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Island Style Careers - Play Nice at Work

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From our days on the playground right up to our daily lives in the boardroom, we are always in competition. Nothing feels better than being told that you're doing a great job, better than everyone else .... right? The question is how do you win at work without becoming the one everyone secretly hates? Read on to find out.

There are 2 secrets to success: #1. Never tell anyone everything you know

One thing I know for sure: if you are highly successful, there will be a target on your back. People generally dislike highly ambitious and accomplished individuals, not only because some scientists have posited that envy is built into our DNA (we just can't help ourselves), but because there are many among us who don't know how to win silently (they just can't help themselves). In the workplace, the truly successful will be the employees who master the ability to not be overly showy and gloat at every pat on the back. Remember, it is as important to not be a sore loser as it is to be a gracious winner.

what are you fighting for?

I remember a story I read as a child - it was about 2 dogs who were fighting over a piece of bread, and while they fought, a cat snuck in and stole it from under their noses. The takeaway from that is that in your career you may never win if you enter into the popular fight. You may find yourself locked in secondary battles and lose sight of the prize, like the two dogs in my analogy had done. What I've learned is that it is best to choose your personal goals, and, if at all possible, to go away from what everyone else is fighting for. Simply put, try to identify what your colleagues' agendas are - and work towards something entirely different. Many people are motivated by money or promotions and titles. If you find yourself in that environment, perhaps consider focusing on networking or career advancement. Embark on your own quest, separate and apart from everyone else's. In time you will realize that when you "win", your colleagues may be genuinely delighted and celebrate your success, and you theirs; as everyone isn't fighting over the same "bone".

Who are your people?

If you are competing directly against someone for the same goal (see above), then you may want to consider assembling a team. This team should include your cheerleader, sponsor and mentors. Each member of the team has a role, and you may find yourself in several overlapping teams and assuming varying positions throughout the lifespan of your career. The team, by definition, is comprised of people working together towards a common goal. The beauty of these relationships is that they can span workplaces, professions, and even generations - the opportunity for infighting is negligible, as the team relationship is mutually beneficial. The team can help you "win" by amplifying your professional gains, assisting you to grow and advance, and negotiating on your behalf when opportunities arise. Don't believe me? Consider a very bright junior intern being taken under the arm of one senior CEO. Every other senior CEO will assume, rightly or wrongly, that their is some promise in the junior that the senior executive sees. At the same time, the senior executive may gain insights from his protege allowing him to be seen as being "in touch" with what millennials are doing/saying. As with the first point above, having differing, yet complementary goals allows the team to grow without infighting and discord. Reduce the competition that tends to arise at work - focus on your team and your chances of winning will improve.

Boss Up

The single most important thing I have learned, by losing more times than I have won at work is that you will never win unless you know 2 things: Who are you working for? What does your boss need? When you figure that out, work towards it every day you show up for work, because if you don't your boss will never be happy - and you will always be in a losing position. For example: Phil works in marketing, and his boss is very concerned, as most are, with the bottom line. Phil will inevitably find that he gains more kudos by keeping an eye on spending and trying to always come in under budget than flooding his boss' inbox with expensive advertisement campaigns and updates on sales trips he's made. Not because those things do not matter, because they do; but because Phil's "job" is not only to do his assigned task but to also make his boss' job easier. Find me the person who makes the boss happy and I'll show you the real winner at work. Be careful with this though: if your boss is not in a position to help you to "WIN", ( see point #1) or if what makes them happy is not advancing the broader objectives of the company then you may find little value in taking the time to impress him/her. It is arguably most important to impress your boss' boss - or whomever is truly at the "top" of the food chain.


By no means have I "won" at work. As a matter of fact, I dare say I spent better part of the early days of my career firmly in the "losing" position by traditional standards. There were many days I couldn't do anything right if you asked my boss! I now also know that there were many other factors at play that led to that perception and my inability to thrive in certain work environments, but that's for another post. The fact is, I lost, consistently and often. That unenviable honor has allowed me the perspective I now have to identify how to not only grow in a career, but thrive, win, compete and differentiate one's self from the rest of the watercooler gang. These days, winning comes a whole lot more easily.


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