You can see friendly competition in kids, I think, as in the ever popular, “Race you to the corner” games we’ve all played.
Adults sometimes speak of making “a friendly wager,” usually as a way of putting money on who’s wrong or right about something.
But I don’t know about friendly competition. I tend to have a hard time with competition in general. Maybe that’s because the person I’m most competitive with is myself.
Recent actions of some sports superstars and little league parents aside, I think friendly competition may be possible in sports. At least it’s often fairly respectful.
Maybe that’s because there are more or less objective measurements. You’re either faster or you’re not. You sink more baskets or you don’t. I’m sure Vince Lombardi could explain it.
Even though figure-skating judges’ rankings can be subjective to the point of causing international incidents, sports seem more straightforward to me than the world of the arts, which is just as competitive, but not as direct.
Rather than trash talk on the field, in the arts, people trash talk behind their competitors’ backs and rip down posters of their events.
And, by the way, I’m talking about adults here.
But – is friendly competition possible at work? I know sometimes managers set up competition between different units to boost enthusiasm and achievement.
And I suppose that can work sometimes, too, in a sort of hokey way.
But what about a more serious kind of competition, say, when you and a colleague are both jockeying for the same position? I’ve very seldom seen such things turn out well.
The last time I saw two erstwhile colleagues face off for a job, the one who got the position later said she checked under her car before leaving work.
And no, this wasn’t in the arts, where you might expect people to be passionate.
Being competitive with your business competitors is only to be expected. It is part of the definition, after all. But think carefully about bringing competition into your personal work group. It’s like using your outside voice inside.
Managers who use competition to spice up the workplace may be playing with fire. I think a division vs. division match-up can work, if it’s contained. But managers need to be watchful when peers start competing with each other, and make sure things don’t get to the point where rivals fear sabotage.
I also think the competitors themselves have a responsibility to keep things civil, and to behave honorably whether they win or lose.
What do you think?
by Danielle Dresden