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Collaboration or Cutthroat Competition? Which Is Best?

As I do the work I do each day—giving seminars to women’s groups or connecting with new colleagues to partner with, working with my support team or communicating with my clients—I’ve begun to notice something quite interesting about the way people work.

There are two fundamental ways in which people attempt to expand themselves in the world.

These two ways are:

Collaborating with others in a respectful and empowering way, to help each other be all you both wish to be.


Attempting to crush out the competition through snarky, denigrating, and low-spirited tactics.

Which approach are you engaged in?

The first approach encourages you to:

  • Feel good in your interactions
  • Expand your skills and know-how
  • Experience yourself as purposeful and beneficial in your interchanges
  • Learn more about how to do what you love to do and how you’re special
  • Discover new skills and endeavors you’re capable of
  • Grow faster and more effectively through positive synergy

The second approach encourages you to:

  • Feel lousy and critical about your interactions
  • Constrict your thinking about what you’re capable of
  • Mistake yourself as someone who is higher and more important in the hierarchy
  • Believe that there simply isn’t enough to go around
  • Remain stuck in the jealous, insecure “Am I good enough?” mode
  • Move slower, with less success, ease, and fulfillment

In short, collaboration allows you to say “Yes!” to yourself, to others, and to expanding yourself to what you truly long to do. Fearful competition keeps you stuck in the constricting “NO” mode.

How can you tell cutthroat competition when you see it?

Here are some key hallmarks:

1. Language and action that indicates, “I’m smarter, better, richer, more successful than you.”

2.Over-selling—making a point over and over again so that the receiver ends up saying “OK already!”

3. Deep insecurity about being challenged or receiving constructive feedback

4. A lack of receptivity, compassion, and openness to learning from and being with others

5. An energy of “take, take, take” without giving back

6. A haughty or superior energy/attitude that says, “I’m farther along the path than you, and you’ll have to learn the hard way, like I did.”

Be mindful about whom you choose to associate with in the world and how you go about getting what you want. The “how” of your approach is more impactful than specific tactics you use. Overall, if your colleagues, partners, and friends are individuals who make you and others feel great about themselves in an authentic and enlivening way, then they’re on the right track, and so are you.

On the other hand, if you, your associates, or friends are stuck in the diminishing, competitive “there’s not enough to go around, and I’m getting my piece!” mode, it’s time for a breakthrough to a collaborative spirit. Without it, the path you’re headed down will most certainly take you where you don’t want to go.

By Work Her Way Expert Kathy Caprino