Monday 1 October 2012

The E-word - enemies at work

EnemiesI blogged last week about friendship at work, how this acts as a powerful support to knowledge sharing, and how we have heard Friendship mentioned in a work context far more frequently outside the US and Europe than within.

What about the flip side of the coin - what about Enmity and Enemies?

I remember the first time I heard this - we were working in the Middle East a while ago, and the person I was walking through the office with, stopped, pointed out someone in the distance, and said "Do you see that person? He is my enemy."

It turned out that the two of them had been rivals, and that rivalry had deepened into something more destructive. It was the first time I had heard the E-word used at work. I am sure enmity exists at work, but it is still rare to hear it mentioned openly.

But what is an enemy other than a negative version of a rival? And rivalry and is something that not only can kill Knowledge Management stone dead (see my post on "pouring weedkiller on the KM garden"), but is also something that so many companies promote and reward through internal competition. We know that competition for scarce resources, such as promotion, or rewards, or recognition, can turn nasty and destructive (see RCT, and the Robbers cave experiment), and that the way to avoid Rivalry, and it's nastier brother Enmity, is to focus instead on shared goals (as in the T-Shaped manager experience). So why would any company seeking to introduce KM, reinforce internal competition?

In Knowledge Management, the only good competition is external competition - competition against the market competitors - which will give your organisation a common goal, and strengthen the bonds of alliance, cooperation, friendship and trust which will do so much to support KM.

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