Competition or collaboration

Positive conflicts in the workplace

Throughout our lives from birth to our adult life, competition seem to be an inevitable characteristic of our lives – we compete for attention from our parents,  siblings, friends, teachers, spouses, coworkers, employers and the list goes on. Though not born with it, this trait becomes part of us because it is inculcated into us at an early stage in life. It is an external influence that can brainwash us to the extent of neglecting the negative impact it has on people – physically, emotionally or psychologically in our quest to be the winner or better person at work or in our personal lives, even with our partners. In the workspace it is found at all levels: the stage of seeking a job, in quest of promotion or allowances, starting a business, or managing one. We are challenged through experiences in early childhood to be better than someone or at something in order to take the spotlight, and our education system makes it even easier as it enhances that sense of competition by setting us against each other. It is more about the scores and grades that can be merited or the coveted award that can be won only by one person in selected subjects that are treated special. Meanwhile, education is about the exchange of knowledge, shared learning and maximising the use of information by understanding it, applying it through sustainable means and building upon it. Unfortunately, the rationale behind gaining knowledge is more often than not lost in our pursuit to gain praise and admiration rather than serve a higher purpose.

The corporate world is beginning to realise more and more that the culture that is cultivated in the workplace can have direct bearing on both performance and productivity. However, the sort of culture that works best is where there is division in opinion. While some companies go for collaboration and teamwork where there is a sense of shared value and working towards a greater good is encouraged, others opt for competition, often introducing contests to create an “us versus them” mindset where the “them” is a market rivalry or in reality, coworkers. The truth is some personality types are more predisposed towards collaboration than others by nature; whilst others will only thrive in a competition. The secret to exceptional cooperation in the workplace is how employers, leaders, managers, and supervisors recognise these diversities in abilities, personalities, inspiration and motivation, and mobilise the teams to work towards the same purpose.

Chaucer underscores that the way in which you integrate both talent and personality helps to decide the balance between collaboration and individual power plays in your workforce. It is when the balance tips too far into competition that companies can experience negative impacts; staff can get burned out, overly stressed, and productivity suffers. Too much competition can also breed a negative culture, with resentments a regular side – effect. Manipulation and antagonism can make the workplace challenging for all involved, and those who are more collaborative in nature will either walk away or curl into a cocoon. The bigger picture, of course, is to instill a sense of a greater common good, something that everyone is working towards – whether that is a company mission, a social impact, or corporate values that steer all decision making and behaviour. Truly company – wide shared values will tend to point towards proper collaboration, and not just in times of crisis or challenge. On an individual level, though, it is important to understand the personalities and talents that make up your workforce. Instead of forcing the incredibly competitive individuals down the collaborative route, think about how you could better deploy them to harness their natural personalities. Perhaps they could make great competition researchers, or salespeople that can naturally point out the flaws in competition.

Collaboration skills enable you to successfully work toward a common goal with coworkers. The majority of work terrain requires collaboration, so these skills are indispensable. They comprise clear communication, listening to others actively, being accountable, understanding a variety of perspectives, managing priorities from everyone in the group, respecting the diversity of your colleagues and meeting expectations as a trustworthy member of a team. Successful collaboration requires a cooperative spirit and mutual respect. Employers typically seek employees that function effectively as part of a team and are willing to balance personal achievement with group goals. Getting people to understand you can sometimes be difficult. You cannot be afraid to share your perspective; neither can you impose your point of view on everyone else in a team. The ability to identify and manage your emotions, recognise those in others and respond appropriately instead of reacting and apply your emotions to tasks is a sought – after skills in the workplace known as emotional intelligence. This skill must be learnt and utilised for proper collaboration at the workplace.

If you want to create a culture that will produce breakthrough results, collaboration trumps competition by a long shot. You want people to understand what their individual strengths are so they can pool those strengths and move toward a common vision. Once collaboration is in place, people are much more trusting of each other, more willing to stretch themselves and more likely to create amazing results. The opposite happens when competition starts showing up. People start hoard systems, information and support staff. They are less likely to share all kinds of resources – physical and intellectual. Those who see solutions for problems do not share them until they can be sure they will get the credit. It is impossible to get the best ideas when people refuse to share and work through thinking together. When competition is in play, people do not trust each other enough to authentically create stretch goals that will enable everyone to grow beyond where they are now. If you sincerely want a group to be high – performing together, you do not want to create a culture of internal competition within the team. Ultimately, you want to create a workplace culture where people freely share information, opinions and perspectives. The best way to achieve that is through building trust and emphasising collaboration, not competition – Forbes.

Where to begin with driving collaboration in a competitive way?


Collaboration takes the spotlight away from individuals and relies on a strong group effort to deliver. The passion to win if utilised properly can be a strong force in encouraging members to work together – forming strong relationships and bonds in the workspace. Leaders and supervisors must take caution not to focus on the negatives of the outcome. If ranking is to be made for individual performances, credit must be given to each and everyone, not just the first few best people. Recognising everyone’s effort emphasises the focus on the common goal at hand.


With collaboration, it is all about pulling efforts from different people, sharing ideas and working together unlike competition which usually focuses on keeping scores and giving points to determine the single best person. Each team member should be given a chance to make a contribution. The focus is not to award points, rather, to take advantage of the learning opportunities for each member. As people interact, new ideas are born, an atmosphere for creativity is created and important lessons are learnt. With competition, individuals are not open to receiving feedback because they will not like to be at fault or be wrong. Collaboration on the other hand allows re – examination of ideas over and over again until the best solution is given to achieve the main goal.


Each and every person is motivated by something, which is often different from what motivates other people. You need to first determine what motivator can strongly affect each person. All these pointers will help leaders or employers ensure that each individual is properly motivated to give off their best. A newly employed person for instance is most likely to have a different need and motivator to perform above and beyond standards. An employee of many years may be motivated by a potential promotion. In both cases, a common goal must be sought to bring all parties on board. When the focus is on one thing, all efforts can properly be channelled to achieve this goal. Whereas in competitions, the objective is for people to gain something for themselves and not something beyond themselves, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit” – Harry S. Truman.


“The path to success no longer lies in clawing your way to the top, but in nudging your way to the centre of the network. That network could be provided by like – minded individuals who offer complementary products or services that could add value for your own customers.” ( Time is money and collaboratively working towards better service delivery will satisfy one of the pressing demands of the marketplace. Whether by improving existing products and services or generating new ones, the need for innovation in our time should not be undermined.

Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?

Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach

Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Soft Skills Expert, Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.

A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.

She is the Soft Skills Expert and Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.

Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.

She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.

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