My peer – friend or foe?

My peers. Who exactly are they?

They are my teammates right? Our goals have a line of sight to that of the larger and common organizational vision and success, right? And if they looked good, I would look good too, right?

But wait a minute, aren’t they competition too? Aren’t they the ones with whom I have to play the jostling and nudging out game to get my performance ratings, salary raises and bonuses?

As we move up the management ladder, positive interpersonal relationships, teamwork and influence become our mandated competencies. We learn it is imperative to work in co-operation and collaboration with our peers; that it is OK to direct praise their way without flinching even if it was our ideas; and that we need to be sportive and accepting if they were more successful, even if we helped them reach there.

I ain’t no saint, do I hear you say? I feel resentful if my manager gives them credit over me, do I hear you admit? I need to prove I am better than them, do I hear you confess?

Would you consider me stupid, if I asked why we feel so? My optimism tells me there could be a more positive perspective if I did.

The truth is, while we are taught in school and our initial work years on how to be smart, driven, and to develop valuable skills, we are not counseled on true relationship-building. While we grow up being praised for being the smartest in the team, we are not taught to share our knowledge or skills with our teammates. We are programmed to believe that success is individually achieved when we get the work done and grab our managers’ attention and praise.

Result? Our motivation does not stem from being involved in driving the organization forward, but from the need to be noticed and appreciated for our individual work. We seek opportunities to take credit for ideas, and sometimes even talk down our peers’ contributions. To be fair, we may not even be aware that we do so, immersed as we become in the rat race.

If this is true, would you say it is time to apply the brakes?

It does take tremendous maturing and growing up. We need to get to the point where we accept that our strengths lie in the work we do – and that they can stand on their own.  Most important, we need to be secure enough not to need or seek our managers’ validation and pats on the back. It needs true conviction that it is really about my organization succeeding, and it matters a whit not as to who is actually in the limelight to make it happen.

And we should not be looking to the organization to drive this – in fact, the organization cannot do anything if we do not. The power lies in our hands, both individually and collectively to shape a culture of workplace collaboration.

Let us…

…start by giving up control – and find ways to let others help us and impress us.

…give up the fallacious notion that their success diminishes ours

…be authentic in our relationships – yes to candid honesty, sharing, camaraderie and generosity in acknowledgment; no to hypocrisy, defensiveness politicking and grudges.

…understand them – what are their motives and perspectives? Can we also be the ones coming around to their points of view?

If you want a less selfless view, here is an undeniable truth. Your peers are today, and will be tomorrow, your most powerful advocates. They are the ones who cast the biggest impact on your future success. Do not ignore them because you cannot see their influence. Do not destroy them because you cannot engage them.

For spotlight is a short-term glow, and success is a long-term signature.


About Janaki

As an individual, I love life, friends, books, music, movies, travel, meeting people. I believe that one is only as old as one feels, and that one can find at least one redeeming feature even in the person one dislikes intensely. As a professional, I have, after a 25+ year corporate stint in people management, taken a shot to placing an independent signature in my passion of guiding people and potential to performance and organization success View all posts by Janaki

One response to “My peer – friend or foe?

  • Jo


    this is beautiful piece you have written. Truly, words of wisdom for both inside and outside the workplace. Thanks for continuing to inspire me as a good friend and mentor. Thanks! Jo

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