Are You Winning at Work?
With the summer Olympics in the news, have you been feeling more competitive than usual?
[ 2012-08-05 ]
But instead of locking horns in London, if you're like most workers, you are competing on an entirely different playing field -- in your workplace and against your co-workers.
If you go for the gold at work, you will have lots of competition. "Rivalry between co-workers can often become more intense when the economy is uncertain and people feel pressure to prove themselves." said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.
Even in a strong economy, only a few workers will make it to the very top, and there are many who want to be on the winners’ podium earning the applause of management.
Whether concerned about proving their worth or just ambitious, workers have become more competitive over the last 10 years according to a recent survey by OfficeTeam.
Nearly half (49 percent) of senior managers interviewed said they believe employees are more competitive with each other today than they were 10 years ago.
As I wrote in a previous column, the competitive nature of the workplace can be especially surprising to female workers who, unlike their male counterparts, are less likely to compete while growing up.
In her book Talking from 9 to 5, Women and Men in the Workplace, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., presents research about how boys learn to be competitive from a young age. Groups of boys at play "tend to be obviously hierarchical," said Tannen. "Someone is one-up and someone is one-down."
By comparison, little girls at play tend to cooperate rather than compete. Those who try to take charge are typically accused of being "bossy" and face rejection from the others. As a result, many girls grow up without learning how to effectively compete for what they want.
"Even healthy competition for women is still largely taboo," wrote Susan Shapiro Barash in her book Tripping the Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry,"It’s very difficult for most of us to admit that we want to win, to snag the promotion at the expense of our coworkers, to rise to the top of our profession."
"Fantasies about the workplace as a happy bastion of sisterhood are just that: fantasies," said Nan Mooney, author of I Can’t Believe She Did That! Why Women Betray Other Women at Work. According to Mooney, real-life workplaces feature "a cutthroat corporate culture in which colleagues, male and female, are pitted against each other for jobs and promotions."
OfficeTeam identifies five types of workplace "competitors" that take it too far and provides tips for working with them effectively:
The Pole Vaulter. This person jumps to nab all of the high-profile assignments, leaving the less visible work to everyone else. To get the plum projects, proactively make your interests known. Volunteer for key assignments and acquire hard-to-find skills that make you indispensable.
The Boxer. This worker has a jab for everyone -- whether it’s a snide remark during a staff meeting or a sarcastic email. Don’t succumb to this person’s negativity. Remain professional when interacting with him or her, and try to work out your differences. If the behavior doesn’t stop, alert your manager or human resources department to the situation.
The Sprinter. This person tries to curry favor by working quickly -- even if the results are sloppy. Don’t cut corners to compete with this individual. Instead, become known for delivering quality work.
The Gymnast. This employee bends and twists the facts, sometimes taking credit for others’ work. When collaborating with this colleague, be sure to share your original ideas and contributions with your manager. Document the designation of duties and other critical conversations to avoid finger-pointing down the line.
The Marathoner. This person can go the full distance when it comes to spending time at the water cooler, sharing rumors with anyone who will listen. Although it can be useful to have a sense of the political undercurrents in your firm, avoid associating closely with office gossips, and don’t share sensitive information with them.
"A little friendly competition in the office is healthy if it inspires great individual and team performance," said Robert Hosking of OfficeTeam. "Although it's natural for employees to want to stand out among their colleagues, it shouldn't be at the expense of others."
I hope you and your team are winners at work.
Tag Goulet is co-founder of FabJob.com, a publisher of books on how to get started in a dream career or business. Contact Tag on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tag.goulet or visit the FabJob website at www.FabJob.com.