It is rare to work in a workplace these days where collaboration is truly acheived. You get to work and you feel the competative or political vibe begin to pump and the stress begins to mount. If you think team work and collaboration is the same then I'm sad to say you are mistaken. Collaboration is about focusing on collective effort, recognition and progress with a supportive framework that looks at the outcomes of a group rather than an individual and cannot exist in a competative environment...team-work apparently can. You could easily say "well how do you determine who to promote then" and the answer is simple. Because everyone is not fighting to discredit or outperform each other i.e. backstabbing or working insane hours, it will be a more healthy and balanced approach rather than who was slandered the least or worked for free the most. Studies show that women especially are found to not perform at their peak in competative environments which has been a driver for much of the conversation lately on this subject. Competition in certain circumstances is actually the least successful method to promote good outcomes inside a business regardless of gender identity. Don't believe me? Maybe you should watch the movie "A Beautiful Mind" which gives a rather fun example of why this is actually the case (YouTube Clip at the bottom of this post).
People in general are not bad, so we should ask ourselves why so many people and companies are being highlighted in news, blogs and many other forms of commu nication as unethical. Education has been touted as the silver bullet because educated people couldn't possibly be unethical...I mean they take an oath and everything right? (Sorry just a myth) The reality is this, a moral and ethical person may within their life choose to do unethical things when then they are placed in an environment where they feel this is necessary. The environment these people work in often has tones of pressure (i.e. threat of losing their job) to acheive outcomes for a business that aren't realistic. Examples include the sales person who must acheive their sales target no matter what, the engineer needing to show they can deliver ontime and on budget every project...the bank executive that feels they must satisfy the shareholder's demand for profit. I'm not making excuses for people who make unethical decisions, but I am pointing out that often the environment that places pressure on people results in outcomes that may not be best for the business. Creating tones of competition, unrealistic measures and pressure for individuals within a business are likely to result in those individuals making the best choices for themselves rather than for the business or its goals.
Consider a business that is intent on dramatically reducing headcount and restructuring their business to reduce overhead costs to be the cheapest producer in order to maximise profits. The result is to put a significant workload on the remaining individuals, to measure the individuals against unrealistic expectations...what incentive do the individuals have to put your business first other than the income you pay? Surely morale would not be high, commitment would be low, deflecting or deferring work would be a priority and only those who shouted the loudest would have their tasks completed...it doesn't sound like this business will be acheiving good outcomes anytime soon. Let's say that that the workload reduces after two years, this business has now established a habit in its employees, a debt if you will. The business is now stuck with the fruits of their creation until these people leave or are removed from the business...in most cases they remain embedded in your business for many years. This is the result of competition, unrealistic measures and pressure, instead of opting for lower profit margins, stable operating procedures and looking at sustainable collaborative approaches this company could now suffer long term sustainable self sabotage. They will likely never know what they could have had which is often the case for large companies who do drastic cost restructures without managing change well. Unfortunately, this isn't isolated to only a few businesses as the leaders and executives who initiate these changes move around spreading the joy where ever their career takes them.
It is unfortunate but we are ground through a competative model from a young age, schools in particular stand out pitting students against each other and creating a competative vibe. This isn't to say that competition is bad but when you go through a university and obtain a degree with a pass mark below 70% and you are told that you cannot do the job you studied for. In university you are graded and compared against the intellect of the students in each class and given a mark based on a sliding scale (known commonly as the bell curve). It is hard to see how this is really a reasonable, fair or even in the spirit of equality given that once you complete your degree you have no recourse to change your grade. It is like pouring salt on the wound when you consider the mark was allocated by a lecturer or aide that might have had a grudge, a crappy nights sleep or other bias when they grade your assignments or exams...I'm sad to say they are also capable of unethical behaviour, there are plenty of stories to tell on that subject... This isn't to mention that generally a whole units grade is determined in 2-3 hour exams which are filled with the joy of creativity...I can not communicate in words the feelings many students experience when they enter an exam only to find that the lecturer has based a significant component of an exam on a random footnote or a theory that has written in the text book "not practical for use in the real world applications"...This is our foundation, a system that encourages us to model the way we function and behave before we are actually employed in a business and likley have preconceptions about competition aligning with success.
Ultimately you want to know what collaboration in a business should look like if you have read this far. The crux of it is that every business is different and will be able to implement it to differing levels. The initial question you have to ask yourself is whether KPIs, Metrics and Measures are driving a culture of competition or collaboration? Consider how your staff or coworkers respond to metrics or measures and whether they are actually working to meet them or doing what your business actually needs. Consider your remuneration, bonus and commission structures while looking at how your business functions. Remember that while not the desired outcome, employees will often opt to prioritise outcomes that result in financial reward over what best suits your business or your clients. A business that functions well will improve in other areas narturally or organically and ultimately makes the workplace a happier, more efficient workplace. If you are interested in finding out about our business and what we can do for you then please feel free to visit our main website or contact us. Thank you for your time, for reading our blog post and it would be great if you feel the need to share or like our articles via one of our social media platforms with the @ActsIntuitively tag as applies.
Technical Services Manager
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