Watching the varying responses of Olympian athletes in Rio to each other’s performances has got me thinking about how this also plays out in the workplace or everyday life. There are those who demonstrate true sportsmanship, quick to congratulate their fellow competitors, even when beaten by them. In contrast, there are those, even competing for the same team or country, who cannot bear to look at those who have outperformed them, instead agonising over not reaching their own personal goals.
Those who show true sporting spirit are the ones who are able to move forward positively. If they did not win, they look at those who did, try to understand what they did differently and either emulate that or adjust their own training in a way that helps them to continuously improve.
The others, caught in their own personal bubble of feeling like a failure, show a negative side to their character. They may make excuses about other factors affecting their performance, or claim whoever won just happened to be luckier than them on the day rather than giving credit for their outstanding achievement. Jealousy can come into play and in the worst cases, they may try to undermine the other person, publicly or within a small circle, making untrue and negative claims about them that have nothing to do with their sport.
Liken this then to work or everyday life situations. The person who gets the promotion over you. How do you respond? Do you talk behind their back, trying to instill doubt in others’ minds about the wisdom of the appointment? Or do you reflect on what else it is you need to do or improve to ensure you get the promotion next time? If you’re the new boss with a very capable and popular team member, do you support their progression to succeed you so that you also can move upwards? Or do you undermine and ostracise them, scared that they will outperform you one day?
In team meetings, do you listen and encourage others to share ideas, enabling the best ones to be sounded out and supported? Or do you talk over your colleagues and dismiss their ideas in case they are better than yours and someone else gets the credit instead of you?
The Olympian with the positive response who looks to improve themselves easily wins the support of others in their efforts. Their attitude and behaviour towards others is immediately obvious and so they will be openly welcomed when they seek advice or resources. On the other hand, the one with the negative response is unlikely to win any supporters- who wants to be associated with or risk being on the receiving end of someone so quick to be a detractor when they don’t get what they want?
In the context of work, your personal attitude can be what gets you in line for the next promotion or else nowhere near the starting line. In life in general, it can mean you have friends who will do anything to help you through difficult times, or just acquaintances who quickly disappear in your hour of need.
Who do you want to be?