How can I be both faithful and competitive in the workplace?

Recently, I met with a very successful businessman who said he had a huge problem with some of what he heard from the pulpit in his local parish. He said that if he followed the directives of his local pastor, his business would go under in no time from not seeking high profits or not retaining a high level of competition. He then asked me if there might be a balance between the social justice principles of our faith and competition in the world of business.

The key to just business practices is to be centered on avoiding greed, not avoiding competition. A good question to ask is, What does a successful business model look like? Defining success does not mean that we have to crush the competition, but we certainly want to achieve a high level of sales — or think about the equivalent in your specific field — and remain competitive with others. Do we need to have the entire share of the market to be competitive or merely a slice of the pie? The key here is not how much we make but how much we need.

Using the principle of need, we can adjust our competitive edge more appropriately. My friend reminded me that others may not share this view and that they may indeed try to run his business out of the market by monopolizing the market for themselves. I reminded him that in order to save his business he may need to push harder than a minimum effort in order to reach the goal of the market share he wishes to attain. When we are simply doing a good job at what we do, success is sure to follow and hard work is not merely it’s own reward, but it is what pushes us, and moreover, also pushes our competition, to strive harder at whatever it is that we do.

This is all about intention. This businessman’s intention is not to crush the competition, but to instead preserve the market share that he wishes to attain — a reasonable goal that falls well below a greedy endeavor. How much do any of us really need? Do we need to step on others just to get a big promotion or can our work stand on its own merit? Can we be assertive about our work instead of aggressive? The difference being that we can indeed ask for a promotion and point out our successes, but we don’t need to denigrate others in the process. If you have to put down another person in the process of getting a $5,000 raise, then you might want to reassess your priorities.

While in radio, I always hoped that our efforts beat out other stations that were similar to ours. Did I wish that they’d go out of business? No. What I hoped is that we pushed each other to be better because we were both striving for excellence. Most of the time we ended up respecting each other’s achievements while retaining strong shares of the market on our own.

from Mike Hayes and the Busted Halo Question Box