Competition in the workplace is normal, if not necessary, in some cases for survival.
When discussing how her lack of competitiveness held her back in her career, Muse writer Kat Boogaard says, “I’m a firm believer that the world would be a much better place if we all focused on supporting and encouraging one another…However, I’ve also learned another important lesson: As nice as that all sounds, things don’t necessarily work this way when it comes to your own career. The working world can be frustratingly cutthroat at times.”
And she’s right—you’re not going to get that promotion unless you work harder and faster than other people, you’re not going to score that big project unless you prove it to your boss that you deserve it, and you’re not even going to snag the last piece of birthday cake unless you get to the office kitchen first.
But let’s play devil’s advocate for a second here. What if we put aside our own individual ladders and started climbing up together? Would that get us anywhere?
That’s exactly what some of the top White House women have decided to do, says a recent article in The Washington Post. Faced with the disadvantage of being women in the heavily-male world of politics, they’ve found it excruciatingly difficult to get their voices heard in a room full of men.
So, what did they do to combat this? They started sticking up for each other: “[F]emale staffers adopted a meeting strategy they called ‘amplification:’ When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution—and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.” And it worked! The men in the room, including President Obama, started listening to their opinions more because two or three or four voices is stronger than one.
This strategy isn’t just for women in politics—it applies to all of us. Instead of competing against each other and trying to one-up our co-worker’s ideas, we could choose to support what colleagues are saying. Not because we feel obligated to, but because we really do agree with what’s being said and valuable points are being made.
Just think: No meeting gets anywhere when everyone’s endlessly cutting each other off—it’s when you take the time to listen and break down one or two thoughts that you start to really get the ball moving.
So, speak up for someone the next time you notice his or her good idea goes unnoticed—because working alongside smart, talented people only makes you look better.