There is No I in Team: Choosing Cooperation Over Competition in the Workplace
Workplace competition, an epidemic that seems to plague offices rather than benefit them.
An employee of the month. Salesperson of the year. The top marketer in the group. Words we’ve all heard, so much that they’ve become second nature in most industries.
So why are these words red flags? Well for starters it hints that a company has lost or is losing the “big picture” mentality.
Big picture mentality is the mission or goal being centered around the company’s best interest rather than the individual’s interest.
When a company enforces and fosters a hyper-competitive workspace they unknowingly build high levels of toxicity among employees.
“Putting one employee on a pedestal leaves many others on the ground.”
To understand competition in the workplace you first need to know the definition of competition.
According to the Biology Dictionary competition is a relationship between organisms in which one is harmed when both are trying to use the same resource related to growth, reproduction, or survivability.
Having a hyper-competitive workspace is allowing competition to stem from the fact that resources are limited. There are simply not enough resources for all individuals to have equal access and supply.
Three reasons to avoid hyper-competitiveness in the workplace:
The need to be number one. People who are overly competitive in every aspect of their life, for example challenging people in work (rather than being part of a team) when there isn’t any need for competition, are usually really insecure and use it as a means to fill the void in their being.
This form of hyper-competitiveness creates toxic work environments, toxic relationships and honestly, it doesn’t do any good for the competitive individual.
Competitive Stress is the imbalance between the environmental demands placed on an individual and the person’s response capacity and resources for meeting those demands.
The level of stress one may feel is determined by how important the consequences of failure are perceived by the individual.
Negative outcomes of stress:
- Low energy.
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles.
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
- Frequent colds and infections.
3. Misplaced Focus
Competition can create an environment where employees are focused more on their competitors than on their own work. This can happen in two ways:
1) External competition — focusing on business competitors and imitating (and one-upping) them rather than coming up with original ideas.
2) Internal competition — focusing on how coworkers are doing and only being concerned with staying just ahead of them rather than doing your personal best.
Three reasons to encourage cooperation in the workplace:
1. Promotes Diversity
The very nature of teamwork requires a group of people from varying backgrounds to come together and share their experiences. As a result, this kind of environment nurtures diverse opinions, approaches, and problem-solving techniques. This level of diversity generates cultural understanding, increased communication through collective knowledge of approaches, and a larger resource of ideas.
2. Creativity and Innovation
The seeds of creativity and innovation spring from the exchange of ideas that come from people of different backgrounds.
By encouraging a diverse group of individuals to work with one another to accomplish work tasks you are creating an environment that allows the seeds of creativity to take root and flourish.
3. Peer Learning and Self-Improvement
Working within a team helps us to create an environment that inspires collective knowledge, resources, and skills. Consequently, this allows us to pick some ideas and to reflect on our own way of thinking.
Teamwork also encourages self-improvement — a key skill to acquire regardless of the nature of our role within an organization because it helps us to expand our horizons and make better use of our own intrinsic capabilities.