We all talk about healthy competitions, sweet competitions, and harmless competition but these can never be achieved at a workplace or in real life. Too much is at stake for so many people, and in a country like Jordan where “Wasta” prevails so many people take on jobs they are not even qualified for. For those of you who don’t know what “Wasta” is it is an Arabic word reflecting the power of connection. A person hired by “Wasta” would be in a job just because he/she is friends with the boss or a distant relative or even someone who has done the boss a favor or at best is related to someone who has . Skills and merit have nothing to do with promotions, positions, or even job responsibilities in this case. Of course not all places are like that. In fact many are not . However, I can safely say that the power of “Wasta” does add to the flavor of some work environments in the Kingdom more of which are in the public sector.
So, with the skill set not being a deciding factor other means are used for one to prove power. These means could include exercising the power of fear, or any other authority that make competition in the workplace anything but sweet, harmless, or healthy. After all exercising power of fear is a direct reflection of the person’s insecurities and insecurities do surface when the premise that the best person be hired for a given job no longer apply. If a person is not qualified for a given job, this is how he/she asserts themselves. Fortunately there are other places where competition are as healthy as they can be. Toastmasters competitions are an example of that.
Last Tuesday, I was competing in a speech contest where I was amazed by everyone involved. We all sincerely meant the words “May the best speaker win.” I even found myself mentoring someone competing against me because it really didn’t matter if I or he won. I won second place to someone who was less experienced than me and that was fine because his speech was simply better fair and square. It was a perfect healthy competition. My speech was about our tendency to focus on the negative while his was about the importance of being weird. In another club contest I won the impromptu speaking challenge simply because my answer to the question “What do you love most about yourself” was not a traditional answer. And, in a third competition the winner used song to respond to her question and she won.
At the end it didn’t matter because we all enjoyed it, learned from it, and had a great evening out of it. We say we want competition to be like that at work, but that never happens simply because money is involved. Whether we like it or not, money is power and people use it as a motive to fight, make unfair claims, and even drive perfectly qualified individuals out of their jobs. Power is another motive that pollutes competition because it responds to the human ego and our need to be seen. In some cases our work is what makes us be seen and in others it is simply our position. In the latter case, competition is anything but healthy because it is based on the words “I can and I will.” rather than “I will motivate you to do it yourself.”
I personally hope that companies are run like toastmaster clubs but I know that could never be the case . Money talks and money is power. This is life.
Look at the photo and you will see what perfect competitions look like.