Don’t Ever Apologize for Being Competitive

Don’t let all that noise about “collaboration” keep you away from keeping your bull’s eye on the prize.

Personal competitiveness has caught a bad name over the last few years. Everybody will agree that companies want that competitive advantage and the great management gurus look at individuals who compete with their colleagues in the workplace.

According to the management gurus, the ideal is where; there is a collaborative culture where people work together towards achieving the common goals.

Actually, today’s open-plan offices are specially designed to create such collaborative environments. Even though studies have shown that the open office structure destroys productivity, collaboration must be really valuable and important, right?

Well, maybe not that much.  In fact, sciences have proved that collaboration makes the team LESS effective.

The truth is: In every office, you are in state of competition for the good projects, the best equipment, the trip to Hawaii, the corner cubicle, the biggest salary, the big promotion, and frankly, just about everything else.

If you’re not competitive with your colleagues, you get the lousy and worthless assignments, the old equipment, the weekend shift, the cubicle next to the copier, the .01% raise, the dead-end jobs, and, well, that’s about it.

The desire to win (and even desiring the other guy to lose) isn’t evil. It’s human. It’s the stuff of life. It’s why natural selection works. Competition spurs you to do more, to play harder, to become smarter, faster and better.

This is not to say that you should turn into one of those hyper-competitive jackasses who must publicly win every battle and argument. Such people are boring, predictable, disruptive and (incidentally) absurdly easy to manipulate.

Being truly competitive at work means knowing when cooperating is the best way to win. Certainly, there are few better ways to create a personal competitive advantage than by building strong alliances and good relationship.

Being truly competitive at work also means knowing yourself. If you’re an introvert, you’ll go further and faster if you take assignments where you work alone. In that case, collaboration be damned and full speed ahead!

Personally, I’m insanely competitive. I don’t show it, but I’m intensely irritated by people who are more successful than I am. I don’t stew about it, though. I use that competitive energy to push me to become a better person.

The main question is:  Then why do the management gurus frown on internal competition?

Frankly, I think it’s because it is easier to state theories about “collaboration” than to harness the raw force of personal competitiveness so that it makes the organization competitive, too.

So, “NO” you don’t need to apologize for being competitive. Embrace it. Use it. Live it.


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