An Open Letter to the Work World – It’s Not A Contest

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Dear Work World:

Go ahead and boast about your last raise. No worries, brag about how many hours you billed last week. Blow your own horn about how you may have gotten away with a few extra dollars on the expense report. But guess what? Work is not a contest. Work is not a competition among you and your peers, or at least it shouldn’t be. Too often today work has morphed into a never ending series of contests, big and small, that somehow rob the dignity from what we do and erode any sense of camaraderie in the workplace.

It’s too bad because most of us try very hard to like work. I like to work and I like my job but I don’t want to be in contest about who is most successful or who is most miserable. Yet, we all enter the contest at work each and every day.

Don’t believe me? How about a few examples that highlight the contests:

  • Have you ever proclaimed, “ I can’t believe it, I woke up this morning with 300 emails!” You have thrown down the gauntlet on the email contest.
  • Have you ever mentioned that you worked until 2:00am last night? Good for you.
  • I am glad that LinkedIn stops counting connections at five hundred but have you ever mentioned the HUGE number of LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends you have?
  • What about Frequent Flyer Miles? Having the most miles is definitely the contest I do not want to win.
  • How about the number of vacation days you did NOT take?
  • Ever mentioned that while on your way to work you were able to text, listen to a conference call and drink coffee all at the same time?
  • Were you the fastest to hit your monthly/quarterly goal this time? Are you gloating?

Other contests, both implicit and subtle, are part of different careers. In some, the contest is to see who can slack off the most. In others, the contest is to be bigger, faster and richest. In the worst of all contests, work should not be a battle where you are constantly at odds with the boss or co-workers. When the gladiators take positions at work, everyone loses.

Sometimes, the most important contest is with yourself to see if you can accomplish all that you want to during the day. Other days, the contest is with yourself in the hopes you can make it through the day.

Work shouldn’t be a contest. It should be an opportunity to make an impact, to do something good, to enjoy the time spent, to build relationships, to learn, to help other or at the very least, to be pleased in the knowledge that you are supporting yourself or your family.

Why does Bruce Springsteen still go on world-wide tours that are exhausting? Why does Warren Buffet spend his time in financial markets? Why do retirees often miss the workplace? The reasons are many but it’s not about a contest.

Competition at work can sometimes be good and it’s ok to sing your own praises as long as the singing is not at the expense of others.

But World, work is not a contest. It is about showing up and doing something you enjoy and get paid for it.


A Former Contestant

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