During my early working days, I was part of a department that had six teams. There was quite an animosity between the teams. So much so that the teams were in silos. Each of these teams had a technical lead. There was a management layer that consisted of the technical leads from each of the team. These leads were expected to work together in synergy however, the reality was far from it. There was competition, however, it was far from healthy.

Some words, though well meaning, have somehow gained notoriety owing to the context in which they are used and how they have been perceived by others. Similar tofeminism, Competition is one word that has taken a beating in recent years. Competition induces a negative emotion only because rather than fostering improvement, it’s expected outcome is either winners or losers. Or so people think it does.

But where would we be without competition? Had our ancestors not competed for limited resources, including a mate, we would have been a different species today. But back then it was between you and me and only one would get whatever they competed for. Competition may be a bad word in academics (no wonder most of the institutes today have done away with ranking and have adopted the grading system, but that somehow robbed the thrill of being toppers), but in today’s workplace, competition ought not be that negative-emotion-triggering word. It just can’t be that.

Competition brings out the best in all those who are part of a task or project. It considers participation of three actors- two players and one observer who decides who won. Can workplaces be fraught with such an atmosphere? Competition at workplace better be healthy or it turns nasty, ruining teams and denting employee morale. So leaders play the key role in creating an atmosphere of healthy competition that eggs you to outperform yourself. It should ideally be with your own self rather than others, to become better versions. It must be a tool to bring out the best, for collaboration and cooperation would otherwise be so boring.

What competitions should not be

It should not pit one team member against the other where one is deemed to have won and the other lost.

It shouldn’t be a conflict.

It shouldn’t determine your place in the organization.

There shouldn’t be people taking side. An organization is a whole unit, there can never be sides to be taken.

An exercise where someone wins something at the cost of the other. Losing creates unwanted anxiety and leads to jealousy and negative feelings.

What competition ought to be

An opportunity to see how we can better ourselves every day, from one project and task to the other.

A tool to identify potential leaders and smart performers.

A tool to differentiate between good performance and not so good performance and decide rewards adequately.

A platform to prepare teammates for future challenges.

An instrument to actively seek feedback and make use of it constructively and grow.

In the corporate world, one can never avoid competition. In a knowledge economy, your next competitor could be your colleague, your friend, your partner or even another company. The only way to stay ahead of competition is to better your performance and efforts through new learning and avoiding past mistakes. Taking the team along as you embark on this path is the key to acing the business. Read more....