COVID Sparks Workplace Rivalries

Here are 3 ways to curb unhealthy vibes in your firm

The disruption caused by COVID has not only created physical separation among law office employees, it has also sparked competition between them.

That intra-office competitiveness can be damaging to your firm.

Twenty-eight (28) percent of U.S. professionals say workplace rivalries have increased since last year, according to a recent survey. Younger workers are more likely than older ones to experience rivalries, and men and more likely than women.

“Rivalries and competitiveness aren’t always bad,” writes Terri Williams for MultiBriefs, pointing out that healthy competition can boost motivation and productivity. “Some people are competitive by nature. And competition can also motivate other workers to step up their game.”

But too much rivalry – or the wrong kind of rivalry– can be destructive.

“Not all workplace competitiveness is good,” says Williams. “Research has already revealed that employees are overwhelmed and overworked during the pandemic. According to one study, 51 percent struggle to say no when they’ve hit their project threshold. As a result of working at such intense levels, employees may experience sleep problems, poor emotion control, physical problems, and low work engagement. But when employees feel they’re in the middle of a workplace rivalry, they may push themselves to work even harder.”

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The high unemployment rate, combined with uncertainty about the future, has created unprecedented stress in the workplace. Some employees may feel extra pressure to excel or stand out. Others might put in insane work hours or volunteer for tough assignments to make themselves as indispensable as possible.

Thirty-five (35) percent of workers between the ages of 18 to 24 say competition is more intense now than a year ago; as do 37 percent between the ages of 25 to 40. But only 23 percent between the ages of 41 to 54 agree with that statement, and only 14 percent who are 55 and older.

Three Ways to Avoid Unhealthy Rivalries

  1. Stay engaged with all employees. Especially those who are working remotely. Think of fun, creative ways to stay connected, such as virtual office parties or wellness challenges where employees track healthy activities like jogging, yoga or meditation and get “prizes” for hitting certain goals.
  2. Celebrate even small wins. In anxious times, a little praise and encouragement goes a long way.
  3. Watch out for bad behavior. Be on the lookout for signs of unhealthy competition, such as employees who: (a) exploit their remote work privileges; (b) fail to communicate clearly and consistently; (c) take credit for the work of others; (d) cut corners; and (e) project their fears and anxiety onto others.

What about in your firm? Have you seen evidence on increased rivalries and competition? What are you doing about it?

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