As I struggled to stay awake last night during my shift for pick up the daughter duty, I sat in Starbucks and read my favourite paper the Globe and Mail.    In the business / careers section, was an excellent article entitled, “Olympian Tips for the Workplace” by Wallace Immen.  With the Olympic fever currently gripping the world (weren’t the opening ceremonies fantastic ?!), one can forgive the seizing of an obvious opportunity for an article that ended up providing some great ideas.  Given my current state of unemployment, I’m glad he did carpe condicio as Team Plouffe can use all the help it can get.  While not a sports enthusiast myself beyond stints in little league and summer soccer, what I do enjoy about sports is the team spirit.  All members of the team using their skills and abilities to achieve a common goal.  Today’s work place could use more of that spirit and less of the drama that plagues the fields of industry.

The article draws parallels between the importance of an athlete’s mental state, their attention to team work and the necessity to provide an encouraging atmosphere for success which is steadily eroding in the currently hyper-competitive work place.  That sense of team work and of remembering that helping others look good helps everybody look good seems to have fallen in to a steep decline.  I worked with one woman who would consistently discover things that would make everybody’s life easier but refused to share.  Whenever I came up with a solution and shared, everybody else would be appreciative.  Her response ? Oh, I discovered that months ago.  Nice.  As far as I was concerned she need a good kick in the walnut.  That kind of behaviour just makes me nuts.  Since when did sharing become such a four-letter word ?  I think the message of “there is no I in team” is long over due to be retired.  I don’t mean everybody should get a trophy for showing up, but pushing your colleague off the podium as you reach for the gold just isn’t nice.

This competitive edge is something that is rampant in our society and it’s something I’ve never fully understood.  Yes it can help us achieve goals and keep us as active, productive members of our community.  Beat last years fundraising goal, sell more cookies, develop ground breaking research and create art that may surpass the masters, but at what cost ?  Children that no one can bear to be around, who can’t stand to lose at anything, or who suffer under pressure that would make many adults crack like a warped walnut ?  Adults that only measure success by how many hours they put in at the office, the latest electronic toy or how many of their kids events they’ve had to miss to land that “big deal” ?  Colleagues who will take your work for their own, misplace that important report you’ve been working on or not share that tip they’ve discovered in order to succeed ? That’s where competition goes beyond the realm of productive and in to damaging.

Am I knocking all competition ? Absolutely not. I think everybody does better when they have something to work for or a new goal to  attain.  Kids can thrive and develop life-long skills in team work and the importance of perseverance.  Adults can model the positive aspects of hard work and the subsequent success.  What can go side-ways involves the spirit of competition.  Is it crushed or encouraged ? Do people feel valued by their peers or disheartened and criticized ?  Are life long skills being created or life long scars ? Do our coaches and managers have the skills needed in today’s society to meet the bottom line without people dropping like flies along the way ?  At what point do we stop, assess and remind ourselves that winning is not everything if it means behaving in a way that compromises everything healthy competition is supposed to stand for ?

At what point do we stop and remember the spirit of the games ? The true nature of competition ? That with effort, balance and of course hard work, we can achieve goals together that will benefit not only our work place but our community and society in general.  Again, I’m not saying “we’re all winners” and that there’s no such thing as first place but we also don’t have to intentionally sabotage someone in the name of winning.  We can support each other, be understanding and cheer for those that cross the finish line first.  Being part of a team doesn’t take away from your accomplishments.  It doesn’t make what you achieve worth any less.  If anything, it makes the victory that much better.  I learned that this year working as part of a team on projects for clients.  As someone who usually has to do all the work, claiming ownership of a team project was somewhat challenging but when we won an award of merit for media relations, it was all our victory.

I am now in competition with the rest of my classmates and colleagues for the few jobs that exist in the communications industry.  I’m  in competition with those who have more training and hand to paper time.  I’m competing against an economy that seems bent on keeping me off the podium and cracking my walnut at the same time.  What do I need to remember ? The spirit of the games: keep my eye on the gold and knowing that Team Plouffe has spirit to spare.  Between my husband’s support, my kids encouragement, my mom’s unfailing faith in my success and friends who don’t see anything less than my dreams fulfilled , how can I fail ?  That podium is in sight, my walnut is in pretty good shape and damn I look good in gold !  Citius, Altius, Fortius !

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