Competition, March 12, 2013
Viviana Cherbel, http://www.quandora.com/workplace-competition-a -challenge-or-a-burden/,March 28, 2013