Everything at work is about competition.
Promotion. Pay. Benefits. Recognition. Reputation. They come when you stand out from all the others around you.
And this is how it should be.
I love a competitive environment. I love working with ambitious and motivated people.
If they perform better — they close more deals, write more and better articles, are more innovative — I learn and come out stronger next time. Their success is my success.
And belonging to a team of winners is not only a fantastic learning experience. It also reflects on you. It increases your value as well.
Want to know who the leader is? Ask him to decide. | Data Driven Investor
One of the most valuable things an effective leader can offer an organization is the ability to make decisions…
It is a world of continuous improvement. There are no losers. Only winners and learners.
What a wonderful world.
Back to Reality
Duh! The real world of competition is anything but an environment of winners and learners.
It is usually a world of unhappiness, irritation, and frustration.
Competition is healthy and works when it’s about outperforming or outsmarting rivals — having a better product or a better strategy than your competitors.
However, too often, competition is unhealthy. It is characterized by making sure that your competitors fail. It is not about building the highest tower. It’s about creating an environment in which your rivals will not be able to build a tower taller than yours.
I’m not too fond of these environments. They drain the energy out of you. Competition becomes an obstruction between you and your dreams.
When you become victim of unhealthy competition, you will enter a period full of unproductivity and self-depreciation.
How to Detect Unhealthy Competition?
But don’t worry.
It’s easy to discover (and avoid) an unhealthy competition environment.
There are three clear warning signs.
The first thing you notice is that there is a lot of complaining. It’s a constant blame-game.
“Leaders” tend to refer to a higher authority whenever they receive questions. Nobody wants to take responsibility. Meetings are a waste of time and characterized by a lack of decision-making. Surprisingly, there are a lot of meetings. But this is not democracy. It’s a result of insecurity and distrust.
Unhealthy competitive environments are also known for their lack of openness and transparency. There is no real communication. Knowledge is power. There is continual compromising and bootlicking.
What is worse is that you witness a lot of bad-mouthing of other people’s performance. Notably, the ones who try to think out of the box and be innovative are subject to scrutiny and review. It’s an environment where people are constantly comparing their performance to others. Morale is terrible, and there is no team spirit.
The result? High employee churn. Nobody wants to stick around. And why would you? There is little fulfillment — or fun — to be found in such a world.
What to Do About it?
Don’t give in. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
You don’t have to be trapped. Learn and find a way out.
What didn’t work for me was playing along with the others. It was time-consuming, and my productivity level dropped to almost zero. Also, trying to change the environment (for instance, by initiating teamwork) was a mistake.
Changing the workplace culture by yourself is practically impossible.
You have to go your own way.
Don’t let unhealthy competition control you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to quit your job.
The opposite is true. You don’t have to be clairvoyant, but when you look a bit deeper, you will find other winners in your organization. Surround yourself with these winners and ignore the complainers.
And if you cannot immediately find the right people within the organization, engage in side hustles.
Social media offers plenty of opportunities.
Of course, the complainers will disprove/discredit your side hustles (and whatever results from them). But they usually ignore them (as if they don’t want to know). This is particularly true if your side hustles start to be successful and have a positive spillover effect on your functioning and productivity within the organization.
This is perfect! In unhealthy workplaces the best place to be is under the radar or in stealth mode.
Only make yourself visible when you are lucky. That is to say when you are becoming a magnet for other winners.
And when you are getting stronger together, you will transcend (which could be a first sign that things in the workplace culture are becoming more open and transparent).