Competition Between Collaborators Often Creates Losing Teams

I recently wrote about collaboration between competitors as exhibited in last Sunday’s Olympic Women’s road race. (If you missed it, go here to read and review the comments)

It got me thinking how in the small business workplace there is often the opposite concept, competition between collaborators.

Where collaboration between competitors often makes both parties stronger and creates win-win scenarios when both parties have clear objectives in mind, competition between collaborators creates losing outcomes across the board.

After college when I began my baseball career I served a full season internship with two others. We lived together, worked together and partied together.

All three of us were told there would be one of us hired full time when the season was over.

It was an interesting dynamic.

We never treated each other like competitors where one was going to win and the others would lose at the end of the season.

We all truly believed that if we all did a great job together, the organization would be better and we would be taken care of.

That’s exactly what happened.

I did not win the intern apprenticeship.

But, our boss, the team’s owner and general manager, gave me a stellar recommendation with a direct introduction to a few key people.

One of those connections launched my full-time career a few months later.

All three of us “won” by doing the right thing.

My first workplace culture change client was the exact opposite.

A long-term employee struggling with an excessive workload needed help.

My client hired someone.

Instead of collaborating and teaching this new team member to make her more effective, sooner, this veteran employee hoarded information, doling it out piecemeal on a request –by-request basis.

This veteran felt threatened and created a competition when she should have been creating collaboration.

The department continued to struggle.

After working with them for 6-months to create a new culture in this small business of just twelve employees, revenue grew by 30% and profits by 10%.

In too many organizations colleagues that should be collaborative teammates act like competitors.

Often the system of incentives for promotion and compensation cause this because experience has shown resources to be limited leading to a zero-sum game outlook.

Yet, in the two situations described above there was no previous experience to use as reference.

Both were driven by internal beliefs of the individuals involved. This is often the case.

A number of people commented “no man is an island” on the previous post, as you will read here.

Yet, too often co-workers who should be collaborating have no trouble leaving their teammates treading water or begging for a life preserver.

What has been your experience with co-workers acting as competitors and not collaborators? Leave a comment below.

’til next time, Communicate with Power,

skip-weisman-professional speaker-small business championship coach




P.S.: If you’d like to learn how to create a small business work environment where collaboration is king and team members think, feel and act in the best interests of each other and the company go here to get on the waiting list for the release on August 17th of my new report The IDEAL Work Environment Manifesto!


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