Imagine. Admittedly, it would be difficult to, but still imagine … Imagine a world where there is no “Competition”. Every single dictionary of English language would give the meaning of competition as, “the activity or condition of striving to gain and win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others”. This validated meaning establishes that in competition, there has to be a winner and there has to be the dominance of one over the other; consequently, there has to be a loser and there has to be the one who must sense the feelings of inferiority. This just does not sound humane.
If there was to be no ‘competition’ in our lives, there would be no tension to achieve and perform, there would be no grades and rankings at schools, colleges and universities, there would be no single individual classified as ‘first’ position holder, all would be, ‘first’. No second position or third or further downward rankings would exist. How peaceful that existence would be? No adversaries, to watch out for; no contestants to contend with and no rivalries to pursue. If we carry this thought across the life cycle, there would be only ‘Winners’, no losers; there would be none feeling or nurturing a sense of inferiority. The absence of competition will remove all the manifestations of the numerous distinctions that the mankind has created for itself. To accept such imagination and for it to exist is indisputably a utopian thought, because it decimates natural human urges and instincts. But a recognition to lower the “Cutthroat competition” can help the people lead a peaceful life. The parental and societal pressure upon children to get Straight A’s is so overwhelming that many take to either drugs or in worst mental conditions to the path of suicide. This can be avoided. Competition is good but not worthy if it makes any a lesser human being.
Having established the perils of competition, it must also be recognised that without competition there would be no progress of any sorts. To do better than the other is the driving force for innovation and creativity. If there would be no reward for being ‘distinct’, then the reason for pursuit of labour would be lost. Because of this innate nature of man to remain competitive at all times, spurs all actions, both negative and positive. While it is good to imagine about a society that shuns competition, it is impossible to perceive growth on the horizon of thinking, intellect and its application for humanity’s growth, without the luring spirit of competition.
Even Adam’s sons, Abel and Caine, competed fiercely, and the result of that “First competition” also gave humanity, it’s ‘first murder’ of a human by a human. Caine, in the competition of offering a sacrifice, lost to Abel. The “sense of loss” filled him with “envy and jealousy” to the extent that he took the life of his brother. It follows, competition yields and induces feelings of envy and jealousy.
From the days of Adam to the present era, human mind has illumined itself through the holy books, scriptures and related training; hence, a defeat in competition today does not provoke extreme retaliation of taking each other’s life, but it certainly ignites the flaming passion of envy and jealousy.
In very few people it is the natural to value a friend’s prosperity without carrying a grudge. Since it is part of the human nature to have emotions of jealousy and envy, it is no surprise that it should find prominent prevalence in the corporate and business world, albeit it is not restricted to merely these segments alone, its presence is felt and seen in the noblest sections of the society too.
All of us are equipped, laden and overburdened with emotions of envy and jealousy but we find it hard to either acknowledge or accept that the competition done at the shop floor by the supervisor between colleagues does usher these sentiments.
At school and university, defeat in sports, debates, elocution contests, music competitions, etc, does fill up our insides with the negative feelings for those who stand out as winners. It is natural. If the feeling lasts and stays longer than 24 hours, it should be a matter of concern; the inner person needs to be tamed and harnessed, to get over and move on … Those who nurture their defeats invariably end up as sadistically vindictive individuals. Similarly, setbacks at work must not be allowed to become germs of cancer that will spread and gnaw away the individual’s personality.
The cost of distinction is envy. Jealousy and envy aren’t twin sisters, they appear as Siamese, but are more of cousins, quite close and not too distant. In the simplest of terms, envious feelings are contrived by the thought of “lacking anything” that another has; while jealousy, is to feel threatened of being expunged of what one possess, by another person. Envy involves two people, while jealousy always has a third party. Envy takes the position of “I want, what you have” and jealousy, “Why should someone I love, look at anybody else”. Envy is an illness with no boundaries and; hence, the whole world is sick.
Jealousy is an impelling urge of seeking either attention or affection, even during the childhood years, all of us demand the attention and affection of our parents; many off springs complain that siblings receive more love and attention. Since these feelings are so natural and innate to the living being, it is but obvious to find such responses, among all the families, regardless of distinctions of education or economic wellbeing. At work place too, there is cribbing that the supervisor has more time for other colleagues, than own self.
“Jealousy is that pain, which a man feels from the apprehension that he is not equally beloved by the person whom he entirely loves” (Joseph Addison-Spectator).
At the work environment, envy and jealousy is not restricted to the peer group, its effects coextend to include the supervisor. I have personally seen and experienced that some bosses are envious of the skills and talents of their younger reports; also I have witnessed how bosses squabble for getting allegiance, loyalty and devotion to themselves, from these Young Turks, who are known in the organisation for being dynamic, creative and skilfully oriented. Once in London, sitting was a young officer between some very senior colleagues, I was goaded by one senior executive to abandon my boss and to move under the wings of another, under the pretext and plea. “He (my boss) is a Banyan tree, he will never allow you to grow, you will remain under his shade and no new sunshine of experience will dawn upon you”. I brushed it off then, very politely. The thought, but, lurked in the mind. Soon it germinated and induced me to nurture it for action. In less than three months, I was working at another location, with a new supervisor. (This recall isn’t meant to sound boastful but narrated to corroborate the thought).
Competition per se is good, but it cannot be unleashed furiously in the corporate corridors. The extremity of competition will most likely to create an unhealthy and highly toxic corporate culture. Managers tend to brush off the existence of envious feelings between their team members and colleagues by resorting to remarks like, ‘O he/she is just feeling jealous”. Nay, this attitude can lead to creating a management powder keg that may eventually blow up on their face. Envy consumes the possessor. Jealousy and envy are attitudes that must be ‘micro-managed’. Otherwise, the one envied may consider it to be an acclaim or admiration.
If reading a LinkedIn post about the promotion and growth of any acquaintance incites feelings of discomfort, it surely is an affliction of jealousy. To deal with this natural inferno, all one needs to do to douse its flames, is to indulge in, introspection, it will allow recognition of certain facts that may be you are not as well prepared as the other(s) in terms of knowledge and proficiency, then what needs to be done appears clearly on the screen of self-evaluation. Those who act with sincerity, make it; while those who look at crutches to indulge in the blame game, or cast accusations of nepotism, favouritism, to mask their own inadequacies, eventually burn up on the self-built pyre of envy and jealousy.
To be envious is to die every day. “The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves” (William Penn).
The exciting dance of envy and jealousy can produce some excellent symphony for the achievement of corporate objectives. This is possible where the manager/leader is cognizant of the power of these two, distinct but overlapping emotions, and has the skill to use them to provoke, competition that is healthy and delivers quality results. The related skills is not about playing one against the other, or to divide and rule, but it is about possessing the wherewithal to be sensitive to the emotional needs of the team members. No jealousy or envy, simply bringing out the absolute best in each constituent.
As a supervisor, my attempt in dealing with the feelings of envy and jealousy among colleagues is to “confront and talk to them”. Those envious of the skill, talent and quality of say one, bright star, I would urge them to “have in them”, what, “he has”, by investing time and effort to improve. In this manner, I managed to convert a green-eyed monster of envy to a blue-eyed colleague of a supervisor. The conversion of feelings of animosity, rancour, hostility, friction and dissension into a fountain of inspiration is the task of a leader.
(The writer is a senior banker)