Employee ambition is undoubtedly a good thing. It breeds competition among co-workers and subsequently positively affects company revenue and overall workforce productivity. But what happens to a business when competitive attitudes take over, and employee paranoia is at an all-time high? In this article, we will discuss how to manage ambition while simultaneously fostering a competitive workforce environment.
Most employers will concede that ambition is an invaluable trait they like to see in employees. Oftentimes, employees who are intent on forwarding their positions in a company or otherwise are hard workers who are eager to be challenged and don’t shy away from additional responsibilities. These employees can often be relied upon to meet company objectives and project deadlines. Whether their ultimate goals are to become authorities in their respective fields or to develop corporate leadership skills to rival those of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, ambition can be an effective motivation to perform better, produce more and rise through company ranks.
However, when healthy ambition, becomes dangerous, it can have potentially adverse effects on the wider working climate. Relationships between the workers, colleagues and superiors can become ineffective and strained, teamwork can be undermined and the wider goals of the company will invariably suffer. As a result, the consequences of demonstrating ruthless ambition, at the expense of teamwork, can be disastrous for an individual worker’s career.
The Dilemma facing management and HR as a whole is creating an environment that fosters competition, but equally, prioritizes teamwork. Managers who observe this scenario unfolding will recognize the management predicament it poses. Even if the worker’s behavior has antagonized other colleagues, there are no legal grounds (barring misconduct) to take disciplinary action if all of their respective duties are fulfilled adequately.
Even if a leadership figure attempts to remedy the situation, the modern, ambitious worker will find it difficult to comprehend how their behavior negatively impacts the working environment. Since their actions, more often than not, are motivated by genuine desires for improvement, any explanation otherwise will invariably be met with bemusement or irritation. Unfortunately, more often than not, those desires are accompanied by misplaced confidence in their abilities or an intention to belittle their co-workers.
So how can you appropriately manage these ambitious employees in your workplace? What actions can you take to harness and guide their ambition not only to their advantage but also to that of their colleagues and that of the company as a whole?
The only solution is to tackle the problem head on, by discussing the situation with the workers in question. This is most effectively done by organizing a series of one-on-one, face-to-face conversations. However, if you feel like there’s potential tension between you and the worker, it can be helpful to ask somebody from HR to join you in the deliberation. The objectives of the meeting are crucial, and by the end of it, the outcome should be threefold;
1) Determine what the worker intends to accomplish through his or her behavior.
2) Explain to the worker how his or her drive is having a negative impact on team performance and ultimately the company’s bottom line.
3) Strategize how to adjust his or her behavior for mutual advancement.
Start by describing instances when the worker’s actions were inappropriate or excessive, and find out what their specific intentions were at those times. Inquire as to whether or not they’re unhappy in their current position. This enables you to steer the discussion in the direction of their greater goals and gain an invaluable understanding of how their actions fit into their perceptions of their career paths.
Once this is done, explain that although you admire their drive and appreciate their contribution, there is a more appropriate and beneficial approach. Although it is obviously a cliché, the old mantra of “there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,'” holds true, in that every worker’s distinct talents should contribute to the entire team’s success, rather than just the actions of a solitary individual.
The next part of the solution is expressing your confidence in the employee and offering career guidance. As you’ve already established their ambitions, you can strategize how to help achieve them, and warn of their potential counter-productive actions. Whether they will have a future in your organization or not, playing a key role in facilitating their career advancement will benefit them, which will subconsciously have a positive effect on your company.
Consider implementing various elements in your approach, making sure to tailor it to the individual in question; Team building exercises (This can be department-wide training or individual sessions), Setting individual mini-goals or Offering corresponding professional development opportunities can be extremely effective in managing these employees.
When managed correctly, ambition can be an invaluable asset. For example, in companies like Mitrefinch, employees are encouraged to focus their drive,and see how it benefits them, the team and the company’s goals of achievement. By achieving these three objectives, not only have you gained a more well-rounded employee but equally, the work environment will be noticeably more conducive to success.